Autopolis SUPER GT: Mugen Honda claims pole by 0.007s

Ukyo Sasahara put the Mugen Honda team on pole position in a tightly contested SUPER GT qualifying session at Autopolis, beating Kazuya Oshima’s Rookie Racing Toyota by just 0.007s.

After taking over from teammate Toshiki Oyu, who topped the opening segment of qualifying, Sasahara posted a time of 1m31.770s to extend Honda’s streak of pole positions to four in the Oita Prefecture-based circuit.

Takuya Izawa looked set to make it an all-Honda Dunlop front row with a time of 1m32.068s, carrying on the good work of teammate Hiroki Otsu who set the second-quickest time in Q1.

But with just seconds to go Rookie Racing Toyota driver Oshima demoted the Nakajima Racing team to third with an impressive effort of 1m31.777s. However, the #14 GR Supra is one of three Toyotas that will take a penalty in the race for an unauthorised engine change.

Newly-crowned Super Formula champion Tomoki Nojiri made it three Hondas in the top four with a time of 1m32.128s in the ARTA NSX-GT, edging out the top Nissan GT-R of Ronnie Quintarelli (NISMO) by just over two tenths of a second.

In his first SUPER GT outing of the year, Sacha Fenestraz qualified the #37 TOM’S Toyota in sixth position, albeit over a second off the pace of Sasahara’s Honda.

Real Racing Honda boosted its hopes of cutting the deficit to the points-leading Kunimitsu team after Bertrand Baguette qualified a strong seventh with the stage two fuel restrictor, ahead of the SARD Toyota driven by ex-Formula 1 driver Heikki Kovalainen.

The Kondo Nissan will start ninth on the grid after Daiki Sasaki missed the Q2 cut by just 0.027s, with Cerumo Toyota next up in 10th thanks to a 1m32.782s effort by Hiroaki Ishiura.

Fresh off scoring its first win in five years at Sugo, the Impul Nissan team qualified 11th in the hands of ex-Formula 2 driver Nobuharu Matsushita, beating the #36 TOM’S Toyota driven by Yuhi Sekiguchi.

Saddled with the highest Stage 3 fuel restrictor, the Kunimitsu Honda squad could qualify no higher than 13th with reigning champion Naoki Yamamoto at the wheel with a best time of 1m33.070s.

Hybrid Prius takes GT300 pole

#31 TOYOTA GR SPORT PRIUS PHV apr GT

#31 TOYOTA GR SPORT PRIUS PHV apr GT

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

The hybrid-powered apr Toyota Prius dominated qualifying to claim its first GT300 pole position since 2016, aided by a Balance of Performance break.

With the size of the air restrictor on the #31 Prius PHV GR Sport increased to 2020 levels, Yuhki Nakayama set the pace in the opening segment of qualifying before teammate Koki Saga posted a time of 1m42.039s in Q2 to clinch pole position by just under three tenths of a second.

The championship-leading Subaru team belied its 100kg of success ballast to book a spot on the front row, courtesy of a 1m42.316s effort by Hideki Yamauchi in the #61 R&D Sport BRZ.

The Saitama Toyopet squad underlined the pace of GT300-spec cars with Hiroki Yoshida putting the #52 GR Supra third on the grid, beating the #65 LEON Racing Mercedes of Togo Suganami.

While championship leaders Takuto Iguchi and Yamauchi put in a strong performance to secure a spot on the front row, their nearest rivals Joao Paulo de Oliveira and Kiyoto Fujinami missed the Q2 cut by just 0.077s, qualifying a disappointing 18th in the #56 Kondo Racing Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3.

Third in the championship, Atsushi Miyake and Yuui Tsutsumi were also eliminated in the first leg of qualifying and will line up 25th in the #244 Max Racing Toyota Supra.

GT500 qualifying results:

Pos. No Car Team Drivers Tyre Q1 Q2
1 16 Honda Mugen

Japan Ukyo Sasahara
Japan Toshiki Oyu

D 1'31.389 1'31.770
2 14 Toyota Rookie Racing Japan Kazuya Oshima
Japan Kenta Yamashita
B 1'31.985 1'31.777
3 64 Honda Nakajima Racing

Japan Takuya Izawa
Japan Hiroki Otsu

D 1'31.438 1'32.068
4 8 Honda ARTA

Japan Tomoki Nojiri
Japan Nirei Fukuzumi

B 1'32.310 1'32.128
5 23 Nissan NISMO

Japan Tsugio Matsuda
Italy Ronnie Quintarelli

M 1'32.622 1'32.335
6 37 Toyota TOM'S

Japan Ryo Hirakawa
France Sacha Fenestraz

B 1'32.699 1'32.728
7 17 Honda Real Racing

Japan Koudai Tsukakoshi
Belgium Bertrand Baguette

B 1'32.689 1'32.828
8 39 Toyota SARD Finland Heikki Kovalainen
Japan Yuichi Nakayama
B 1'32.434 1'33.078
9 24 Nissan Kondo Racing

Japan Mitsunori Takaboshi
Japan Daiki Sasaki

Y 1'32.726  
10 38 Toyota Cerumo

Japan Yuji Tachikawa
Japan Hiroaki Ishiura

B 1'32.782  
11 12 Nissan Impul

Japan Kazuki Hiramine
Japan Nobuharu Matsushita

B 1'32.853  
12 36 Toyota TOM'S

Japan Yuhi Sekiguchi
Japan Sho Tsuboi

B 1'33.012  
13 1 Honda Kunimitsu

Japan Naoki Yamamoto
Japan Tadasuke Makino

B 1'33.070  
14 19 Toyota Racing Project Bandoh

Japan Yuji Kunimoto
Japan Ritomo Miyata

Y 1'33.174  
15 3 Nissan B-Max/NDDP

Japan Kohei Hirate
Japan Katsumasa Chiyo

M 1'33.333  

Motorsport.tv is showing the entire 2021 SUPER GT season live, including this weekend's Autopolis race. Available worldwide except Japan. Click here for more information.

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