The #777 D’station Racing Aston Martin AMR Vantage GT3 will start on pole position for this weekend’s running of the Fuji Super TEC 24 Hours, the opening round of the 2020 Pirelli Super Taikyu Series.
Qualifying took place on Friday afternoon under clear skies, and the aggregate time for the first and second rounds of qualifying set the grid for the race. For the top classes, including ST-X (FIA GT3), ST-Z (FIA GT4), and ST-TCR, gentleman drivers handled the first round of qualifying.
It was Satoshi Hoshino in the D’station Vantage who proved the difference-maker in the first round. Hoshino led the session with a seriously competitive time of 1’41.915, which was 1.634 seconds quicker than the second-place qualifier, Daisuke Yamawaki in the #888 Hirix Good Day Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. A close second round contested amongst the more professional drivers, including several STO Platinum-rated drivers, saw Tomonobu Fujii set the third-quickest time, a 1’40.928, which was only 0.058 seconds off the top spot in his group.
With an aggregate time of 3’22.843, Hoshino and Fujii, along with co-drivers Tsubasa Kondo and Yuya Motojima, will start on pole in their #777 D’station Vantage when the green flag flies Saturday at 15:00 JST (local time). Kondo and Motojima led the third and fourth rounds of qualifying, which did not impact the grid.
“I made some mistakes, but I was able to get a good time,” said Hoshino, the primary gentleman driver and owner of D’station Racing. “In my case, it was very easy to drive, but in Fujii’s case, we changed the setup and it seemed that he had a little understeer. I think the GT-Rs will be faster in the race, so I’d like to maintain the top position and run for as long as possible.”
The #9 MP Racing Nissan GT-R GT3 (Joe Shindo/Yusaku Shibata/Masami Kageyama/Tsugio Matsuda/Keiichi Inoue/Yuki Tanaka) qualified second, with Shibata setting the fastest time in the second round of qualifying with a 1’40.870. The #888 Hirix AMG of Yamawaki, Shinichi Takagi, Shaun Thong, Yuki Nemoto, and Hisamori Hayashi will start third in the debut race for the Mercedes-AMG Team Hirix Racing squad.
Two-time and defending race winners GTNET Motor Sports qualified fourth-fastest with their #81 Daishin GT-R (Nobuyuki Oyagi/Kazuki Hoshino/Ryuichiro Oyagi/Kiyoto Fujinami/Kazuki Hiramine/Natsu Sakaguchi), but their mechanics now face a battle to have the car ready for Saturday’s race after Fujinami suffered a crash in the fourth round of qualifying (UPDATE – the team did a fantastic job in repairing the car – it’s good to go!). The last of the ST-X (FIA GT3) runners, the #31 Denso Lexus RC F GT3 (Hideki Nagai/Koki Saga/Kazuto Kotaka/Hiroaki Nagai/Yuichi Nakayama/Yuta Kamimura) qualified in fifth.
The fastest GT4 car in the field was not entered in the class designated for FIA GT4 cars.
That honour went to the #28 Rookie Racing Toyota GR Supra GT4 of Naoya Gamou, Daisuke Toyoda, Yasuhiro Ogura, Shunsuke Kohno, Hisashi Yabuki, and reigning Super GT premier class champion Kazuya Oshima, which qualified sixth-fastest overall and led the ST-1 class which it is entered in.
Gamou and Toyoda set an aggregate time of 3’37.041, 1.745 seconds faster than that of the fastest ST-Z class qualifier.
The ST-Z class pole winner was BMW Team Studie’s #20 SS/YZ BMW M4 GT4 of Hirokazu Suzuki, Seiji Ara, Takayuki Kinoshita, Jukuchou Sunako, and João Paulo de Oliveira. Suzuki was second-quickest in the first round of qualifying, just three-tenths back of Ryuichiro Otsuka in the #500 5Zigen Mercedes-AMG GT4.
But in the second round, the 2004 Le Mans winner set the fastest lap time in class, and with an aggregate time of 3’38.786, took pole position by three-tenths of a second in the same car that won last year’s SRO GT World Challenge Asia GT4 title with Sunako and Kinoshita first and second in the Drivers’ Championship.
