Sakaguchi soars in Sugo, TGR Team WedsSport Bandoh earns fourth pole of 2022

The #19 WedsSport Advan Toyota GR Supra of Yuji Kunimoto and Sena Sakaguchi continued their qualifying dominance in the 2022 Autobacs SUPER GT series, earning the GT500 pole position for this weekend’s Sugo GT 300km race at Sportsland Sugo.

SUPER GT’s annual visit to the hidden gem of Japanese motorsport is a pivotal moment in the championship, with the top teams in the points table bearing the biggest burden of success of the season. Combine that with Sugo’s superstitious knack for producing unexpected drama, and qualifying was set to become a high-pressure session for the 15 GT500 teams and 27 GT300 teams.

Dunlop-equipped Honda NSX-GTs from Team Red Bull Mugen and Nakajima Racing led the way in practice earlier in the morning. Toshiki Oyu’s #16 Red Bull Motul Mugen NSX-GT backed up that pace with a provisional track record of 1’09.660s, leading Q1 just ahead of the fastest man and car in practice, Hiroki Otsu in the Modulo NSX- GT #64. . That was the second time Oyu has led Q1 in two races.

With the heavy Success Ballast, including fuel flow restrictors from stages 2 and 3, influencing their one-lap pace, the top three teams in the GT500 championship did not make the cut in Q1. Keeper TOM’s #37 GR Supra (Sacha Fenestraz/Ritomo Miyata) was 10th, just ahead of the #3 CraftSports Motul Nissan Z (Katsumasa Chiyo/Mitsunori Takaboshi) in 11th. Championship leader #12 Calsonic Impul Z (Kazuki Hiramine/Bertrand Baguette) could only manage 14th place in the session, with the fuel flow restrictor from Stage 3 (88.0kg/h) and weighing 39kg successful physique.

Unfortunately, Sho Tsuboi’s #36 au TOM’s GR Supra never had a chance to make a run for the top eight. Tsuboi went to the garage at the end of his opening lap and despite quick work by the TOM mechanics to get the car back on track, he returned to the garage after another slow lap. Tsuboi and Giuliano Alesi will start 15th and last on the GT500 grid tomorrow, as race engineer Satoshi Yoshitake later diagnosed the problem as a turbocharger sensor issue.

Four Hondas, three Toyotas and one Nissan advanced to Q2. It took some time before these eight cars took to the track to start warming up their tyres, building to the typical crescendo in the closing minutes of the session.

Sakaguchi was quickest through the first three sectors of his attack lap, but as he exited the SP double left corners, Takuya Izawa’s #64 Modulo NSX had strayed and rejoined just before the 110R of high speed. Corner. Sakaguchi eased off the throttle a bit before going through the long left-hander, and was able to use the wake of the car in front to make up for lost time on the front stretch. The time was 1’09.627, a new GT500 race record and pole time by almost four tenths of a second!

Sakaguchi said after qualifying: “Although I was stuck behind a slower car in the fourth (and final) sector of my timed lap, the pace I had run in the first three sectors was fast enough to make up for that. loss, which was lucky. . I was able to put in a good performance in that time trial thanks to the great combination of the team car setup and the Yokohama tires that set us up. I am very grateful to everyone.”

This is Sakaguchi’s third pole position individually, and for TGR Team WedsSport Bandoh, it’s the fourth of the season – the most for a car in a GT500 campaign since the 2007 Takata Dome NSX of Ryo Michigami and Takashi Kogure achieved five poles. However, it took Michigami and Kogure until the fifth time to turn pole into victory fifteen years ago. Similarly, Kunimoto and Sakaguchi desperately want to shake off the team’s pejorative “SaturdaySport” tag and finally turn this pole into a first win for the Blues and Golds since 2016.

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Yuji Tachikawa had another shot at his 25th career pole position, but he and Hiroaki Ishiura will have to settle for the outside of the front row in their #38 ZENT Cerumo GR Supra. After three mechanical retirements in a row, Tachikawa and Ishiura hope their luck will change in tomorrow’s race.

The only Nissan Z to advance to Q2 was the #23 Motul Autech Z (Tsugio Matsuda/Ronnie Quintarelli). Matsuda set the third fastest time in Q2 after Quintarelli had advanced from Q1.

But, after Matsuda earned his sixth penalty point under the Driving Moral Hazard Prevention System at Suzuka, as a result of his inadvertent bow strike by Kazuki Hiramine late in the race, the Motul Z has a penalty from four places on the grid added, dropping them to seventh on the grid.

This lifts the #100 Stanley NSX-GT (Naoki Yamamoto/Tadasuke Makino) to third on the grid, making it an all-Honda second row to the #17 Astemo NSX-GT (Koudai Tsukakoshi/Nobuharu Matsushita) in fourth place. In particular, the Astemo NSX did well to make it to Q2, despite wearing the Stage 2 fuel flow restrictor (90.2kg/h), while its closest rivals in the championship missed the cut. .

