Kunimitsu Honda takes crucial pole for final

After Naoki Yamamoto won the first leg of qualifying in the #100 Honda NSX-GT, Tadasuke Makino continued his teammate’s good work in Q2 by lowering the GT500 lap record to 1m35,194s.

This was good enough to give Honda its first pole position of the season and a first for the NSX-GT in Type S trim, a tenth of a second ahead of the Bandoh Toyota driven by Sena Sakaguchi.

Bertrand Baguette qualified the Impuls Nissan in third with a time of 1m35.752s, crucially one position away from the points leading NDDP Nissan driven in Q2 by Mitsunori Takaboshi.

Takaboshi and Katsumasa Chiyo lead the championship by just 2.5 points over the Impuls Nissan of Baguette and Kazuki Hiramine, with the extra point scored by Makino and Yamamoto for pole position, leaving them 16 points behind the top.

Fifth place in qualifying went to another Nissan, Kohei Hirate’s Kondo Racing car, followed by Nirei Fukuzumi in the ARTA Honda.

The two Dunlop-shod Hondas rounded out Q2, with Nakajima Racing’s Takuya Izawa just pushing Ukyo Sasahara’s Mugen car to seventh.

The only Honda to fail Q2 was the Real Racing entry, the brand’s best hopes of winning the title, with Nobuharu Matsushita qualifying in a disappointing 10th behind Tsugio Matsuda’s #23 NISMO Nissan.

Matsushita and Koudai Tsukakoshi follow the championship-leading #3 NDDP Nissan of Chiyo and Takaboshi with four points with 20 available in Sunday’s decider.

Naoki Yamamoto, Tadasuke Makino, #100 STANLEY NSX-GT

Naoki Yamamoto, Tadasuke Makino, #100 STANLEY NSX-GT

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

Toyota also had a difficult qualifying session at Motegi, with its five Bridgestone-shod Supras holding up the GT500 field. Rookie Racing’s Kenta Yamashita could only finish 11th, officially putting an end to his and Kazuya Oshima’s title hopes as they needed the pole point to stay in the race.

Slowest of all were the two TOM’S entries in 14th and 15th position, both finishing more than a second off the Kunimitsu Honda’s Q1 pace.

Meanwhile, Honda’s ARTA team in GT300 broke the lap record to take pole, while Subaru’s title hopes were dented after Hideki Yamauchi suffered an unusual crash on his final flying lap.

Iori Kimura set a time of 1m44.798s in the #55 ARTA Honda NSX GT3 Evo2, beating Kakunoshin Ota’s equivalent Team UpGarage machine by more than three-tenths of a second.

Yamauchi’s shunt coming out of the last corner, taking too much curb exiting the last corner to turn into the pit wall, left the #61 Subaru he shares with Takuto Iguchi in 16th on the grid and with a tough job to finish the points-leading Kondo to overhaul Nissan in the championship.

While unable to take full advantage of Subaru’s problems, Joao Paulo de Oliveira was able to qualify the #56 Kondo Racing Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 in a respectable seventh place.

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