The qualifying for the Chang SUPER GT RACE, Round 7 of the 2017 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, took place on October 7th at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand. The GT500 class pole position winner after an intense timed lap battle was the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 driven by Ryo Hirakawa and Nick Cassidy. In the GT300 class, the class PP went to the No.21 Hitotsuyama Audi R8 LMS driven by Richard Lyons and Masataka Yanagida.
The Thai round of the SUPER GT series being held for the fourth time this year began with the official qualifying on October 7th. This year all of the participating machines bore a sticker of mourning for Thailand’s former King Bhumibol who passed away last year, and before the start of the morning practice, all present observed a moment of silence in memory of the beloved King. Then at 3:00 in the afternoon (local time) the Qualifying sessions began. Before the official practice a squall struck and left the track half-wet before the start of the session. After the GT300 class Q1 qualifying session the track had dried considerably, but when the GT500 Q1 session began, raindrops began to fall again. This caused all of the teams to hurry out onto the track and begin their timed laps.
The result was that the only Nissan GT-R car to qualify on to Q2, the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Hironobu Yasuda) recorded the fastest lap in Q1. Next fastest were two Lexus cars, the No. 1 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 (Heikki Kovalainnen) and the No. 6 WAKO’S 4CR LC500（Andrea Caldarelli）. But in an early upset, the ranking leader, the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda) finished the session in 11th place and failed to move on to Q2.
After the GT300 class Q2 session, the GT500 class Q2 began with the track mostly dry, enabling the teams to start the session on slick tires to begin their time trials. As the session progressed, it was Jann Mardenborough in the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R and Ryo Hirakawa in the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 that took turns recording new fastest laps, with times in the 1’25 range. In the end, Mardenborough recorded a time of 1’25.060. Then, Hirakawa came home on the lap the checkered flag is shown with a time of 1’25.011 to give the team its first pole position since last year’s opening round at Okayama. The 2nd fastest time was that of the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R and the 3rd fastest was that of the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi), which meant that each of the three makers had one machine in the top three.
In the GT300 class qualifying, Q1 started with wet spots remaining at various places on the track. But the track soon dried as the cars ran their laps, allowing the teams to improve their times toward the end of the session, and it was the No. 21 Hitotsuyama Audi R8 LMS (Richard Lyons) that recorded the fastest time of the session to secure a place in Q2. However, last year’s winner here in Thailand and the current holder of 2nd place in the season ranking, the No. 25 VivaC 86 MC (Kenta Yamashita), failed to clear Q1. In the class Q2 session, light rain fell again. And as the track gradually dried as the session progressed, it was again the No. 21 Hitotsuyama Audi R8 LMS, now with Masataka Yanagida at the wheel, that took pole position with a time of 1’38.142 just before the checkered flag ended the session.
Pole Position Winner Comments
No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500
“From this round our weight handicap was reduced by half, but I already had confidence in our speed for a fast lap from the last round at Suzuka. I knew that (because of the characteristics of the tracks) the qualifying would be very important for the last two rounds. So, I was feeling some pressure before the start of today’s qualifying. During Q2 I was often getting caught in traffic, but on the last lap I was able to make a good run and get the pole position. So, honestly, I am very happy right now.”
No.21 Hitotsuyama Audi R8 LMS
“Actually, I am quite surprised (at being able to win pole position). Things have been very difficult for us competitively this season. But this time the team did a wonderful job preparing the car. For us, the rain was a blessing, because the Dunlop wet tires delivered excellent performance in today’s conditions. In Q1, Richard (Lyons) ran very good flying laps, and the information that he gave me after that enabled me to win pole position.”
Source. Super GT