AAS Motorsport by Absolute Racing cleaned up in qualifying ahead of the penultimate Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS round at Okayama where Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak and Alessio Picariello claimed a pole position apiece.
The Porsche finished just 0.007s clear of title rival Anthony Liu (Craft-Bamboo Racing) in Q1 before Picariello beat his fellow Pros – headed by Maezawa Racing’s Naoki Yokomizo – by 0.269s in the second 15-minute session. One second exactly covered the top 22.
Inthraphuvasak had just taken provisional pole when a red flag briefly interrupted Q1 at mid-distance. But when the action resumed it was Liu who pumped in consecutive fastest times to briefly enjoy a 0.4s advantage.
R&B Racing’s Lu Wei then pegged that back to just over two tenths before Inthraphuvasak narrowly beat Liu’s Mercedes-AMG. The result sees three of this year’s four title contenders starting at the very front.
However, points leader Prince Abu Bakar Ibrahim is not among them. He and Triple Eight JMR have work to do from ninth.
Fourth went to best of the Japanese drivers, Hirobon, whose returning 5ZIGEN Nissan finished 0.4s down on Inthraphuvasak. Hiroshi Hamaguchi’s Lamborghini made it four manufacturers inside the top five, while Fanatec Japan Cup leader Hiroaki Nagai – who could wrap up the title this afternoon – finished sixth.
Yuan Bo led early on but slipped to seventh in the final reckoning. However, that was still enough to seal Silver and Fanatec China Cup pole.
Q2 was, in truth, less dramatic after Picariello put pole beyond reach with consecutive fastest times. His 1m28.407s was the fastest lap of the weekend and just over two tenths quicker than Yokomizo who comfortably claimed Maezawa Racing’s best grid slot of the season with second.
The same applies to KCMG which finished third courtesy of Edoardo Liberati. His Honda was 0.3s down on Picariello and just 0.009s clear of Alvaro Parente’s HubAuto Porsche.
Craft-Bamboo’s Maximilian Goetz was best of the Mercedes-AMG drivers in fifth, while Leo Ye Hongli rounded out the top six – and claimed Silver pole – aboard R&B’s Porsche.
Several fancied entries were unusually subdued, though. Dani Juncadella, who claimed poles at Fuji and Suzuka, could only manage 13th, while fellow factory driver Matteo Cairoli was one place further back. Patrick Pilet, Dennis Lind, Richie Stanaway and Earl Bamber also have work to do from outside the top 15.
The first of this weekend’s GT3 races goes green at 12:40 JST (GMT +9) today. Watch it live on SRO’s GT World YouTube channel and across Japan on J Sports.