> Nick Foster beats Raffaele Marciello by 0.3s
> Kenny Habul best-placed Intercontinental Bronze in P4
> Result: Qualifying
HubAuto Corsa’s Nick Foster has claimed pole position for tomorrow’s inaugural Suzuka 10 Hours after beating Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing’s Raffaele Marciello in today’s qualifying session. However, the Italian still finished fastest of the Intercontinental GT Challenge entries ahead of the global GT championship’s third race of the season.
Four 15-minute sessions held under sunny skies culminated in a 24-car dash for pole position. Foster’s time in Q1 remained unbeaten over the subsequent two sessions, and the Australian was back aboard his #28 Ferrari for qualifying’s final quarter following further good work from co-drivers Hiroki Yoshida and David Perel, who also topped Q2.
Foster’s dominance continued in the Pole Shootout when two times good enough for P1 – his fastest a 2m01.740s – were enough to beat Marciello by 0.297s. The Italian wasn’t originally scheduled to contest the final session, but was added – along with three more cars – following a review of Suzuka’s procedure involving the application of track limits infringements.
HubAuto’s second Ferrari shared by Matt Griffin, Miguel Molina and Davide Rigon starts directly behind its pole-sitting Pro/Am team-mates after the latter lapped just 0.043s slower than Marciello, while a late lap from Luca Stolz moved SunEnergy1 Racing’s Mercedes-AMG on to the second row just before Modulo Drago Corse’s Honda brought the Shootout to an early close by spinning into the gravel.
The KCMG-run Nissan driven by Oliver Jarvis was shuffled from second to fifth during the final five minutes but still did enough to beat Fred Makowieki’s Manthey-Racing Porsche, which was also a late Shootout addition after initially finishing outside the top-20.
Another of Intercontinental GT Challenge’s full-season manufacturers, Bentley, was next up thanks to Jules Gounon who finished just half-a-tenth shy of Jarvis, while championship leaders Audi were eighth in the hands of Team WRT driver Jake Dennis.
Super GT300 rivals Audi Team Hitotsuyama and GAINER (Nissan) completed the top-10 courtesy of Richard Lyons and Katsuyuki Hiranaka, respectively.
Elsewhere, Stolz’s fourth fastest time ensured his co-driver Kenny Habul starts as the best-placed Bronze title contender after Nick Leventis’ Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG qualified 20th in the hands of Felipe Fraga.
The Suzuka 10 Hours starts at 10:00 JST tomorrow. Eurosport will stream the race exclusively live across Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, while SRO’s GT World Youtube channel and Intercontinental GT Challenge website is also hosting live and delayed-as-live coverage subject to rights restrictions.
The race’s final 90 minutes will also be shown live on Eurosport 2.
Nick Foster, #28 HubAuto Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3: “I’m buzzing – it hasn’t really sunk in yet. But this isn’t even half the job: we’ve got 10 hours of proper racing still to come tomorrow. We knew we’d be fast after competing here in Blancpain GT Series Asia earlier this year when we were also successful against some top-line drivers. We just had to work with what we had, and most importantly give David and Hiroki as much seat time as possible because of their limited experience here and in the car. There was a lot of work to get them up to speed but we wouldn’t be in this position without them setting the fast times they did in Q2 and Q3. They did the business, too.”
Raffaele Marciello, #888 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing: “It’s a long race tomorrow and I’m also looking at the Intercontinental GT Challenge standings because there’s a good opportunity to make up ground on Robin Frijns, who isn’t competing this weekend. The Mercedes-AMG usually has good race pace but we were surprised with the speed in qualifying trim so we can be happy with P2. It’s been a good start but we have to finish the job. I raced here earlier this year with GruppeM but I don’t think it’s so important. Maybe the team’s experience helped us today.”