Autopolis Super Formula: Hirakawa scores maiden pole

Ryo Hirakawa claimed his maiden Super Formula pole position at Autopolis amid an improved showing from Toyota, but will start fourth on the grid after a penalty.

Autopolis Super Formula: Hirakawa scores maiden pole

Honda protege Nobuharu Matsushita was the first driver to set a timed lap in Q3, lapping the southern Japanese circuit in 1m26.226s.

His teammate Tomoki Nojiri went immediately quicker by two tenths, before Hirakawa broke the 1m26s barrier to claim provisional pole.

The reigning Super GT champion’s time of 1m25.937s remained unbeaten after the remaining Q3 drivers completed their sole flying laps, granting the 24-year-old his first Super Formula pole position.

However, Hirakawa will have to serve a three-place grid penalty for crashing into his teammate Yuhi Sekiguchi at Suzuka, leaving him fourth in the starting order.

The 24-year-old's penalty promotes Dandelion pairing Nojiri and Matsushita to the front row, with Cassidy lining up third on the grid. 

Meanwhile, Takuya Izawa and  Sekiguchi were classified just 0.035s adrift of each other in fifth and sixth positions respectively, while Suzuka winner Naoki Yamamoto could qualify no higher than seventh.

Former Formula 1 driver Kamui Kobayashi ended a disappointing eighth after setting a time that was a full second slower than his Q2 benchmark of 1m25.799s.

Defending champion Hiroaki Ishiura was the first driver to miss out on a Q3 slot despite setting an identical time to Nojiri in the second part of qualifying, while Cassidy’s Kondo teammate Kenta Yamashita completed the top 10.

Super Formula debutant Tom Dillmann propped up the timesheets in 19th, two tenths adrift of Kazuya Oshima, as both Team LeMans drivers struggled on medium tyres.

Qualifying results:

1  Ryo Hirakawa Impul/Toyota 1’25.937
2  Tomoki Nojiri Dandelion/Honda 1’26.038
3  Nobuharu Matsushita Dandelion/Honda 1’26.226
4  Nick Cassidy Kondo/Toyota 1’26.296
5  Takuya Izawa Nakajima/Honda 1’26.590
6  Yuhi Sekiguchi Impul/Toyota 1’26.625
7  Naoki Yamamoto Mugen/Honda 1’26.714
8  Kamui Kobayashi KCMG/Toyota 1’26.732
9  Hiroaki Ishiura Inging/Toyota (Q2) 1’26.476
10  Kenta Yamashita Kondo/Toyota 1’26.554
11  Sena Sakaguchi Mugen/Honda 1’26.964
12   Koudai Tsukakoshi Real/Honda 1’36.021
13  Kazuki Nakajima TOM'S/Toyota 1’38.963
14  Katsumasa Chiyo B-Max/Honda 1’43.627
15  Yuji Kunimoto Inging/Toyota (Q1) 1’27.570
16  James Rossiter TOM'S/Toyota 1'27.631
17  Narain Karthikeyan Nakajima/Honda 1'27.645 
18  Kazuya Oshima LeMans/Toyota


19  Tom Dillmann LeMans/Toyota


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