Fuji practice kicks off Dream Race weekend

22 SUPER GT & DTM race cars at Fuji Speedway

22 SUPER GT & DTM race cars at Fuji Speedway

Finally, the wait is over: two unofficial timed sessions got the action underway at Japan’s Fuji Speedway ahead of this weekend’s much-anticipated SUPER GT x DTM ‘Dream Race’.

SUPER GT’s Ryo Hirakawa and Tadasuke Makino were the pace-setters in today’s two 45-minute tests. Today’s sessions allowed the seven DTM drivers to get their first taste of the 4.5km-long Fuji Speedway, while also giving the SUPER GT pilots a better idea of the Hankook rubber used for this event.

Duval sets the DTM pace

Loïc Duval was the fastest DTM driver in both sessions, ending up eighth and a highly impressive third after the first day’s running. The Frenchman no doubt benefited from a little local knowledge: prior to his DTM career, the Audi driver won titles in both SUPER GT and Super Formula, racing regularly at Fuji. Two-time DTM champ Marco Wittmann posted the fastest time for BMW in both sessions.

KeePer TOM’S Lexus LC500 driver Hirakawa came out on top in the morning with a best time of 1m31.002s. He outpaced Koudai Tsukakoshi – who is the sole driver of the Keihin Honda NSX-GT this weekend – by 0.313s. Third was Tsugio Matsuda in the Motul Autech Nissan GT-R. Duval was eighth-fastest with the BMC Airfilter Audi RS 5 DTM.

The opening session had to be red-flagged after René Rast suffered a left-rear puncture that pitched his Audi into the barriers. After repairs to minor damage, the reigning DTM champion was able to rejoin the action fairly quickly.

Practice under sunny skies – but rain forecast

Conditions all day were warm and sunny, with the majestic partly snow-covered Mount Fuji benignly looking over proceedings all day. But, with rain and cooler temperatures set for the remainder of the weekend, Thursday was likely to be the only day that drivers will get a view of the famous mountain.

The afternoon session saw many drivers dropping into the 1m31s bracket. Driving the Modulo Epson Honda NSX-GT, Tadasuke Makino topped the time-sheets at the end of the day, his best time of 1m30.421s ending up as the fastest time of the day, 0. 227s faster than Kenta Yamashita’s WAKO’s 4CR Lexus LC500.

Only 0.047s down on Yamashita’s time, Duval impressed with a strong third position. The first 16 drivers were covered by a scant eight tenths of a second, a clear reflection of how close the field is. This session was also briefly interrupted due to technical reasons.

René Rast and Kenta Yamashita during the training session at the Fuji Speedway

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