Tomoki Nojiri set the pace in practice for this weekend’s Super Formula title decider at Fuji Speedway, leading a one-two for the Mugen Honda squad ahead of teammate Ukyo Sasahara.
It was Sasahara that had controlled the timesheets for the majority of the day, topping the morning session with a time of 1m20.863s – demolishing the previous track record of 1m22.572s set by Andre Lotterer all the way back in 2014.
Sasahara was also fastest for much of the afternoon session as he improved on his own benchmark with a 1m20.791s with a little over half an hour to go.
But the Red Bull-backed driver caused the first and only red flag of the day’s running when he spun and stalled exiting Turn 10 with just over 10 minutes left on the clock.
After that, the majority of the field fitted new tyres, and Nojiri managed to edge out Sasahara by less than a tenth as he first set a 1m20.769s before improving to a 1m20.708s.
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Behind Sasahara, joint championship leader Ryo Hirakawa was third-fastest for Impul in the best of the Toyota-powered cars, 0.239s off the pace of Nojiri.
Sho Tsuboi (Cerumo) recovered from a spin at Turn 2 on his out lap to go fourth, just ahead of Suzuka race winner Toshiki Oyu (Nakajima Racing).
TOM’S pair Kazuki Nakajima and Nick Cassidy were next up in sixth and seventh places, followed by Nirei Fukuzumi (Dandelion Racing), Hirakawa’s Impul teammate Yuhi Sekiguchi and the KCMG machine of Toyota LMP1 man Kamui Kobayashi.
Naoki Yamamoto, who heads to Fuji tied on points with Hirakawa, was bottom of the timesheets in FP2 as he didn’t equip any new tyres in the final part of the session.
His best time from the morning session of 1m21.645s left him 13th in the combined timesheets, behind Kenta Yamashita (Kondo Racing) and Yuji Kunimoto (KCMG).
Hiroki Otsu, standing in for the unwell Tadasuke Makino at Nakajima Racing this weekend, was 17th fastest across the two sessions, 1.232s off the pace.
Qualifying groups determined
As has been the case all season, the drivers will be split between two groups in Q1 on Sunday morning, collectively fighting over 14 spots in Q2. The seven fastest drivers out of the 10 in each group will progress to Q2.
Group A: Yuhi Sekiguchi, Naoki Yamamoto, Ukyo Sasahara, Nick Cassidy, Sacha Fenestraz, Yuji Kunimoto, Hiroaki Ishiura, Toshiki Oyu, Charles Milesi, Kazuya Oshima.
Group B: Ryo Hirakawa, Nirei Fukuzumi, Tomoki Nojiri, Kazuki Nakajima, Kenta Yamashita, Kamui Kobayashi, Sho Tsuboi, Hiroki Otsu, Nobuharu Matsushita, Tatiana Calderon.
Session times (afternoon session only):
|1||16||Tomoki Nojiri||Team Mugen||1’20.708|
|2||15||Ukyo Sasahara||Team Mugen||1’20.791||0.083|
|3||20||Ryo Hirakawa||ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL||1’20.947||0.239|
|4||39||Sho Tsuboi||JMS P.mu/cerumo-INGING||1’20.988||0.280|
|5||65||Toshiki Oyu||TCS Nakajima Racing||1’20.996||0.288|
|6||36||Kazuki Nakajima||Vantelin Team TOM’S||1’21.025||0.317|
|7||1||Nick Cassidy||Vantelin Team TOM’S||1’21.047||0.339|
|8||6||Nirei Fukuzumi||DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing||1’21.217||0.509|
|9||19||Yuhi Sekiguchi||ITOCHU ENEX TEAM IMPUL||1’21.237||0.529|
|10||7||Kamui Kobayashi||carrozzeria Team KCMG||1’21.431||0.723|
|11||3||Kenta Yamashita||Kondo Racing||1’21.449||0.741|
|12||18||Yuji Kunimoto||carrozzeria Team KCMG||1’21.617||0.909|
|13||51||Charles Milesi||Buzz Racing with B-Max||1’21.691||0.983|
|14||38||Hiroaki Ishiura||JMS P.mu/cerumo-INGING||1’21.750||1.042|
|15||4||Sacha Fenestraz||Kondo Racing||1’21.857||1.149|
|16||64||Hiroki Otsu||TCS Nakajima Racing||1’21.940||1.232|
|17||14||Kazuya Oshima||ROOKIE Racing||1’22.050||1.342|
|18||50||Nobuharu Matsushita||Buzz Racing with B-Max||1’22.088||1.380|
|19||12||Tatiana Calderon||ThreeBond Drago CORSE||1’22.118||1.410|
|20||5||Naoki Yamamoto||DoCoMo Team Dandelion Racing||1’22.161||1.453|
|View full results|
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