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FIRST EVER SUPER GT POLE FOR SASAHARA AT AUTOPOLIS

The official qualifying for the AUTOPOLIS GT 300 km RACE, Round 6 of the 2021 AUTOBACS SUPER GT series, was held at the AUTOPOLIS circuit (lap = 4.674 km) in Oita Pref. on the afternoon of October 23 (Sat.). In the GT500 class, the No. 16 Red Bull MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT (Ukyo Sasahara/Toshiki Oyu) won pole position driven by Sasahara in his first-ever pole win. In the GT300 class, the pole position went to the No. 31 TOYOTA GR SPORT PRIUS PHV apr GT (Koki Saga/Yuhki Nakayama) for the first time since Round 3 of last year driven by Saga.

In 2020, an Autopolis round couldn’t held due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, so this was the first SUPER GT series round at Autopolis in two years. Qualifying day was held under clear autumn skies at the circuit. And although the air temperature was a somewhat chilly 14-degrees C. it was fine conditions for racing. Due to delays in the morning official practice, the official qualifying stared 10 minutes later than scheduled at 1:55.

The 10-minute GT500 class Q1 session started at 2:28 in the afternoon. With two minutes left in the session, as the cars began their flying-start timed laps, the first to record a fast time was the No. 64 Modulo NSX-GT (Hiroki Otsu). That time of 1’31.438 put him in the lead while beating the existing course record (1’31.441). But just after that, the No. 16 Red Bull MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT (Toshiki Oyu) ran a time of 1’31.389 to once again rewrite the new course record. This gave the Honda NSX-GT the top two fastest times in Q1. Qualifying in 3rd position in Q1 with a time of 1’31.985 was the No. 14 ENEOS X PRIME GR Supra (Kenta Yamashita), finishing fastest among the TOYOTA GR Supra GT500 cars. The fastest among the NISSAN GT-R NISMO GT500 cars was the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Tsugio Matsuda), finishing in 6th position to qualify the team to Q2.

In the 10-minute Q2 session where the fastest eight cars from Q1 would compete for pole position, the cars began to make their time attacks in the closing minutes of the session. Here again as in Q1, it was the NSX-GT cars that led the field. The first to record a top time of 1’32.128 was the No. 8 ARTA NSX-GT (Tomoki Nojiri). Just after that, however, the No. 64 Modulo NSX-GT (Takuya Izawa) ran a time of 1’32.068 to move into the top position. But that time was quickly beaten by the fastest car in Q1, the No. 16 Red Bull MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT (Ukyo Sasahara) with a time of 1’31.770. With this, it looked as if the NSX-GT cars would take the top three places in the Qualifying, but in the end the No. 14 ENEOS X PRIME GR Supra (Kazuya Oshima) ran a time of 1’31.777 to move into 2nd position. Fastest among the GT-R cars was the No. 23 MOTUL AUTECH GT-R (Ronnie Quintarelli) in 5th position.

The GT300 class Q1 was divided into two groups, A and B, and in Group A it was the No. 31 TOYOTA GR SPORT PRIUS PHV apr GT (Yuhki Nakayama) that finished on top, while the fastest in Group B was the No. 18 UPGARAGE NSX GT3 (Teppei Natori). The following Q2 session was competed by the top eight qualifiers from the two groups, for a total of 16 cars. Here, Koki Saga in the No. 31 TOYOTA GR SPORT PRIUS PHV apr GT beat the existing course record (1’42.498) by setting a new record of 1’42.039, and in doing so gave his team their first GT300 class pole position since Round 3 of last year’s season. Qualifying in 2nd place was the despite carrying success weight of 100 kg was the winner of the previous round, the No. 61 SUBARU BRZ R&D SPORT (Takuto Iguchi/Hideki Yamauchi). Third place in the qualifying went to the No. 52 SAITAMA TOYOPET GB GR Supra GT (Hiroki Yoshida/Kohta Kawaai).

Pole Position winner comments

GT500class

No.16 Red Bull MOTUL MUGEN NSX-GT
Ukyo Sasahara
“Oyu-san ran a fantastic time attack in Q1 that gave me confidence that the car was in good condition. Because of that, I am really relieved that I was able to get pole position. This is also my first pole position since we became TEAM Red Bull MUGEN, and I am so happy that I was the one who won it for us. I am just so grateful to everyone. We don’t want to finish any lower than this top position in the race tomorrow, so the whole team is going to work as hard as we can to defend our lead.”

GT300class

No.31 TOYOTA GR SPORT PRIUS PHV apr GT
Koki Saga
“Lately, my only chance to stand out was at the driver appearance sessions held before the starts of the races, so I am glad to appear here today after winning pole position. I was confident coming into this round, so we asked Nakayama-san to run in Q1 and I was determined to get pole position in Q2. Nakayama-san ran a fantastic time in Q1, and that inspired me. We have been struggling so far this season, so I believe that the fact that we both ran top times today show that the steady work we have continued until now has finally produced results. Right now I am just relieved to be here.”

Source. Super GT

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