> Fujii fastest of all; Yokomizo keeps championship hopes alive
> GTO and GMB fastest in GT4
> Qualifying Result: Okayama
Naoki Yokomizo and Tomonobu Fujii each claimed an overall pole position at Okayama this morning, while GT4 title rivals Brian Lee and Shinya Hosokawa topped their class’ two qualifying sessions.
Yogibo Racing’s Ferrari produced a blistering time in Q1 despite having just two attempts after a red flag interrupted the session. It was enough to beat AAS Motorsport’s Tanart Sathienthirakul by 0.7s and D’station’s Satoshi Hoshino who lapped less than a tenth shy of AAS Motorsport’s Porsche.
However, it was Hoshino’s Aston Martin co-driver who set the ultimate pace after Fujii beat championship leader Nick Foster by 0.3s. Seiji Ara (Plus with BMW Team Studie) was just 0.001s behind Triple Eight JMR’s Mercedes-AMG.
Earlier, GT4 championship leader Lee beat Masayoshi Oyama to Race 1 pole by three tenths before his chief rival Hosokawa returned the favour in Q2. However, Team GMB’s Mercedes-AMG shares the front row with Lee’s GTO Racing Team co-driver Hideto Yasuoka.
YOKOMIZO KEEPS SLIM TITLE HOPES ALIVE
Yokomizo must finish ahead of GT3’s other title contenders later today to have any hope of fighting for the crown on Sunday. And he gave himself the best possible chance by claiming a dominant Race 1 pole.
Q1’s only other Silver-graded driver, Tanart Sathienthirakul topped the times when, with six minutes to go, Uematsu’s McLaren necessitated a red flag by spinning into the final corner’s gravel trap. At that point Yokomizo had yet to set a representative time but moved up to second immediately after the session resumed.
However, that was nothing compared to what followed when a personal best and two purple sectors resulted in a lap 0.7s faster than AAS’s 911.
Hoshino’s excellent effort should have seen D’station start third. However, he – like many other drivers – was penalised three grid places following a yellow flag infringement.
Instead, Triple Eight JMR’s Prince Abu Ibrahim now shares row two with championship leader Takeshi Kimura whose CarGuy Ferrari moves up two places at the expense of Hoshino and Hiroaki Nagai, who was similarly penalised.
Hiroshi Hamaguchi (Reap Fueling Ambitions) would also have benefitted without an existing penalty that sees Reap Fueling Ambitions’ Lamborghini move to the back. Instead, it’s title contender Prince Jefri Ibrahim who vaults from eighth to fifth, while Hoshino – who must also serve a 15-second Success Penalty for winning at SUGO – slots into sixth.
A red flag late in Q2 prematurely ended a potentially explosive conclusion that involved joint championship leaders Foster and Kei Cozzolino. Instead, Fujii’s 1m28.236s remained unbeaten and fast enough to end CarGuy’s pole streak.
Triple Eight JMR team-mates Foster and Jazeman Jaafar made the early running until Fujii lapped two tenths faster. And he followed that up immediately with another quicker time to extend his advantage over the field.
Cozzolino initially slotted in behind Foster but bailed to the pits for fresh tyres just as Seiji Ara relieved him of third. Both the BMW and Aston Martin then returned to their garages, leaving Foster and Cozzolino as the only two drivers with a realistic shot at pole.
However, both were denied their chance when Yogibo’s Ferrari stopped on track with less than two minutes remaining. The session didn’t restart, leaving Fujii out front and on pole.
Second to fourth were ultimately covered by less than a tenth while Jaafar was just half a tenth further back in fifth.
Porsche Center Okazaki’s Yuta Kamimura completed the top-six ahead of Reid Harker (EBM Giga Racing) and the best placed Silver class entry driven by Kantadhee Kusire (AAS Motorsport).