> Team Scala and Koshido Racing share GT4 poles
> Results: Qualifying
Takeshi Kimura and Kei Cozzolino backed up theirs and CarGuy Racing’s impressive practice pace by sweeping qualifying for both Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS races at Fuji.
Kimura’s lap to beat Silver-graded drivers Naoki Yokomizo (Yogibo Racing) and Kantadhee Kusiri (AAS Motorsport) was particularly noteworthy before Cozzolino completed the team’s perfect morning by defeating local rivals D’station Racing and Tomonobu Fujii. 0.6s separated the Ferrari and Aston Martin.
Further back, Team Scala and Koshido Racing topped GT4 Q1 and Q2, respectively, thanks to Jun Tashiro – who, like Cozzolino, also sealed pole at Suzuka – and Katsuyuki Hiranaka.
The #55 Mercedes-AMG finished a second clear of Akiland Racing’s Masayoshi Oyama before Koshido’s Toyota Supra set the fastest time of the week en route to a comfortable Race 2 pole. Hiranaka will share Sunday’s front row with Tashiro’s co-driver, Tatsuya Tanigawa.
Race 1 pole is typically disputed between the higher-graded Silver drivers. But Kimura turned that logic on its head by beating Yokomizo by 0.160s.
The Fanatec Japan Cup points leader didn’t turn his eye-catching time until Prince Jefri Ibrahim, Satoshi Hoshino, Tomohide Yamaguchi and Kusiri had all spent time up front in the first part of the 15-minute session.
Kusiri, whose opening effort was scratched for a track limits infringement, then responded again to cut the deficit to 0.2s before Yokomizo joined the battle. Yogibo’s Ferrari initially slotted into third ahead of D’station’s Hoshino but then improved by just enough to beat AAS’ Porsche by 0.046s.
Hiroshi Hamaguchi also left it late to take fifth in Reap Fueling Ambitions’ Lamborghini, while Yamaguchi’s Plus with BMW Team Studie M4 made it five manufacturers inside the top-six.
The second session was far more clear cut thanks to Cozzolino setting the early benchmark and improving twice more thereafter.
His first flyer was temporarily bettered by Jazeman Jaafar before the Triple Eight JMR driver was pinged for a track limits offence. However, the Ferrari driver’s two subsequent laps – the second 1m39.680s – would have been more than enough to overturn the Mercedes-AMG’s PB had it stood.
Instead, Fujii emerged as the most likely candidate to deny Cozzolino a second pole in as many events. D’station’s Aston Martin, which is prepared less than a mile from the circuit and just across the road from CarGuy’s headquarters, saved its fastest times for the end of the session en route to a front row grid slot.
Triple Eight JMR’s championship leader Nick Foster made Fujii work for it but ultimately fell less than a tenth shy of the Vantage, while Kiyoto Fujinami backed up Yokomizo’s Q1 result by setting the fourth fastest time in Yogibo’s Ferrari.
Seiji Ara was also in the mix but wound up fifth in Plus with Team Studie’s M4, which lapped less than two tenths shy of the front row. And Jaafar regrouped after seeing his early time deleted to complete the top-six.
Tashiro once again marked himself out as the Am driver to beat in GT4 by clinching his second Race 1 pole in as many events.
Team Scala’s newly wrapped Mercedes-AMG, which has switched from grey to orange this weekend, set the session’s fastest time on its opening lap to effectively end the contest with 10 minutes remaining. Tashiro’s second effort was just 0.014s slower than his first, which remained a second faster than anyone else could muster.
Oyama led the charge behind but, like Tahsiro, pitted with five minutes remaining thanks to his healthy advantage over GTO Racing Team’s Brian Lee and Koshido Racing’s Motoharu Sato. Both drivers chipped away at their deficits until the final moments but without ever seriously threatening the front row.
Team Scala also made the early running in Q2 before Hiranaka stamped his authority on the session.
The Toyota initially lapped 1.8s faster than anything else before Tanigawa shaved two tenths from its advantage. But there would be no further improvements amongst the top-two thereafter.
Hideto Yasuoka repeated his GTO co-driver’s starting position of third thanks to a mid-session improvement, while Koshido’s Saito Makio took Am class honours in fourth overall.
But there was disappointment for Suzuka winners Team GMB and Shinya Hosokawa whose Mercedes-AMG pulled over halfway through Q2.
Race 1 goes green at 14:45 JST (GMT +9) today. International viewers can watch it live on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel while J Sports has coverage in Japan.