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The qualifying for the “SUGO GT 300km RACE,” Round 7 of the 2019 AUTOBACS SUPER GT, was held at Sportsland SUGO (one lap: 3,704m) in Miyagi Prefecture on September 21. In the GT500 class qualifying, the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT driven by Koudai Tsukakoshi and Bertrand Baguette won their second straight pole position after Round 6. In the GT300 class, the No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT driven by Takuto Iguchi and Hideki Yamauchi won their second straight SUGO class pole.

The qualifying was conducted in a two-session knock-out format. On this day, there was initially worries about rain but the skies remained cloudy with no rain and the track dry. In the GT500 class Q1 session, the No. 36 au TOM’S LC500 (Kazuki Nakajima) ran the fastest time of 1’10.281. Second fastest in Q1 was the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT (Bertrand Baguette). Meanwhile, the current 3rd and 4th placed teams in the series ranking, the No. 39 DENSO KOBELCO SARD LC500 (Heikki Kovalainen) and No. 38 ZENT CERUMO LC500 (Hiroaki Ishiura) and the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda) failed to move on to Q2.

The 10-minute GT500 class Q2 session competed by the top eight qualifiers in Q1 would decide the top eight positions of the starting grid for Sunday’s race. Fortunately, there was again no rain and the track remained dry. First, the current SUGO course record holder, Naoki Yamamoto of the No. 1 RAYBRIG NSX-GT team, beat his own record of 1’10.248 with a new record time of 1’10.151 to lead the session. But just before the end of the session, Koudai Tsukakoshi in the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT beat this time by a big margin with a 1’9.676 lap that had the announcer shout out, “Super fast!” in spite of himself.

After this, no one was able to beat Tsukakoshi’s time, which meant that the No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT won its second consecutive pole of the season. The second fastest qualifier was the No. 1 RAYBRIG NSX-GT, giving the Honda NSX-GT its second consecutive 1-2 finish in the qualifying following that of Round 6. A LEXUS LC500, the No. 36 au TOM’S LC500 Yuhi Sekiguchi qualified 3rd. The fastest among the NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT500 cars was the No. 3 CRAFTSPORTS MOTUL GT-R (Kohei Hirate/Frederic Makowiecki) in 7th place.

Because to the short overall length of the SUGO course that meant all 28 cars of the GT300 class competing in Q1 would have a very difficult time getting in enough time attacks on the crowded track, the teams were divided into groups A and B based on their team ranking as of Round 6 to run separately. In the Q1 group A, the No. 720 McLaren 720S (Alex Palou) and in group B the No. 34 Modulo Drago CORSE (Hiroki Otsu) recorded the fastest times. The GT300 class Q2 was competed by the fastest eight qualifiers from the two Q1 groups, for a total of 16 cars. The No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT (Takuto Iguchi) that had qualified 3rd in group A of Q1 also ran strongly in Q2 at the hands of Hideki Yamauchi, recording a new course record of 1’16.834. This gave the team their second consecutive pole position at SUGO following their pole last season. Qualifying 2nd was the No. 55 ARTA NSX GT3 (Shinichi Takagi/Nirei Fukuzumi) team that currently stands 2nd in the series standings. Third position went to the No. 25 HOPPY 86 MC (Takamitsu Matsui/Kimiya Sato).

Pole position Winner Comments

No. 17 KEIHIN NSX-GT [GT500]
Koudai Tsukakoshi
“The condition of the machine was really good. But another big factor was the advice that [Bertrand] Baguette-san gave me about the car’s condition after his run in Q1 before I would run in Q2. Based on that advice, the team and we talked and it was decided to trust Baguette’s opinion going into Q2. The result was this pole position. We probably wouldn’t have won the pole if it weren’t for his advice.”

Hideki Yamauchi
“I was able to run in Q2 thanks to [Takuto] Iguchi’s time attack in Q1, and after that we changed the set-up of the car, and that had a great affect on the time attacks in Q2. So, I really owe everything to Iguchi-san and the team.”

Source. Super GT


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