> Ferrari driver seals Race 2 top spot by 1.5s
> Yokomizo bags GT3 Race 1 pole for Yogibo
> GT4 poles for Team Scala and Team GMB
> Results: Suzuka Qualifying
CarGuy Racing’s Kei Cozzolino produced one of the most impressive performances in Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS qualifying history after claiming Race 2 pole by 1.5s at Suzuka this morning.
Ferrari also start Race 1 up front thanks to Yogibo Racing’s Naoki Yokomizo who maintained his 100% Q1 record this year, while Mercedes-AMG outfits Team Scala and Team GMB paced both 15-minute GT4 sessions with Jun Tashiro and Shinya Hosokawa.
The fight for Q1 pole was always likely to be fought over by the two Silver entries, and so it proved. But not before Hiroshi Hamaguchi threatened an upset. 2018’s Pro-Am champion was fastest initially and lowered the benchmark twice more to remain on provisional pole until the final five minutes.
Yogibo, meanwhile, were prepared to wait for the optimum track conditions before unleashing Yokomizo who immediately jumped to the top with a 2m01.258s – 0.9s faster than his Am rival.
Q1’s only other Silver-graded driver, Kantadhee Kusiri, had been steadily building speed throughout the session following his accident at 130R yesterday. He initially all-but matched Hamaguchi before joining Yokomizo on the front row. Just 0.159s ultimately separated Yogibo’s Ferrari from EBM Giga Racing’s Porsche, which was rebuilt overnight.
Takeshi Kimura moved CarGuy’s Ferrari up to fourth at the expense of Hiroaki Nagai (Porsche Center Okazaki) late in the session, while Setiawan Santoso completed the top-six aboard EBM’s other 911.
Q2 featured far more professional drivers whose Pro-Am entries do not carry additional Silver class ballast. That and the ever-improving track conditions ensured it would be a much faster session. However, few would have predicted just how fast, nor the gap from first back to everyone else.
Nick Foster set the early pace in Triple Eight’s #99 Mercedes-AMG but was soon beaten by Cozzolino who lapped 0.5s quicker. That alone would have been sufficient to comfortably take pole but the Japanese driver was only just getting started and promptly banged in a 1m58.748s to seal first place by a staggering 1.5s.
Indeed, no-one else came close to matching the Ferrari, although Seiji Ara did vault BMW Team Studie’s M4 on to the front row at Foster’s expense.
EBM’s Reid Harker starts alongside his fellow Antipodean while Jazeman Jaafar (Triple Eight) and Sandy Stuvik (Audi Sport Asia Team X Works) completed the top-six.
Overnight showers ensured the morning’s first qualifying session was greasy to begin with but steadily dried throughout its 15-minute duration. And in every phase of the circuit’s evolving state it was Tashiro who set the pace.
Team Scala’s Mercedes-AMG was, at times, six seconds faster than anyone else and would likely have gone faster had the team opted to continue. Instead, Tashiro pitted with two minutes remaining.
That offered others a glimmer of hope. However, Tashiro’s 2m16.138s was ultimately more than fast enough to beat Motoharu Sato’s Koshido Racing Toyota by 1.4s, while Brian Lee (GTO Racing Team) was another two tenths further back.
2019 GT4 champion Takayuki Kinoshita qualified a highly impressive fourth in Team Studie’s BMW M2 CSR, which is the sole TC INV entry this weekend.
Conditions continued to improve in the second session but once again a Mercedes-AMG entry dominated. Hosokawa was fastest from the start and continued to improve before pitting with time left on the clock. But, just like Q1, his rivals failed to capitalise.
Team GMB’s 2m12.848s was 1.8s slower than yesterday’s fastest practice time – testament perhaps to the track conditions – but crucially half-a-second quicker than Katsuyuki Hiranaka could manage in Koshido Racing’s Toyota, which once again finished second.
Late improvements helped Hideto Yasuoka and Masataka Inoue seal third and fourth place starts for GTO and CREF Motor Sport.
The weekend’s first 60-minute race gets underway at 13:30 JST (GMT +9) today. Watch it live on SRO’s GT World channel and J Sports in Japan.