Pole Shootout features 18 Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli entries
All eight IntGTC manufacturers start inside the top-15
Augusto Farfus has claimed pole position for Sunday’s Suzuka 10 Hours and round four of this season’s Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli campaign after producing what the Brazilian described as the ‘lap of my life’.
The BMW Team Schnitzer driver’s new qualifying record of 2m00.455s was just 0.076s quicker than Audi Sport Team WRT’s Dries Vanthoor, while Nick Catsburg completed a memorable day for BMW by setting third fastest time in Walkenhorst’s M6 GT3.
Kelvin van der Linde and WRT had ended the day’s earlier qualifying session with the individual and combined fastest times. However, the team fell just short of Schnitzer’s ultimate pace after Farfus denied Vanthoor halfway through the 15-minute Pole Shootout, which featured the day’s top-20 fastest crews.
Walkenhorst’s Catsburg confirmed BMW’s pace by slotting the other IntGTC-nominated M6 into third after the Dutch driver finished 0.274s behind Farfus.
The top-10 featured five different manufacturers, including Ferrari who will start fourth courtesy of Car Guy Racing and Miguel Molina. Hopes were high for Maranello’s other contender, HubAuto Corsa, after Suzuka’s 2018 pole-winners advanced to the Shootout in second. However, former Super GT champion Heikki Kovalainen ultimately completed a top-20 covered by 1.3s.
Both M-Sport Bentleys also featured inside the top-10, Jules Gounon and Andy Soucek qualifying fifth and 10th, respectively, after the former had spent time at the top early on.
Mercedes-AMG are also in contention, but it was fan favourites Goodsmile Racing and Kamui Kobayashi who finished highest of the manufacturer’s four Intercontinental entries in sixth overall. Drivers’ Championship leaders Maxi Goetz and Maxi Buhk start eighth and ninth for Craft-Bamboo Racing and 2018 Suzuka winners GruppeM Racing, respectively, after lining up behind Absolute Racing’s Audi.
Spa winners Porsche just missed out on the top-10, while Japan’s two full-season manufacturers – Nissan and Honda – start 13th and 15th on home soil.
Only two of the Pole Shootout’s top-20 weren’t Intercontinental entries, and both belong to Japan’s legendary Lamborghini squad, JLOC. Marco Mapelli qualified 16th, three places ahead of Takashi Kogure.
Augusto Farfus, BMW Team Schnitzer: “We were expecting a very difficult weekend at Suzuka, but then as the week progressed we thought it might be reasonable. The cooler temperatures certainly suited our car, but the team’s hard work has also made a big difference. For me, the lap was fantastic. Maybe even perfect, if that’s possible. We made some tweaks between qualifying and Pole Shootout, and everything just worked.
“It’s a great result but we must remember the Suzuka 10 Hours is a very long, hot and tough race. Starting from pole gives us plenty of hope but it’s all about managing the tyres. We’ve been there or thereabouts this year but never had the pace to be fighting right at the front. Somehow, we’ve always found ways to be competitive. This is one of the biggest races outside of Spa – on a par with Bathurst and very important for the Asian market. So we are very motivated to show what our ‘Old Lady’ M6 is still capable of!”
Watch round four of 2019’s Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli live on the championship’s website tomorrow at 10:00 JST (GMT +9).