Under a beautiful sunset, the Suzuka 10 Hours field took part in the final 90-minute practice session of the weekend Friday evening.
Five minutes into the session, the #66 Audi Sport Team WRT R8 LMS GT3 of Christopher Mies, Dries Vanthoor, and Frédéric Vervisch struck first, with the younger of the two Vanthoor brothers setting a time of 2’03.328. That bested the quickest time in FP1 from Mathieu Jaminet in the #991 Craft-Bamboo Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R (with Laurens Vanthoor & Kévin Estre).
But ten minutes later, the 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour Race winner Katsumasa Chiyo took the top spot away from the 2018 Bathurst winner Vanthoor, going fastest in the #018 KCMG Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 (with Tsugio Matsuda & Alexandre Imperatori) with a 2’03.183, and once again resetting the fastest lap of the weekend in the process as KCMG & Nissan took top spot in FP2.
There was a 15-minute Red Flag in the second half of practice, when the #777 CarGuy Racing Honda NSX GT3 of Takeshi Kimura spun off and crashed at the 130R corner.
Luckily, not only was Kimura uninjured, but eventually drove the car back to the pits with nothing more than rear fender damage – and the #777 CarGuy NSX still held on to tenth overall in the practice session!
At the same time, Ryosei Yamashita brought the #112 Sato/Yamashita-SS Rn-sports Mercedes-AMG GT3 to a stop at the Hairpin Curve, and would be towed back to the garage.
Behind first-place Chiyo and second-place Vanthoor, the #888 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing GT3 of Raffaele Marciello, Maro Engel, and Tristan Vautier continued its strong form. Marciello finished third-fastest in FP2, ahead of Andrea Caldarelli in the #88 EVA Racing Team JLOC Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (with Kazuki Hiramine & Marco Mapelli) in fourth.
Kévin Estre in the #991 Craft-Bamboo Porsche was fifth-fastest, putting five different manufacturers inside the top five, and Kelvin van der Linde in the #6 Audi Sport Team Absolute Racing R8 LMS (with Markus Winkelhock & Christopher Haase) put the top six cars within 0.8 seconds of each other.
Best of the Pro-Am Cup teams was, for the third practice session out of four, the #28 HubAuto Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 (Nick Foster/David Perel/Hiroki Yoshida) in eighth overall.
The Suzuka 10 Hours’ four-part qualifying session takes centre stage at 13:00 JST on Saturday, when the top-20 cars from the first three segments progress to a 15-minute winner-takes-pole shootout.
Images courtesy of SRO Motorsports Group