Suzuka Super Formula: Kunimoto leads washed-out practice

Kondo Racing driver Yuji Kunimoto set the pace in Friday's opening practice session for this weekend's Suzuka title decider that was essentially written off by heavy rain.

Suzuka Super Formula: Kunimoto leads washed-out practice

Kunimoto's best time came towards the start of the one-hour session, which was delayed by 15 minutes owing to the late conclusion of the preceding WTCR practice session, the 2016 series champion posting a 1m55.296s in the treacherous conditions.

That was enough to beat Hiroaki Ishiura (Inging) by 0.261 seconds, while Kazuki Nakajima was third-fastest for TOM'S, 0.341s off the pace.

The rain intensified around 15 minutes into the session, which prompted a lengthy period of inactivity as all the drivers returned to the pits.

In the final 20 minutes, several drivers ventured out for sighting laps, and with 10 minutes to go the majority of the field were out on track, albeit mostly lapping over 5s off the pace.

No-one was able to improve in that time, leaving Kunimoto at the head of an all-Toyota top five, with title contenders Kenta Yamashita (Kondo) and Nick Cassidy (TOM'S) placing fourth and fifth behind the leading trio.

Best of the Honda runners was Dandelion Racing's Nirei Fukuzumi in sixth place.

Of the other title hopefuls, Kamui Kobayashi (KCMG) was ninth-fastest, Naoki Yamamoto (Dandelion) was 12th and Alex Palou (Nakajima Racing) was well down in 19th, having completed only two laps all session and not at a representative pace.

At the opposing end of the spectrum was Red Bull-backed Team Mugen newcomer Juri Vips, who clocked 12 laps - having been one of the first to venture back out late in the session - on his way to the 17th-fastest time, just behind teammate Tomoki Nojiri.

Weather conditions are forecast to improve for the remainder of the weekend, with second practice set to take place early on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying.

UPDATE: Due to limited track activity on Friday, the second practice session on Saturday has been extended by 20 minutes.

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Practice results:

Cla Driver Team Time Gap
1 Japan Yuji Kunimoto
Kondo Racing 01'55.296
2 Japan Hiroaki Ishiura
JMS 01'55.557 00.261
3 Japan Kazuki Nakajima
Vantelin Team TOM'S 01'55.637 00.341
4 Japan Kenta Yamashita
Kondo Racing 01'55.812 00.516
5 New Zealand Nick Cassidy
Vantelin Team TOM'S 01'56.007 00.711
6 Japan Nirei Fukuzumi
DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 01'56.011 00.715
7 Japan Ryo Hirakawa
Team Impul 01'56.257 00.961
8 Japan Sho Tsuboi
JMS 01'57.548 02.252
9 Japan Kamui Kobayashi
carrozzeria Team KCMG 01'57.684 02.388
10 Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi
Team Impul 01'57.941 02.645
11 Austria Lucas Auer
B-MAX with Motopark 01'58.719 03.423
12 Japan Naoki Yamamoto
DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing 01'59.488 04.192
13 Japan Koudai Tsukakoshi
Real Racing 01'59.555 04.259
14 Japan Yuichi Nakayama
UOMO Sunoco Team LeMans 02'00.459 05.163
15 Japan Kazuya Oshima
UOMO Sunoco Team LeMans 02'01.156 05.860
16 Japan Tomoki Nojiri
Team Mugen 02'01.366 06.070
17 Estonia Jüri Vips
Team Mugen 02'02.794 07.498
18 United Kingdom Harrison Newey
B-MAX with Motopark 02'05.236 09.940
19 Spain Alex Palou
TCS Nakajima Racing 02'08.860 13.564
20 Japan Tadasuke Makino
TCS Nakajima Racing 02'15.087 19.791

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