The official qualifying for the OKAYAMA GT 300km RACE, Round 1 of the 2019 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series was held at the Okayama International Circuit (one lap 3.703 km) in Okayama Prefecture on April 13. The SUPER GT qualifying is run in a knock-out style 2-session (Q1 and Q2) format. The results saw the GT500 class pole position (first qualifier) go to the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R driven by Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli. In the GT300 class, the No. 55 ARTA NSX GT3 driven by Shinichi Takagi and Nirei Fukuzumi won the class pole. With this result, these two cars will start from front position on their respective class starting grids in tomorrow’s final race on April 14.
In the GT500 class Q1 session, it was the NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT500 cars that stood out. The No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (James Rossiter) team led by manager Kazuyoshi Hoshino recorded the top time, with the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda) took 2nd position and another GT-R in 3rd.
In Q2, the last minute of the session saw a fierce battle for pole position between the eight GT500 cars. First, it was the defending champion No. 1 RAYBRIG NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto) that took top position with a course record time of 1’16.950. But the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Quintarelli) beat that with a time of 1’16.602. Then the No. 12 CALSONIC IMPUL GT-R (Daiki Sasaki) ran a time close to the top time of car No. in Q1, but it fell short, thus giving the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R its first pole position since Round 5 of last season, which for Quintarelli was his twelfth career PP in the GT500 class.
This meant that two GT-Rs will sit on the front row of the starting grid for tomorrow’s race. Following in 3rd position was last year’s Okayama race winners, the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi/Bertrand Baguette) team, which means that two Honda NSX-GT cars (No. 1 and No. 17) will be looking for a come-from-behind win in tomorrow’s race. The fastest among the LEXUS LC500 teams was the No. 37 KeePer TOM’S LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa/ Nick Cassidy) in 7th position.
The GT300 class Q1 session was held in two groups (A and B) based on last year’s team rankings due to the shortness of the course. The Q2 session was then compete by the top eight in each group, for a total of 16 cars. The fastest in the Q1 A group was the No. 52 SAITAMA TOYOPET GB MARK X MC (Hiroki Yoshida). But in the B group session, the rookie Nirei Fukuzumi of the No. 55 ARTA NSX GT3 (Shinichi Takagi/ Nirei Fukuzumi) ran a course record time of 1’24.889 in the Q2 session. Although Fukuzumi made a spot entry in 2015 as a substitute driver, he ended up not driving in either the qualifying or the race. In his first-ever GT300 qualifying, the 22-year-old was assigned to drive in Q2 and his great performance won him his first pole position and the first for the Honda NSX GT3 as well.
Pole Position Winner Comments
No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R
“We finally made it here (to pole position). Last year was tough for use because of a lack of speed, but the NISMO staff worked hard for us on the car’s speed during the off-season. But I didn’t think it had gotten this fast. I thought we were suffering from a lack of traction on the smaller corners, but we would be able to get in the top three with a 1’16 time, so when I heard from engineer Nakajima over the radio that we had gotten pole position, I was really happy.”
No.55 ARTA NSX GT3
“We were able to get pole position thanks to the efforts of everyone on the team. I was able to work together with [Shinichi] Takagi-san on the car’s set-up and by the time of the qualifying it was performing well. When Takagi-san got the top time in Q1 (B group), it put some pressure on me to do well, but I was somehow able to get a good lap time, and it turned out to be the best possible result. This will in fact be my first time driving in qualifying and the race, so I’m very happy to have gotten this pole position.”
Source. Super GT