The #16 Porsche Center Okazaki 911 GT3-R has won the overall pole position for Sunday’s Motegi Super Taikyu 5 Hours Race at Twin Ring Motegi, with drivers Hiroaki Nagai and Yuta Kamimura leading their respective blocks of qualifying practice to secure the number one grid slot.
Nagai set a high benchmark for his Gentleman driver peers in the “A-Block” of qualifying practice, posting a time of 1’50.977 to go eight-tenths clear of Tadao Uematsu in the new #290 Floral Racing with ABSSA McLaren 720S GT3.
In the “B-Block,” young Kamimura held off veteran Takayuki Aoki in the #81 Daishin GTNET Nissan GT-R GT3, along with a slew of other experienced competitors, to go fastest in his group with a lap of 1’49.697. Kamimura’s time was over a second and a half faster than the fastest lap in qualifying at Motegi last year, in the first qualifying session held on the series’ new tyres supplied by Hankook.
It was a clean sweep in qualifying for all three Porsche Center Okazaki drivers, including Toyota Gazoo Racing works racing driver Yuichi Nakayama. Nakayama was quickest in the C Driver block of qualifying practice, which had no impact on the grid order.
This is the first pole position for this team, who previously competed in Super Taikyu and the GT World Challenge Asia Series as ARN Racing, under the Porsche Center Okazaki banner.
The #777 D’station Racing Aston Martin AMR Vantage GT3 (Satoshi Hoshino/Tomonobu Fujii/Tsubasa Kondo) qualified in second position. The evergreen D’station duo of Hoshino and Fujii were 3rd and 2nd in their respective blocks of qualifying.
The #290 McLaren of Uematsu, Keita Sawa, Shintaro Kawabata, and Yuji Ide will start in third position from the combined efforts of Uematsu and Sawa. Ide was the fastest in qualifying for the D Drivers, but like Nakayama, his result will not impact the grid order.
Rounding out the six-car ST-X class is the #9 MP Racing GT-R (Joe Shindo/Yusaku Shibata/Masami Kageyama/Keiichi Inoue) in 4th, the #81 Daishin GT-R of Aoki, Noboyuki Oyagi, Ryuichiro Oyagi, and defending Super GT GT300 Champion Kiyoto Fujinami in 5th, and the #31 apr Lexus RC F GT3 (Hideki Nagai/Koki Saga/Kazuto Kotaka) in 6th.
In ST-1, it looked as if the #71 Akiland Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (Masayoshi Oyama/Maiko Saito/Ken Yamamoto) had scored a surprise pole position in class. But Saito’s fastest lap in the “B-Block” of qualifying was deleted due to a time limits infraction, sending them down to last in class and 24th on the overall leaderboard.
Instead, it’s pole for the brand new #2 KTM Cars Japan X-Bow GTX of Taiyou Iida, Kazuho Takahashi, and Hiroki Katoh, seventh-fastest overall on aggregate time. Second place in ST-1 went to the #38 muta Racing Toyota GR Supra (Yuui Tsutsumi/Ryohei Sakaguchi/Makoto Hotta).
With a massive fourteen-car field in the ST-Z Class, it was D’station Racing’s #47 AMR Vantage GT4 that powered through to take pole position in a closely contested field, thanks to a record lap from their legendary lead driver Manabu Orido.
After Tatsuya Hoshino went 2nd quickest in the “A-Block”, Orido clocked in the fastest time of the “B-Block” with a record time of 1’58.613 – shattering his old ST-Z lap record at Motegi in the same car by eight-tenths of a second – to give the #47 D’station Vantage GT4 and teammates Takuro Shinohara and Kenji Hama the pole position in their class. Shinohara was quickest in the “C-Block”, reinforcing the pace of the pole-winning car.
Hirokazu Suzuki was fastest of the Gentleman drivers aboard the new #311 Fabulous GRMI Toyota GR Supra GT4 of Corolla Shin-Ibaraki (C.S.I) Racing, while driver/manager Rintaro Kubo was 2nd-fastest in his group. Suzuki, Kubo, Yusuke Shiotsu and Kimiya Sato will start 2nd in class.
Toyota Gazoo Racing star Ryo Hirakawa, last year’s GT500 and Super Formula vice-champion, led the “D-Block” in qualifying, driving the #111 Hiroshima Toyopet Racing GR Supra. But he’ll start from eighth in class alongside teammates Toshiyuki Matsuda, Yuga Furutani, and Yasutaka Hinoi.
