Toyota's Oshima "very surprised" by rapid qualifying lap
Toyota SUPER GT driver Kazuya Oshima says he is "very surprised" by the laptime that took the Rookie Racing car to within a whisker of pole position in qualifying at Autopolis.
Oshima was at the wheel of the #14 Rookie GR Supra for the Q2 pole shootout on Saturday, and came within 0.007 seconds of denying Mugen Honda driver Ukyo Sasahara the top spot with a laptime of 1m31.777s.
That was despite the car shared by Oshima and Kenta Yamashita carrying the equivalent of 70kg of success ballast, including a power-sapping stage two fuel flow restrictor. Only one other car carrying the stage two restrictor, the #17 Real Racing Honda NSX-GT, made it out of Q1.
"The car felt very nice," Oshima told Motorsport.com. "Most people were struggling with understeer, but we didn’t have so much understeer. We chose the harder tyre and it seems it suited these conditions.
"Also I was very surprised [about the laptime]. But this year, every race, if we adjust for the handicaps, our car has always been quick. I don’t know why but the straight line speed was not too bad even with the restrictor this time, that was lucky for us."
Despite their front-row start, Oshima and Yamashita will have to serve a five-second stop-and-go penalty in the race as a result of taking a third engine of the season for this weekend, along with the #37 TOM'S and #38 Cerumo Toyota crews.
"For the championship we need to get at least a few points," said Oshima. "It will be tough with the penalty, but I think we can score points.
"The last few races have been very frustrating [scoring zero points], so it’s a shame this time we have the penalty with this good qualifying. But the car feels good and if we have good race pace, it can be a good sign for the last two races as well."
Oshima and Yamashita started off their season strongly with victory in the Okayama season opener and a close-fought second in the Fuji 500km, but since then they have failed to score points.
That has left the duo facing a daunting 20-point deficit to championship leader Naoki Yamamoto with three races to go.
On his and Yamashita's chances of adding to their 2019 title success for Team LeMans, Oshima said: "For sure it will be tough to win the championship, but at least we want to take some points and then we must win the last two races.
"Even if we cannot get the championship, this is a new team, and to score two or three wins, it would be a great result."
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