The qualifying for the “SUGO GT 300km RACE,” Round 4 of the 2018 AUTOBACS SUPER GT, was held at Sportsland SUGO (one lap: 3,704 m) in Miyagi Prefecture on October 15. In the GT500 class qualifying, the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT driven by Naoki Yamamoto and Jenson Button won pole position (1st qualifier). In the GT300 class, the No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT driven by Takuto Iguchi and Hideki Yamauchi won the class pole.
As until now, the qualifying was conducted in a two-session knock-out format. The GT500 class Q1 session was held under cloudy skies, but the track condition was slippery due to the rain that fell in the morning. In those conditions, it was the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi) that recorded the top time of 1’11.021. The second fastest qualifier in the Q1 session was the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Jann Mardenborough) and the third fastest time was recorded by the 2009 F1 World Champion, Jenson Button, in the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT.
The winner of this season’s Round 3, the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 (Heikki Kovalainen) ran off the track and crashed during Q1, and while damage was not serious, No. 39 failed to progress to Q2 as a result. Also, the current leader in the season standings, the No. 1 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa) also failed to advance to Q2 by finishing ninth by a mere 0.017 sec.
In the GT500 class Q2 session, the eight fastest cars from Q1 competed for the top eight positions on Sunday’s race grid. While Q1 had been run with a few puddles of rainwater remaining on the track, Q2 was run on a completely dry track, bringing expectations for some fast times. And in the last three minutes of the session those fast times did come as the top position on the time board changed hands several times. The driver who proved fastest among these was Naoki Yamamoto in the No. 100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT. After the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Daiki Sasaki) and No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT (Tomoki Nojiri) beat the former course record (1’10.516) in quick succession, Yamamoto topped them with a time 1’10.248 to the thrill of the fans. Eventually no one was able to beat this time and Yamamoto became winner of his second pole position, following the one in Round 3 of last year.
Honda NSX-GT machines showed their strength at SUGO by taking four of the top five grid positions. The top NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT500 car in the qualifying was car No. 12, taking 2nd position. The top LEXUS LC500 qualifier was the No. 19 WedsSport ADVAN LC500 (Yuji Kunimoto) in 6th position.
In the GT300 class, the No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT driven by Takuto Iguchi was fastest in Q1 session, and in Q2 his teammate Hideki Yamauchi almost broke the course record with a time of 1’17.685 to take the class pole position. Finishing 2nd in the GT300 qualifying was last year’s pole starter at SUGO, Takamitsu Matsui in the No. 25 HOPPY 86MC. Third position went to Rintaro Kubo in the No. 9 GULF NAC PORSCHE 911.
Pole Position winner comments
No.100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT
“I thought I ran a good time attack and I am satisfied with the result. But, it was J.B. (teammate Jenson Button) who contributed most to this pole win. Because the morning practice was run in wet conditions, he was running for the first time on our new dry tires here at SUGO in Q1 and still managed to qualify in 3rd position to get us (and me) to Q2. I am very happy because this is a pole that was won by us two drivers and the whole team. In tomorrow’s race as well, I want to see us drivers and the whole team working together to get the win.”
No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT
“This is my fourth season since coming to the SUBARU team, and today I was finally able to get us a pole position. SUGO has always been a course that I liked since racing here in F3, and I’m really happy that together with the whole team we were able to get the pole. But, today is still only the qualifying pole. The important thing is tomorrow’s race. I want to do my best to get the best result (win) in the race and end this weekend by putting a smile on the faces of all the SUBARU fans.”
Source. Super GT