Le Mans 24 Hours winner Kazuki Nakajima and team-mate Yuhi Sekiguchi claimed pole position for SUPER GT’s annual Suzuka round, as reigning champions Jenson Button and Naoki Yamamoto qualified seventh.
Fresh from his against the odds Super Formula win at Autopolis last weekend, Sekiguchi clocked a time of 1m45.775s in the dying minutes of the session, pipping the sister #37 TOM’S Lexus of 2017 champions Nick Cassidy and Ryo Hirakawa by just 0.013 seconds to grab the top grid spot for Sunday’s 300km race – which you can watch live on Autosport from 6.20am UK time.
ARTA Honda pair Tomoki Nojiri and Takuya Izawa qualified four tenths adrift of the Lexus in third, with Impul’s Daiki Sasaki and James Rossiter fourth in the only Nissan that advanced to the second leg of qualifying.
Nissan had been largely unchallenged in qualifying for the opening two rounds of the season, with the factory NISMO squad taking convincing poles at both Okayama and Fuji.
But after showing equally blistering pace in practice, only Impul could make it to Q2 at Suzuka – allowing Lexus and Honda to grab eight of the top 10 slots on the grid.
Kazuya Oshima and Kenta Yamashita qualified fifth in the Team LeMans Lexus, two tenths clear of the Mugen Honda of Daisuke Nakajima and Hideki Mutoh.
Button and Yamamoto finished as the top Honda runners in practice but were disposed to seventh overall in qualifying, three tenths off the best of the NSX-GT of Nojiri and Izawa.
They will share the fourth row of the grid with Real Racing’s Bertrand Baguette and Koudai Tsukakoshi, just over a month after the two Honda cars tangled while battling for the lead at Okayama.
Former Formula 1 driver Heikki Kovalainen and Yuichi Nakayama just missed the Q2 cut in the Sard Lexus and will start ninth, just ahead of the NISMO-entered Nissan of Ronnie Quintarelli and Tsugio Matsuda.
Yuji Tachikawa and Hiroaki Ishiura (Cerumo Lexus) could only lodge the 14th quickest time in a field of 15 GT500 cars, handicapped by heavy ballast following their victory at Fuji earlier this month.