Toyota Gazoo Racing team boss and driver Kamui Kobayashi took pole on home soil ahead of the 6 Hours of Fuji, the championship’s first race in Japan since the start of the pandemic.
Kobayashi’s best time in the No. 7 GR010 HYBRID was a 1m29.234s early on, which in the end was just 0.020s faster than the No. 8 sister car which locked out the front row for the Japanese brand. Brendon Hartley was selected to drive the No. 8 and put the car second fastest in the opening minutes, before setting his improved time with two minutes remaining in the session.
“At home, good pole, it’s a great feeling,” Kobayashi said after the session. “It’s a fast car for at the Fuji Speedway. This is the second priority track for us, the first is Le Mans, second is Fuji. The car works well. We have a lot of fans and guests here, so I am very happy, I am looking forward to tomorrow.”
Despite Peugeot looking best placed to split the Toyotas on pace throughout FP1 and FP3, Alpine came closest to Toyota in Qualifying, its sole A480 Gibson claiming third with a 1m29.446s from Matthieu Vaxiviere.
Outside the top three the two Peugeots will start from fourth and fifth, the No. 93 leading the No. 94. Both Peugeots came within a second of the pole time though and have looked strong in what is only the 9X8’s second race weekend.
In LMP2, Antonio Felix Da Costa steered the No. 38 JOTA ORECA to pole for tomorrow’s race. His best time in the Hypercar/LMP session was a 1m31.649s, just over two tenths up on the No. 83 AF Corse ORECA which took second and was quickest of the Pro/Am runners.
“It’s an extra point which is awesome. But the championship doesn’t change our approach. It’s an awesome feeling,” Da Costa said.
Third in the class was the No. 41 Realteam by WRT ORECA of Ferdinand Habsburg who set a 1m31.143s. It was just over two tenths faster than the best time from Robin Frijns in the No. 31 WRT ORECA that took fourth.
Sebastien Bourdais in Vector Sport’s ORECA claimed the final top-five spot with a late 1m32.297s flyer.
In GTE Pro, Michael Christensen stormed to pole with a rapid 1m36.371s halfway through the short GTE session in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR 19, just under two tenths clear of the rest of the field.
“The car is quick, we also had time for long runs in free practice so we feel good for the race tomorrow,” Christensen said.
Behind, James Calado took the second spot on the grid in the class in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO with a 1m36.566s.
Calado’s time was good enough to split the Porsche, with Gianmaria Bruni’s best time in the No. 91 only good enough for third, a 1m36.800. Bruni did push for a final flying lap to get into the top two, but after a purple first sector, his second sector time was four tenths off, and the lap was aborted.
The No. 52 Ferrari of AF Corse took fourth with the Corvette Racing set to start at the back of the Pro field in fifth.
In Am, it was Ben Keating who ran fastest, and secured pole position for TF Sport with a 1m39.309s in its Aston Martin Vantage. It turned out to be an extremely close duel for Am pole, as Sarah Bovy’s best time was under a tenth off in the Iron Dames Ferrari.
The No. 71 Spirit of Race Ferrari completed the top three after Franck Dezoteux’s efforts.
Tomorrow’s 6 Hours of Fuji is set to get underway at 11:00am local time in Japan.