Autobacs Racing Team Aguri (ARTA) captured a rare double pole position during qualifying for Sunday’s Fuji GT 300km Race at Fuji Speedway, qualifying fastest in both GT500 with the #8 ARTA Honda NSX-GT of Tomoki Nojiri & Takashi Kobayashi, and in GT300, where the #55 ARTA BMW M6 GT3 of Shinichi Takagi & Sean Walkinshaw scored their third successive P1 start in the summer race at Fuji.
It has happened before for Aguri Suzuki’s team, one of only two organisations in Super GT which fields a car in both categories. The last double pole position for ARTA was back in October 2005, at the Autopolis circuit.
Nojiri’s pole-winning lap in the final seconds of Q2 – a lap of 1:29.104 – was 1.3 seconds slower than the pole time from the Fuji GT 500km Race in May, but was still more than good enough to take the top spot on the grid for Sunday’s race by three-tenths of a second.
It’s the third pole position in five races for the ARTA NSX, and back-to-back pole positions for Nojiri, who also put the bright orange Honda on pole at the last round at Sportsland Sugo. For Honda, it’s a fourth pole position this year, and another brilliant chance for the NSX-GT to finally end a frustrating 23-month winless drought.
23 just happens to be the number of the Motul Autech NISMO GT-R of Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli, which will start on the outside of the front row. It’s their second front row start at Fuji Speedway this year, but now with a recently updated engine underneath the bonnet which looks to have cured their ailing top speeds.
Leading the way for Lexus was the #36 au TOM’s LC500 (Kazuki Nakajima/James Rossiter) in third place, putting in stunning work on 38 kilos of Success Ballast plus a fuel-flow restrictor, and putting Lexus in a good spot to try and win their fifth straight race in 2017. They’ll share the second row with the #17 Keihin NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi/Takashi Kogure).
João Paulo de Oliveira will look to win his 100th career Super GT race from fifth on the grid in the #24 Forum Engineering Advan GT-R (with Daiki Sasaki), starting alongside Fuji 500km winners Yuji Tachikawa & Hiroaki Ishiura in the #38 ZENT Cerumo LC500 in sixth. The #37 KeePer TOM’s LC500 (Ryo Hirakawa/Nick Cassidy) will start seventh, and the #46 S Road Craftsports GT-R (Satoshi Motoyama/Katsumasa Chiyo) will line up eighth for Sunday’s race.
The championship-leading #6 Wako’s 4CR LC500 (Kazuya Oshima/Andrea Caldarelli) will start eleventh on Sunday, after being knocked out in a frantic Q1 session where all 15 cars were covered by just 0.899 seconds.
Shinichi Takagi was the GT300 pole winner in ARTA’s last double pole effort in 2005, and the 47-year-old former champion showed he still has the outright qualifying speed when it counts, giving the #55 ARTA crew pole position for the third year in a row at the Fuji 300km with a lap of 1:37.525.
For Takagi, who won the Fuji 300km from pole position in 2015 and in 2016, it’s his twelfth career GT300 pole position, putting him one behind Kota Sasaki for the all-time lead.
He and Super GT rookie Walkinshaw will make up the front half of an all-BMW front row, with the #7 Studie BMW M6 GT3 of Jörg Müller and Seiji Ara backing up their fastest run in Q1 with second place in Q2. It’s the first-ever front row start for BMW Team Studie since becoming a stand-alone team in 2014, and the team are still searching for their first race victory.
Behind the all-BMW front row will be a Mercedes-AMG row two, with the #4 Goodsmile Hatsune Miku AMG (Nobuteru Taniguchi/Tatsuya Kataoka) qualifying in third in their first race back from Spa-Francorchamps, and the #65 Leon Cvstos AMG (Haruki Kurosawa/Naoya Gamou) fourth. The #61 Subaru BRZ R&D Sport (Takuto Iguchi/Hideki Yamauchi) led the way for the JAF-GT300 cars with a fifth-place effort.
Amongst the other notables: The #25 VivaC Toyota 86 MC (Takamitsu Matsui/Kenta Yamashita) qualified a respectable twelfth on 82 kilos of Success Ballast, while the Fuji 500km-winning #51 JMS P.MU Lexus RC F GT3 (Yuichi Nakayama/Sho Tsuboi) and the Sugo-winning #11 Gainer Tanax AMG (Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Björn Wirdheim) were both eliminated in Q1, and will start 17th and 19th respectively.