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ARTA Honda Fastest at Fuji as Pre-Season Testing Ends

ARTA’s Matsushita puts new Civic Type R-GT on top as pre-season testing wraps up…


Honda concluded the final SUPER GT pre-season test at Fuji Speedway with the top time as ARTA driver Nobuharu Matsushita set the pace in the No. 8 Civic Type R-GT across two days of rain-affected running.

Matsushita posted the quickest time of 1:27.834 on Sunday morning, during the only session of the weekend to feature any true dry running, to lead a one-two for the Mugen-run ARTA outfit, 0.048 seconds faster than Hiroki Otsu in the No. 16 car.

Nissan’s flagship No. 23 NISMO Z was third-fastest in the hands of Katsumasa Chiyo, 0.187 seconds off the pace, while Toyota’s top representative was the No. 14 Rookie Racing GR Supra, with Kazuya Oshima 0.235 seconds slower than Matsushita.

Mitsunori Takaboshi completed the top five in the second NISMO Nissan, the No. 3 car, as all 15 GT500 cars set their best times of the weekend during a session that began with a damp track before drying out in the latter stages.

The opening day of the test on Saturday was held entirely in wet conditions, including the afternoon’s qualifying simulation.

TOM’S driver Sho Tsuboi set what would turn out to be the day’s fastest time, a 1:36.174, in the No. 36 Toyota during the morning session, which was cut short by a heavy crash for the PONOS Racing Ferrari 296 GT3 of Lilou Wadoux exiting Turn 2.

Tsuboi again set the fastest individual time in mock qualifying, a 1:36.292, but he and Kenta Yamashita were beaten to the top spot by the No. 16 ARTA Honda of Otsu and Ren Sato, whose combined time of 3:13.604 edged the TOM’S pair by 0.140 seconds.

Third on combined times was the No. 39 SARD Toyota of Yuhi Sekiguchi and Yuichi Nakayama, followed by the No. 3 and No. 23 NISMO Nissans.

Tsuboi’s best time in the partly-dry Saturday morning session, a 1:28.262, was only enough for eighth-fastest on the combined leaderboard behind the No. 17 Real Racing Honda of Koudai Tsukakoshi and Sekiguchi in the SARD car.

The final session of the weekend, extended by 30 minutes to three hours to compensate for the lost track time on Saturday morning, took place in wet conditions, and was headed by Nissan driver Chiyo with a best time of 1:34.850.

However, the No. 23 Z, sporting plain carbon-colored front bodywork on Sunday, stopped on track in the closing stages with a suspected engine problem, causing the third and final red flag of the session.

Honda junior driver Shun Koide turned his first laps in a GT500 car on Saturday for Team Kunimitsu, as he took the place of an unwell Tadasuke Makino alongside Naoki Yamamoto aboard the No. 100 car for the Fuji test.

Koide appears likely to serve as Honda’s official GT500 reserve driver this season alongside his duties for the UpGarage GT300 team, with SUPER GT rules now allowing teams to name a designated stand-in ahead of each weekend.

Inging Toyota Heads GT300 Timesheets

In the GT300 class, fastest on Saturday morning and across the two days was the No. 2 Inging Toyota GR Supra in which Yuui Tsutsumi set the benchmark time of 1:36.480.

That was 0.046 seconds faster than the No. 65 LEON Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo of Naoya Gamou, while third was the No. 88 JLOC Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2 of Yuya Motojima, whose teammate Takashi Kogure topped Saturday’s qualifying simulation.

JLOC was awarded ‘pole’ for Kogure setting the fastest time in Q2 of 1:44.924, with SUPER GT’s new aggregate qualifying system not applying to GT300 in wet conditions, just 0.015 seconds ahead of Hideki Yamauchi in the factory Subaru BRZ.

Marco Sorensen was third-fastest, also getting within a tenth of Kogure’s time in D’station Racing’s new Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo.

However, the fastest time of the opening day, a 1:44.003, was produced in the morning session by Yusuke Tomibayashi in the No. 9 Pacific Racing Mercedes, just 0.012 seconds ahead of Motojima in the JLOC car.

Pacing the final session of the weekend was Seiji Ara in the No. 7 Team Studie BMW M4 GT3 with a best time of 1:43.060, but Bruno Spengler had put the team fifth in the morning session and overall, behind Kazuto Kotaka’s No. 31 apr Lexus LC500h.

After Wadoux’s crash left its original chassis heavily damaged, PONOS returned to the track on Sunday with an entirely new Ferrari 296 GT3 in plain livery that had been delivered overnight, which Kei Cozzolino took to the 10th-fastest time overall.

The opening round of the SUPER GT season will take place at Okayama International Circuit on April 13-14.

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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