Defending ST-Z Champions Endless Sports and their #3 Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Yudai Uchida, Hideki Yamauchi, Togo Suganami, & Ryo Ogawa qualified 3rd in class on aggregate, ahead of the refreshed #20 Studie BMW M4 GT4 (Tomohide Yamaguchi/Seiji Ara/Yuya Sakamoto) in 4th – then a pair of Mercedes, the #500 5Zigen AMG GT4 (Ryuichiro Otsuka/Toshihiro Kaneishi/Jake Parsons/Kakunoshin Ohta) 5th, and the #23 TKRI AMG GT4 (Daisuke Matsunaga/Yuya Motojima/Takaaki Hamada) in 6th.
The returning #34 Techno First Ginetta G55 GT4 (Yuki Tanaka/Hironobu Yasuda/Shinnosuke Yamada) was 7th, ahead of the #111 HTP Racing GR Supra.
The #22 Porsche Team EBI Waimarama Cayman MR Clubsport (Kizuna/Katsumasa Chiyo/Naoya Yamano/Riki Okusa), the #885 Hayashi Telempu Shade Racing GR Supra (Hiro Hayashi/Katsuyuki Hiranaka/Ai Miura), the #505 Audi Team AS Sport R8 LMS GT4 (Genki Nishimura/Shaun Thong/Takeshi Okamoto/Yoshinari Fujiwara), and the #30 B-Max Engineering AMG GT4 (Nobuhiro Imada/Ryuji “Dragon” Kumita/Yuhi Sekiguchi) complete the top twelve.
Between Hirakawa, Chiyo, Sekiguchi, and 2020 ST-X champion Thong, some of the biggest names in this year’s ST-Z field will have to come from deep in the field to take class victory on Sunday.
ROOKIE Racing’s #28 Toyota GR Supra (Naoya Gamou/Daisuke Toyoda/Yasuhiro Ogura/Kenta Yamashita) qualified 11th-fastest overall as the lone runner in the experimental ST-Q class, between the #38 muta Racing GR Supra and the #3 Endless AMG GT4.
Team Noah also won pole in their class by default, their #75 Honda Civic TCR (Kuniyuki Haga/Yoshikazu Sobu/Shigetomo Shimono/Riki Tanioka) was 22nd overall, and is the only ST-TCR entry left following Audi Team Mars’ withdrawal before the event.
In ST-3, the pole position went to the #52 Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave Toyota GR Supra of Naoki Hattori, Hiroki Yoshida, Kohta Kawaai, and Takayuki Hiranuma. Hattori and Yoshida were 25th fastest overall, ahead of defending champions Yusuke Tomibayashi, Kazuya Oshima, and the #39 Tracy Sports Lexus RC 350.
Yuya Hiraki was quickest in the “A-Block” aboard the #62 HELM Motor Sports RC 350, but younger brother Reiji Hiraki had a tough run in the B-Block, qualifying 5th fastest in his group. They and Tomoki Takahashi will start 3rd in class.
The #32 ROOKIE Racing Toyota GR Yaris of Takuto Iguchi, Masahiro Sasaki, Takamitsu Matsui, and Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio “Morizo” Toyoda won the pole in the ST-2 class.
Iguchi and Sasaki set the 27th fastest overall times together, eight-tenths up on the #6 Shinryo/NeoGlobe Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X (Tomohiro Tomimasu/Yasushi Kikuchi/Masazumi Ohashi).
In a reduced ST-4 field, the pole went to defending champions C.S.I Racing and the #310 GR Garage Mito Inter Toyota 86, driven by GT500 & Super Formula star Sho Tsuboi, Shinya Hosokawa, and newcomer Fuma Horio (38th overall).
In the “A-Block”, it was Tsuboi who pulled out a 1.8 second gap to second-placed Yuji Kunimoto in the #884 Shade Racing 86, meaning that Keishi Ishikawa was left with a deficit too big to overcome on his own.
Finally in ST-5, Avantech Racing Team, out of the Over Drive (odula) garage, won the pole and led a Mazda Roadster 1-2-3 with the #456 odula StarFive Roadster of Riku Hashimoto, Kousei Kanto, Tatsuya Osaki, and Koji Obara edging out their sister car, the #66 odula Roadster (Takayuki Takechi/Tatsuya Ota/Takahisa Ohno/Kyosuke Inomata).
Rain is in the forecast all day Sunday, and in anticipation of the weather, the start of Sunday’s five-hour race has been moved back to 12:00 JST (3:00 GMT / 14:00 AEST / Saturday evening 23:00 EDT) – 50 minutes after the conclusion of today’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Images courtesy of the Super Taikyu Organisation (STO)