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Nakajima, Hartley Score Fuji Pole for Toyota

Toyota scores second consecutive front-row lockout of the 2019-20 season…

Photo: Tim Hearn/Adrenal Media

Toyota Gazoo Racing qualified first and second on the grid for the 6 Hours of Fuji as Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley put the team’s No. 8 car on pole position.

The pair out-paced their teammates Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi in the 15-minute, two-driver session scored by the average of each driver’s fastest lap.

Nakajima set the tone early on by beating Lopez by eight-tenths of a second in the first set of runs, while Hartley lapped just over seven-tenths quicker than Kobayashi.

The average time of 1:25.013 posted by the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid meant it out-qualified the Japanese manufacturer’s No. 7 car by 0.790 seconds.

Kobayashi had initially gone quicker than Hartley but had his time deleted shortly before the session was red-flagged with three minutes to go after a spin for Charlie Robertson in the No. 6 Ginetta G60-LT-P1 AER.

Robertson initially qualified third with Mike Simpson, but only with the first driver’s lap time, meaning it will start tomorrow’s race from the back of the LMP1 field.

Kobayashi returned to the track in search of a late improvement but ended up going much slower than his earlier deleted attempt.

In the closest non-hybrid LMP1 car, Gustavo Menezes and Norman Nato posted an average time of 1:26.163, putting their Rebellion Racing R13 Gibson 1.15 seconds slower than the leading Toyota.

Team LNT’s Ginetta that did manage to set two times produced an average of 1:26.820 in the hands of Ben Hanley and Egor Orudzhev.

In LMP2, Ho-Pin Tung and Gabriel Aubry took pole, with the Jackie Chan DC Racing drivers putting their Oreca 07 Gibson out front by almost half a second.

Jota Sport-run cars were on course for a front-row lockout, until a late improvement from Filipe Albuquerque set United Autosports’ Oreca in second, ahead of the JOTA-entered Oreca driven by Roberto Gonzalez and Anthony Davidson.

Lietz Strikes Late for GTE-Pro Pole

Richard Lietz came through on a fast lap right at the end of the GTE session to secure the first pole for the new 2019-spec Porsche 911 RSR.

While his co-driver Gianmaria Bruni went 0.038 seconds slower than AF Corse Ferrari driver Alessandro Pier Guidi in the first set of runs, Lietz’s effort was 0.121 seconds quicker than Pier Guidi’s co-driver James Calado.

This put the No. 91 Porsche crew out front with an average of 1:37.359, with the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo settling for second after starting from the front spot last time out at Silverstone.

The gap between the two cars at the end was just 0.041 seconds.

Third on the grid was the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE in which Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen produced an average of 1:37.466 to beat the sister AF Corse pairing of Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina.

Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin qualified fifth in the other works Aston, while an accident for Michael Christensen resulted in the No. 92 Porsche propping up the order.

Christensen appeared to take too much inside curb into the Turn 3 left-hander, which threw the Danish driver’s car off course and into a rear-facing impact with the tire wall.

In GTE-Am, Ben Keating and Felipe Fraga scored their maiden poles after coming from behind to lead the class in their No. 57 Team Project 1 Porsche.

Fraga was second-quickest out of the first set of drivers, behind Aston Martin Racing’s Ross Gunn, but a spin for Paul Dalla Lana impacted the No. 98 Aston entry’s average score.

This helped Fraga and Keating to take pole with an average of 1:38.733, beating the TF Sport Aston crew of Salih Yoluc and Jonny Adam by 0.088 seconds.

RESULTS: Qualifying

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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