The #500 5Zigen AMG GT4 of Otsuka, Takayuki Aoki, Kazuya Shimogaki, Toshihiko Hachiro, Toshihiro Kaneishi, and Syuma Hiroshima qualified second in class, ahead of the debuting #47 D’station Aston Martin AMR Vantage GT4 (Tatsuya Hoshino/Manabu Orido/Takuro Shinohara/Tsubasa Mekaru/Kenji Hama) in third, the defending champions’ #3 Endless AMG GT4 (Yuudai Uchida/Hideki Yamauchi/Tsubasa Takahashi/Shinnosuke Yamada/Ryuichiro Tomita) fourth, the #2 K’s Frontier Syntium KTM X-Bow GT4 (Taiyou Iida/Hiroki Katoh/Takashi Kobayashi/Masataka Yanagida/Kazuho Takahashi) fifth, and the #19 BRP/Sunrise Blvd Porsche 718 GT4 MR (Kohei Fukuda/Takeshi Matsumoto/Yusuke Shiotsu/Kouichi Okumura/Shigetomo Shimono/Kengo Ichijo) in sixth.
Behind this group you’ll find the second-fastest ST-1 car, the #12 Field Management Racing Porsche Cayman GT4, led by two-time Le Mans winner Mika Salo in his first race in over four years, driving with his 18-year-old son Max. Father and son Salo, driving alongside Kosuke Matsuura, Katsuhiki Kumabayashi, Masatoshi Uesugi, and Yuya Hiraki, qualified 14th fastest overall, just 0.001 seconds ahead of the only non-GT4 in the ST-1 class, the #38 Advics muta racing Lexus RC F (Makoto Hotta/Ryohei Sakaguchi/Yuui Tsutsumi/Sena Sakaguchi).
15th overall in qualifying and best of the ST-TCR category is the #65 Rebellion Mars Audi RS3 LMS of Toshiro Tsukada, Masanobu Kato, Masato Shimoyama, Sakon Yamamoto, Daisuke Hasegawa, and Taketoshi Matsui. In the same model that won ST-TCR last year, Tsukada and Kato took pole by 0.420 seconds on aggregate.
Behind them, second in class is the #290 F-Link Home Honda Civic TCR (Tadao Uematsu/Yuji Ide/Shintaro Kawabata/Tomoki Nojiri), with the #22 Waimarama Kizuna RS3 LMS (Kizuna/Katsumasa Chiyo/Hironobu Yasuda/Riki Okusa/Naoya Yamano/Toshihiro Yoshida) 3rd and the #97 Racer/Honda Cars Okegawa Dome Civic (Mitsuhiro Endo/Shinji Nakano/Hiroki Otsu/Syun Koide/Kenta Harada/Ryusuke Masumoto) 4th.
Behind all the ST-TCRs is the last of the ST-Z class GT4s, the #505 A.T. Field Audi R8 LMS GT4 (Genki Nishimura/Takeshi Okamoto/Shozo Tagahara/Yoshinari Fujiwara) couldn’t match its peers and will start 19th.
Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio “Morizo” Toyoda was a last-minute entry into the race, piloting the new all-wheel-drive #32 Rookie Racing Toyota GR Yaris that qualified on pole position in the ST-2 class. Morizo-san will share the car with Takuto Iguchi, Masahiro Sasaki, Norihiko Katsuta (father of WRC rising star Takamoto), and two-time Super Formula champ Hiroaki Ishiura. Iguchi and Sasaki’s aggregate time put the GR Yaris 23rd on the grid, ahead of the septuple ST-2 champions, the #59 DAMD Motul Subaru WRX STI (Manabu Osawa/Hitoshi Gotoh/Mizuki Ishizaka/Yoshiyuki Tsuruga).
Best of the ST-3 cars was the #15 Okabe Jidosha/Recaro Nissan Fairlady Z34 (Masaaki Nagashima/Kazuomi Komatsu/Jun Tashiro/Yuga Katsumata/Manabu Yamazaki/Masaya Kono), 20th overall, and just 0.167 ahead of the new #62 Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave Toyota Crown RS (Naoki Hattori/Hiroki Yoshida/Kohta Kawaai/Takayuki Hiranuma).
In ST-4, the pole went to the #310 GR Garage Mito Inter Toyota 86 (Rintaro Kubo/Shinya Hosokawa/Sho Tsuboi/Kota Matsui), and in ST-5, top qualifying honours went to the #88 Murakami Motors Mazda Roadster ND (Hiroyuki Murakami/Keiji Amemiya/Yasunori Nakajima/Naoki Yamaya/Tatsuya Tanigawa).
While conditions were clear and dry for qualifying, it’s expected to rain throughout Saturday and Sunday, though thankfully for the few thousand spectators in the grandstands and on the campgrounds this weekend, the fear of Typhoon Maysak making landfall over central Japan has gone away.
Images courtesy of the Super Taikyu Organisation (STO)