For the third consecutive race and the fourth time in 2020, the #777 D’station Racing Aston Martin AMR Vantage GT3 will start on pole position in the 2020 Pirelli Super Taikyu Series. Satoshi Hoshino and Tomonobu Fujii’s aggregate time in Saturday qualifying gives they and co-driver Tsubasa Kondo the top starting spot for Sunday’s five-hour race at Autopolis International Racing Course.
With the gentleman drivers taking part in first-round qualifying, it was Hoshino who set the fastest time in this phase, a 1’49.400. He was nearly eight-tenths clear of championship leader Daisuke Yamawaki in the #888 Hirix Good Day Mercedes-AMG GT3 in second.
Second-round qualifying amongst the professional drivers was very close, with all five cars covered by just four-tenths of a second. Yusaku Shibata, in the #9 MP Racing Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, was fastest in this group on a 1’47.642. The #777 D’station Vantage GT3 of Fujii was actually slowest of this group, unable to improve from a 1’48.121 after being impeded on his final lap. But the margin Hoshino had built in the first round was enough to secure pole position for the Aston Martin of Hoshino, Fujii, and Kondo.
The #31 Denso Lexus RC F GT3 (Hideki Nagai/Koki Saga/Kazuto Kotaka/Hiroaki Nagai) starts second, ahead of the #888 Hirix AMG GT3 of Yamawaki, Shaun Thong, and Yuki Nemoto in third, who can clinch the ST-X Class Championship with a win in Sunday’s race.
The two Nissans start fourth and fifth, the #9 MP Racing GT-R (Joe Shindo/Yusaku Shibata/Masami Kageyama/Ryuichiro Tomita) ahead of the #81 Daishin GTNET GT-R (Noboyuki Oyagi/Kazuki Hoshino/Ryuichiro Oyagi/Kiyoto Fujinami).
In the ST-Z (FIA GT4) category, the #2 Syntium/K’s Frontier KTM X-Bow GT4 of Taiyou Iida, Hiroki Katoh, and Kazuho Takahashi took pole position in its class (6th overall). The mid-engined, turbocharged KTM was by far the fastest car in time trials, with Iida and Katoh leading their respective phases of qualifying by over a second each. Katoh reset the GT4 lap record at Autopolis with his best lap of 1’54.324. The margin to the field was over 2.3 seconds on aggregate.
The #47 D’station Aston Martin AMR Vantage GT4 (Tatsuya Hoshino/Manabu Orido/Takuro Shinohara/Kenji Hama) qualified 2nd in class, ahead of the #500 5Zigen Mercedes-AMG GT4 (Ryuichiro Otsuka/Takayuki Aoki/Yuya Sakamoto/Takuya Otaki) in 3rd. The championship-leading #3 Endless AMG GT4 (Yuudai Uchida/Hideki Yamauchi/Tsubasa Takahashi/Togo Suganami), with 50 kilos of Success Ballast on board, qualified 4th fastest in their category, just ahead of the #23 TKRI/Matsunaga Construction AMG GT4 (Daisuke Matsunaga/Yuya Motojima/Tetsuya Moriyama/Takaaki Hamada) in 5th.
Six fastest of all GT4 models and starting 11th overall is the new ST-1 Class Champions, the #28 Rookie Racing Toyota GR Supra GT4 of Naoya Gamou, Daisuke Toyoda, Yasuhiro Ogura, and Shunsuke Kohno. In first-round qualifying, Gamou was four-tenths faster than the ST-Z field in the pre-homologation entry.
The #290 F-Link Home Honda Civic TCR of Tadao Uematsu, Yuji Ide, and Shintaro Kawabata qualified 12th overall and fastest of the ST-TCR field, clinching two bonus points for pole, meaning that they can clinch the championship with a win in the race on Sunday.
Uematsu and Ide were 1.3 seconds quicker than the second-ranked #22 Waimarama Kizuna Audi RS3 LMS (Kizuna/Katsumasa Chiyo/Hironobu Yasuda/Riki Okusa) who start 14th tomorrow.
The ST-2 championship-leading #32 Rookie Racing Toyota GR Yaris also took another major step towards taking the title in its debut season. The all-wheel drive GR Yaris was over five seconds clear of the next ST-2 runner on aggregate, thanks to the fast driving of Takuto Iguchi and Masahiro Sasaki.
Iguchi and Sasaki, along with Toyota Motor Corporation President, Akio “Morizo” Toyoda, will start 19th, and the trio can clinch the championship with a victory.
Just two weeks after Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave’s GR Supra won the last race of the Super GT season, their robust #52 Toyota Crown RS, driven by Naoki Hattori, Hiroki Yoshida, Kohta Kawaai, and Takayuki Hiranuma took pole position in ST-3 (20th overall).
It’s the first pole for GreenBrave’s new turbocharged Crown RS. And provisionally, the two bonus points earned move them within 11 points of the championship-leading #39 Air Buster/Winmax Lexus RC350 (Kazuya Oshima [b.1997]/Yusuke Tomibayashi/Hirotaka Ishii), who were 1.6 seconds adrift on aggregate.
ST-4 pole position and top spot on the Group 2 grid went to the #310 GR Garage Mito Inter Toyota 86 of Rintaro Kubo, Shinya Hosokawa, and Sho Tsuboi, in a narrow shootout with the #884 Hayashi Telempu Shade Racing 86 (Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Yuji Kunimoto/Hiro Hayashi/Keishi Ishikawa). Provisionally, this moves the #310 Toyota to an eight-point lead over the #884 Toyota, thanks to the two bonus points for pole position.
Kubo and Hosokawa were able to edge Hiranaka and Kunimoto by just over two-tenths on aggregate, with Kubo’s time in first-round qualifying proving the difference, in his first race back after sitting out the Super GT finale as a precaution due to being in close contact with a team member that had contracted the novel coronavirus.
ST-5 pole position, for the third race in a row, went to the #456 odula Avantech Mazda Roadster (Riku Hashimoto/Takafumi Katsuki/Carlos Honda/Koji Obara), ahead of their sister car, the #66 odula/Tone Roadster (Takayuki Takechi/Isao Nakashima/Hirobon/Tatsuya Ota).
Sunday’s 5-hour TKU Super Taikyu Race in Autopolis will be streamed live and free with Japanese-language commentary on the series’ official website, with the green flag scheduled for 10:45 AM JST (local time), 1:45 AM BST / 2:45 AM CET / Saturday, 8:45 PM EST.