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Makino “Surprised” By New Civic’s Qualifying Pace

Tadasuke Makino reflects on Okayama qualifying after putting Honda Civic Type R-GT third on the grid for its debut…


Tadasuke Makino says he is “surprised” that Honda was able to qualify in the top three on its SUPER GT debut with the all-new Civic Type R-GT at Okayama.

Honda’s replacement for the NSX-GT largely struggled for pace relative to GT500 rivals Toyota and Nissan during winter testing, although the Civic topped a session for the first time in a rain-affected final test of the pre-season at Fuji Speedway.

Expectations for the car’s debut had been muted in the run-up to this weekend’s Okayama curtain-raiser, but the No. 100 Team Kunimitsu crew of Makino and Naoki Yamamoto sprung a surprise in Saturday’s qualifying session by taking third on the grid.

The pair set a combined time of 2:35.883 under SUPER GT’s new aggregate qualifying system, 0.322 seconds behind the pole-winning TOM’S Toyota GR Supra.

Makino, making his return to action after skipping last month’s two official tests due to illness, admitted that he hadn’t been expecting the Civic to perform so well.

“I missed the two official tests, so I didn’t know the car had changed on the aero side and everything,” Makino, who was sixth-fastest in Q1, told Sportscar365. “I think the car is better than it was before, but I’m surprised about qualifying P3.

“Q1 was really tight, I was really close to P3, but honestly I’m surprised by this result.”

Makino played down the chances of scoring a historic debut win with the Civic against the Toyota GR Supra crews that make up the rest of the top five on the grid for Sunday’s 82-lap race.

“I hope so, but looks like the Supra has pretty quick long run pace,” he said. “We will see what we can do. I think everyone chose a softer tyre because last year’s race was cooler. I think our race pace is not too bad.”

ARTA Honda driver Nobuharu Matsushita meanwhile was left to rue a costly mistake in Q1 that will leave he and his teammate Tomoki Nojiri facing a pitlane start.

Matsushita ran off-track on his final attack lap in the final two corners, resulting in his time being deleted. Under the new rules, cars that do not register a time within 107% of the top three cars in either Q1 or Q2 are required to start from the pits.

While frustrated about his mistake, Matsushita said he believed the unusually warm conditions at Okayama may be helping the Civic perform relative to Toyota and Nissan.

“The pace was there, really,” he reflected. “I think we even had a chance to fight for pole position, which is kind of a surprise.

“When we tested at Fuji, it was ok, but we were struggling a lot [during the official Okayama test]. This time it’s quite hot and the downforce is less compared to last time.

“We don’t have as much downforce as during the winter, and that has made the other manufacturers slower, while we stayed the same.”

Honda SUPER GT project leader Masahiro Saiki pointed out that Matsushita had been quicker than Makino up to the point of his mistake, and predicted the ARTA car could have qualified second or third on the grid.

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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