Toyota Racing’s Kazuki Nakajima set Fuji Speedway alight this afternoon by claiming the manufacturer’s first pole position in Japan with the No.7 TS030 Hybrid, at their home track.
The Japanese driver, making his return to the Toyota’s cockpit for the first time since the 24 Hours of Le Mans, set a time of 1:27.499, more than two tenths of a second clear of second placed Benôit Tréluyer in the No.1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro. The Frenchman, who raced in Japan for almost 12 years, couldn’t quite match the Toyota, but he was more than half a second clear of his team mate Tom Kristensen in the No.2 Audi.
Kazuki Nakajima: “I am really happy to get this pole position at Fuji Speedway; it means a lot to me and the team. It was cool to see the reaction of everyone in the garage at the end of the session because we had big support and also big expectations as this is our home country, our home track. We saw this morning that the car was quick enough to fight for pole position and, even though I had a bit of traffic at the start of qualifying, I managed to get a clean lap. It is a good achievement but it is still Saturday; the race means a lot more than qualifying. It will be a tricky race, particularly because it is difficult to cope with traffic in the last sector. So we will have to be careful and make no mistakes. Our aim is to win the race; we will push hard.”
Toyota also had much to celebrate among the LMP1 Privateers as it was Neel Jani’s No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota which marked the fastest qualifying time with a lap of 1:29.871, fourth overall. He edged out the HPD-Hondas of Strakka Racing and JRM – Danny Watts in the British-flagged No.21 HPD ARX 03b by just two tenths and David Brabham in the No.22 JRM car by a solid half second. Just four out of the top 18 cars are powered by engines not produced by a Japanese manufacturer.
In LMP2 it was the championship points leader who claimed pole position thanks to Stéphane Sarrazin whose lap of 1:32.367 was the fastest of the whole week in the category. The pole allows the No. 44 Starworks Motorsports HPD-Honda, winners at Sebring, Le Mans and São Paulo to notch up an extra point in its chase of the FIA Endurance Trophy. The fight was tight in the class as less than two tenths separated the poleman from John Martin in the No.25 ADR-Delta Oreca 03-Nissan who was himself in front of Vitantonio Liuzzi’s No.32 Lola Lotus by less than another two tenths. The narrow gaps foretell a closely-contested race in this class which has got better and better; Starworks Motorsports being 22 points ahead after getting pole.
Who from Toyota, Honda or Nissan will be waving the Japanese colours tomorrow for the 6 Hours of Fuji? The answer will be known at 1700 hours, but before everyone will be back on track at 0755 hours for Warm Up and at 1100 hours for the start of the race.