> Pole apiece for Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute and Craft-Bamboo’s Mercedes-AMG
> BMW’s Kinoshita and Jukuchou double in GT4
> Result: Qualifying
Martin Rump and Alessio Picariello secured Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia pole positions for Audi Sport Asia Team Absolute and Craft-Bamboo Racing at Suzuka earlier today, while BMW Team Studie’s Takayuki Kinoshita and Sunako Jukuchou topped the GT4 times on home soil.
GT3: RUMP AND PICARIELLO SHARE THE SPOILS
Rump’s #12 Audi starts the weekend’s first race up front after a late flying lap in a red-flag interrupted session helped the Estonian leapfrog Darryl O’Young, who was ultimately pushed down to third by Tanart Sathienthirakul.
The 15-minute session was peppered by three stoppages, which resulted in only nine drivers setting laps before the session restarted for a fourth time with five minutes remaining. O’Young held provisional pole at that point but was unable to respond to either the Audi or Sathienthirakul’s Absolute Racing Porsche, which fell just 0.029s short of denying Rump back-to-back pole positions at Suzuka.
Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak finished best of the Am drivers in fourth after lapping his Panther/AAS Motorsport Porsche 0.9s slower than Rump. The Thai was also half-a-tenth quicker than Yuan Bo (Absolute Racing) and 0.2s clear of fellow title protagonist Yuya Sakamoto (HubAuto Corsa).
Elsewhere, Ben Porter secured AMAC Motorsport’s best-ever qualifying result, as well as Am Cup pole, after setting his fastest lap before the final red flag. That was caused by championship leader MG Choi who emerged unscathed from an accident at 130R. Fortunately, his Mercedes-AMG will be repaired in time for this afternoon’s race.
GT3’s second 15-minute session came and went without incident, and ended with a familiar name on top of the timesheets.
Picariello secured his first pole of the season in Buriram last time out and followed it up with another here. The Belgian set a 2m01.233s on his first attempt after Absolute Racing’s Philip Hamprecht briefly held provisional pole.
A track limits infringement initially dropped fellow pole candidate Marco Holzer out of contention. However, the German regrouped before setting a faster time late in the session – 0.129s slower than Picariello’s – to vault Panther/AAS Motorsport’s Porsche on to the front row.
That came at the expense of Hamprecht who finished another 0.2s behind, while Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s Kantasak Kusiri moved up to fourth with his final effort.
Yuta Kamimura’s practice pace suggested ARN Racing would be a threat on home soil, and their Porsche lines up fifth after securing the team’s best-ever Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia qualifying result. Melvin Moh (Craft-Bamboo) completed the top-six ahead of Andre Heimgartner (HubAuto Corsa) and championship returnee Leo Ye Hongli (Absolute Racing).
Meanwhile, LM Corsa’s Shigekazu Wakisaka also deployed his local knowledge en route to the Am Cup class’ pole position.
GT4: BMW TEAM STUDIE MAKE HOME ADVANTAGE COUNT
Suzuka proved a happy hunting ground for BMW Team Studie in 2018, and so it proved again 12 months on when Takayuki Kinoshita and Sunako Jukuchou claimed a GT4 pole position apiece.
Kinoshita was first up but waited for others to set times before deposing Setiawan Santoso. The Team iRace.Win Mercedes-AMG would reduce its deficit before the finish but still ended up 0.8s adrift of the M4.
The Indonesian was also 0.6s faster than debutant Mark Williamson, who starts third on Absolute Racing and Audi’s maiden GT4 appearance. Frank Yu, Bryan Lee and Keo Chang completed the top-six.
It was a similar story in Q2 where Jukuchou initially let others set their times. However, he was initially pegged back by Craft-Bamboo’s Jean-Marc Merlin who knocked the BMW back down to second before his Japanese rival responded definitively. One second covered the pair.
Ringo Chong backed up Santoso’s earlier good work by qualifying 0.3s adrift of Merlin and a second clear of Absolute Racing’s Anderson Tanoto He. Tony Fong and Alan Yeo rounded out the top-six.
The first of this weekend’s two races takes place today at 15:40 JST (GMT +9). Watch it live on the championship’s website and Facebook page, SRO’s GT World Youtube channel, and across China’s biggest streaming platforms.