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SECOND STRAIGHT SUPER GT POLE FOR NOJIRI AND THE ARTA NSX-GT

The FUJI GT 300km RACE, Round 5 of the 2017 SUPER GT series, was held on August 5 at Fuji Speedway (one lap 4,563m) in Shizuoka Prefecture. In the GT500 class the No.8 ARTA NSX-GT driven by Tomoki Nojiri and Takashi Kobayashi won its second pole position in a row and third of the season. In the GT300 class, the No. 55 ARTA BMW M6 GT3 driven by Shinichi Takagi and Sean Walkinshaw won the class pole, giving AUTOBACS RACING TEAM AGURI poles in both classes.

Just two weeks after the fourth round of the series was held at Sportsland SUGO in Miyagi Pref., the qualifying for Round five began at Fuji Speedway. After the morning practice that started at 8:50 a.m., the knock-out style qualifying sessions began at 2:35 in the afternoon under a thin cloud cover that still let some sunshine through. The GT500 Q1 session that started at 2:55, the cars began to take to the track at about nine minutes into the session. As the checkered flag lap approached, the cars began to improve rapidly on their times, and it was the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda) that recorded a time of 1’29.423 that would be the fastest of the Q1 session. The next fastest was the No. 46 S Road CRAFTSPORTS GT-R (Katsumasa Chiyo), giving the Nissan GT-R the 1st and 2nd qualifying spots.

Unlike Round 2, where the Lexus LC500 teams swept the top places, There appeared to be a clear shift in the balance of power entering the middle stages of the season due to the weight handicaps accrued by the top cars and performance improvements by their rivals. The Q2 session in which pole position (1st-place qualifier) would be decided would be competed by the top eight cars from Q1, including an even mix of three Lexus LC500 cars, two Honda NSX-GT and three Nissan GT-R cars.

The Q2 session that would decide the fastest car over one lap began at 15:40. The first to top the time board with a lap of 1’29.475 was the car that scored the fastest time in Q1, the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli). This was followed in order by the winner of Round 3, the No. 36 au TOM’S LC500 (James Rossiter), the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT Koudai Tsukakoshi) and the No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 (Yuji Tachikawa). But soon, their times were eclipsed by the No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT driven by Tomoki Nojiri, winner of pole position for Round 4 at Sportsland SUGO. With a time of 1’29.104, this gave the team its second consecutive pole position. Qualifying 2nd came the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R, while third position went to the No. 36 au TOM’S LC500, giving each of the makers a car in the top three.

In the GT300 Class qualifying, the top time in the Q1 session was recorded by the No. 7 Studie BMW M6 (Jorng Muller). The No. 65 LEON CVSTOS AMG (Naoya Gamou) followed this. Filling in the sweep of the top three for German GT cars in 1 was the No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT (Takuto Iguchi) in 3rd position. In Q2, these German GT cars continued their dominance, as the No.55 ARTA BMW M6 GT3 (Sinich Takagi) improved the fastest time with a lap of 1’37.525, followed by the No.7 Studie BMW M6 (Seiji Ara) in 2nd position. Third position went to the No. 4 GOODSMILE HATSUNEMIKU AMG (Tatsuya Kataoka). This gave Takagi his 12th GT pole position, and a 1-2 qualifying result for the BMW camp.

Pole Position Winner Comments

GT500 class

No.8 ARTA NSX-GT
Tomoki Nojiri
“In the pre-qualifying talk show event, Aguri-san (team manager Aguri Suzuki) predicted that we would take pole position, and while that was encouraging, it also put the pressure on me, especially because the No. 55 car (the GT300 class car of the same team) had just won it own pole position (wry laugh). But, once I was in the car, I was able to concentrate and get a good flying lap. The condition of the car wasn’t good when I ran it (in the morning practice), but during the interval (before the qualifying) it had gotten much better. With advice from Kobayashi-san) after running in Q1) we made almost no changes in the car (settings) for Q2 and that helped me get pole position.”

GT300 class

No.55 ARTA BMW M6 GT3
Shinichi Takagi
“It was my first pole position in a while, and after having to drop out of the race despite making a strong recovery performance in the last round at SUGO, I was forced to start thinking about my life as a race driver and it made me emotional [he cried in a TV interview just after the race]. Fuji has always been a good course for the BMW (M6), and since the no-finish at SUGO meant we carried no additional handicap weight, I am very happy that we were able to fulfill (manager) Aguri-san’s prediction of a double pole [for the two ARTA teams].”

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