D’station Racing have taken their third pole position of the 2020 Pirelli Super Taikyu Series, as their #777 Aston Martin AMR Vantage GT3 driven by Satoshi Hoshino, Tomonobu Fujii, and Tsubasa Kondo swept both rounds of qualifying to set the grid for Sunday’s Motegi Super Taikyu 5 Hours Race.
Hoshino was at the wheel against his fellow Gentleman drivers in the first round of qualifying and went fastest in his group, four-tenths up on the #31 Denso Lexus RC F GT3 of Hideki Nagai in second place.
In the second round, Fujii was the fastest of the professional drivers, but only just. His time of 1’51.366 secured the top spot on the grid for D’station Racing and bested the #81 Daishin Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 of Kazuki Hoshino by just 0.029 seconds in the second round of qualifying.
“This time, I didn’t drive the car too much in practice, but we worked on building the setup around Hoshino-san, and the car turned out very good,” said Fujii after qualifying. “Hoshino-san and the team made a good car for me, and I wasn’t sure how well I would do, but when I got in the car, it turned out to be very good, and I was surprisingly fast in qualifying.”
“Our goal right now is not to focus on the championship, but rather to fight each and every race as hard as we can, so I’d like to be able to run every race at our own pace.”
With the second-fastest aggregate time, the #888 Hirix Good Day Mercedes-AMG GT3 (Daisuke Yamawaki/Shaun Thong/Yuki Nemoto) qualified on the front row – a strong start for the team with their new chassis. Third-fastest was the #9 MP Racing GT-R (Joe Shindo/Yusaku Shibata/Masami Kageyama/Keiichi Inoue), ahead of the #31 Denso RC F (Hideki Nagai/Koki Saga/Kazuto Kotaka/Yuta Kamimura) in fourth, and the #81 Daishin GT-R (Noboyuki Oyagi/Kazuki Hoshino/Ryuichiro Oyagi/Kiyoto Fujinami) in fifth.
On a sunny November afternoon that saw the ST-X class pole-sitter Fujii qualify a second quicker than he did at this track in September 2019, conditions also allowed lap records to fall in the ST-Z (GT4) and ST-TCR categories.
The #47 D’station Aston Martin AMR Vantage GT4 of Tatsuya Hoshino, Manabu Orido, Takuro Shinohara, and Kenji Hama took pole position in the ST-Z class, the second straight race where D’station Racing’s cars have swept pole position in their respective categories.
The aggregate time set by Tatsuya Hoshino and Orido gave them pole position in their category (6th overall) by seven-tenths of a second, and Orido was one of six drivers that broke the previous ST-X class lap record, and one of only two break the sub-2 minute barrier with a lap of 1’59.483 in the second round.
Second in class was the #20 SS/YZ Studie BMW M4 GT3 (Hirokazu Suzuki/Takayuki Kinoshita/Jukuchou Sunako), which was fastest in the first round of qualifying, and third in class was the #2 Syntium K’s Frontier KTM X-Bow GT4 (Taiyou Iida/Hiroki Katoh/Kazuho Takahashi), which set the new course record in second-round qualifying.
The rest of the ST-Z field has the #23 TKRI Mercedes-AMG GT4 (Daisuke Matsunaga/Yuya Motojima/Tetsuya Moriyama/Takaaki Hamada) in 4th, the #500 5Zigen AMG GT4 (Ryuichiro Otsuka/Takayuki Aoki/Yuya Sakamoto) in 5th, and the championship-leading #3 Endless AMG GT4 (Yuudai Uchida/Hideki Yamauchi/Tsubasa Takahashi/Togo Suganami) in 6th. Following them, are the #19 BRP/Sunrise Blvd Porsche 718 Cayman MR (Kohei Fukuda/Takeshi Matsumoto/Yusuke Shiotsu/Koichi Okumura) in 7th, and the #21 STP with Studie M4 GT4 (Takashi Kochiya/Takumi Sanada/Yuji Takahashi) in 8th.
Then it’s a long way back to the #505 A.T. Field Audi R8 LMS GT4 (Genki Nishimura/Shozo Tagahara/Takeshi Okamoto), 9th in class and starting behind all the ST-TCR runners (19th overall), while the one-off #51 BEND Diamango Cayman GT4 (Masamitsu Ishihara/Atsushi Yogo/Daisuke Ikeda) was well off the pace in qualifying, and will start 30th overall, near the tail end of the Group 1 grid.
The only ST-1 class runner in the field, the #28 Rookie Racing Toyota GR Supra GT4 (Naoya Gamou/Daisuke Toyoda/Yasuhiro Ogura/Shunsuke Kohno), had a mechanical issue before the second round of qualifying and thus, will start from 32nd overall on the grid. Gamou’s first-round qualifying time in the pre-homologation Supra GT4 was a half-second faster than the Gentleman drivers in ST-Z.
Two spot starters led the way in qualifying in ST-TCR, where every team in second-round qualifying broke the previous lap record. Making only its second appearance of the year, the #97 Racer/Honda Cars Okegawa Civic TCR of Mitsuhiro Endo, Shinji Nakano, Hiroki Otsu, and Syun Koide took pole thanks in large part to a strong first-round run from Endo. They’ll start 14th overall, ahead of the #33 Audi Driving Experience Japan RS3 TCR (Hideki Nakahara/Ryuichiro Tomita/Masataka Yanagida/Yuki Fujii), making its lone appearance on the season, and qualifying a strong 2nd in class with Tomita setting the new course record.
The #290 F-Link Home Civic TCR (Tadao Uematsu/Yuji Ide/Shintaro Kawabata) qualified 3rd in class, the #65 Rebellion Mars RS3 LMS (Taketoshi Matsui/Masanobu Kato/Masato Shimoyama/Yosuke Yamazaki) was 4th, and the championship-leading #22 Waimarama Kizuna RS3 LMS (Kizuna/Katsumasa Chiyo/Hironobu Yasuda/Riki Okusa) was 5th.
In the production classes, ST-2 pole position went to the #32 Rookie Racing Toyota GR Yaris, qualifying 20th-fastest overall thanks to the combined times of drivers Takuto Iguchi and Masahiro Sasaki. Toyota President/CEO Akio “Morizo” Toyoda will drive alongside them this weekend.
21st overall and fastest in ST-3 is the #62 HELM Motor Sports Lexus RC 350, making just its second appearance this season, brothers Yuya and Reiji Hiraki took pole position and will be joined by Ai Miura, one of six women in the field.
Pole position in ST-4 went to the #884 Hayashi Telempu Shade Racing Toyota 86 of Katsuyuki Hiranaka, Yuji Kunimoto, Hiro Hayashi, and Keishi Ishikawa, they’ll start at the head of the Group 2 grid and 33rd overall, with Hiranaka and Kunimoto’s aggregate time faster than the slowest ST-Z class car. In ST-5, it was the #456 odula Avantech Mazda Roadster of Riku Hashimoto, Takuya Kusano, Ryosei Kagani, and Koji Obara that took pole, they’ll start 40th overall for Sunday’s race.
The Motegi Super Taikyu 5 Hours Race starts Sunday at 11 AM JST / 2 AM GMT / 3 AM CET / Saturday, 9 PM EST, with live, free-to-air Japanese-language coverage on Super Taikyu’s official YouTube channel starting 90 minutes prior. Live timing is also available via the series’ website.
Images courtesy of the Super Taikyu Organisation (STO)