The #39 Denso Kobelco SARD GR Supra (Yuhi Sekiguchi/Yuichi Nakayama) will line up fifth, alongside the #16 Red Bull NSX of Oyu and Ukyo Sasahara in sixth. Sasahara simply couldn’t find grip in his time trial, leading to a disappointing result for the team that seemed confident of winning pole position heading into Q2.

Behind the Motul Z of Matsuda and Quintarelli, the #64 Modulo NSX of Izawa and Otsu starts eighth.


When the checkered flag fell in GT300 Q2, Shinichi Takagi’s #96 K-Tunes Lexus RC F GT3 looked to have won pole position, which would have given Takagi his 14th career GT300 pole position – A new all-time record for the class. poles

But after a technical inspection, the black-and-white Lexus was found to be underweight; specifically, they did not reach the 38 kilograms of Success Weight that they had been prescribed.

The team explained that they had removed and reinstalled the ballast for maintenance reasons and made a mistake putting it back on the car. It wasn’t malicious, but it was a clear infringement that stripped Takagi and Morio Nitta of pole position and relegated them to the back of the GT300 grid tomorrow.

Incredibly, the #61 Subaru BRZ R&D Sport of Takuto Iguchi and Hideki Yamauchi, despite carrying a whopping 89kg of Success Weight, won the GT300 pole for the fourth consecutive year at Sportsland Sugo.

Iguchi breaking into the top eight in Group A of Q1 was a major effort on its own, but Yamauchi’s time of 1’17.691s was even more remarkable. He was three tenths off Takagi’s excluded time of 1’17.373, but four tenths after penalties were applied.

“The first thing is how surprised I was to find out that we were moving up to the pole position winners,” Yamauchi joked at the press conference. “But I think in the end we were meant to win this pole position, so I want to bring this good pace into tomorrow’s race.”

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“In my driving, I think I pushed hard, but there were some regrets that I had in terms of my performance. But that can be cleared up now, and I think we can attribute this result to how hard the team has worked since the last round at Suzuka to get us to where we are today. So tomorrow I think it’s up to us, the drivers, to give back to everyone in the team what they’ve achieved by driving as hard as we can every lap to the finish.”

It is Yamauchi’s 11th career pole position, which now puts him one behind Hiroki Katoh for third place all time, and just two behind the 13 pole positions of Takagi and joint record holder Kota Sasaki. Yamauchi has won seven pole positions since the introduction of the second-generation Subaru BRZ GT300 race car in 2021, in 14 races, a remarkable run for the current one-lap master in GT300.

The #60 Syntium LMcorsa (Hiroki Yoshimoto/Shunsuke Kohno) Toyota GR Supra starts second, placing two original GT300 vehicles and two Dunlop cars on the front row. It is the best grid position for the LM Corsa team since the introduction of its custom aero setup at the start of the season.

The two JLOC Lamborghini Huracán GT3s showed great pace throughout Saturday and will share the second row, with the #87 Bamboo Airways Huracán (Kosuke Matsuura/Natsu Sakaguchi) in third…

…and the #88 Weibo Primez Huracán (Takashi Kogure/Yuya Motojima) backing up the fastest time in practice with a fourth-place qualifying effort.

The #65 LEON Pyramid Mercedes-AMG GT3 (Naoya Gamou/Takuro Shinohara) will start fifth, and the #25 Hoppy Schatz GR Supra (Takamitsu Matsui/Seita Nonaka) earned a solid sixth place, by far the best effort from his difficult maid. season with his own GR Supra.

Seventh fastest was the #52 Saitama Toyopet GreenBrave GR Supra (Hiroki Yoshida/Kohta Kawaai). The #56 Realize/Nissan Mechanic Challenge GT-R GT3 (Kiyoto Fujinami/João Paulo de Oliveira), the championship leader, qualified eighth, but with Oliveira overcoming six penalty points after Suzuka, he dropped to 12th on the grid final.

Iori Kimura produced the fastest time in Group B of Q1, while his teammate Hideki Mutoh was only ninth in Q2. His #55 ARTA Honda NSX GT3 will inherit eighth on the grid, ahead of the #7 Studie BMW M4 GT3 (Seiji Ara/Augusto Farfus) and the #18 UPGarage NSX GT3 (Takashi Kobayashi/Kakunoshin Ohta). ), completing the first five rows. .

In Q1 Group A, Kei Cozzolino’s #9 Pacific Hololive NAC Ferrari 488 GT3 set the fastest time, with amateur co-driver Takeshi Kimura placing the car 15th on the grid. In that same session, the #244 Hachi-Ichi GR Supra (Kimiya Sato/Atsushi Miyake), tipped as the favorite for pole and victory, finished last in the session and will start 25th.

There was also a second post-qualifying exclusion as the #5 Mach Syaken/Air Buster MC86 (Yusuke Tomibayashi/Reiji Hiraki) did not have the correct amount of fuel on board for his race. They will be sent to the back with the K-Tunes RC F.


If history is anything to go by, then this year’s Sugo GT 300km race will not be incident-free by any stretch of the imagination – more incentive to get up early or stay up late to watch the 84-lap main race of the Sugo GT! Sunday! The green flag flies at 14:00 JST / 6:00 BST / 7:00 CEST / 1:00 EDT.

Images © GTA

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