Kondo Nissan’s Joao Paulo de Oliveira and Daiki Sasaki claimed a surprise Suzuka 1000km pole, as 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button qualified ninth on his Super GT debut.
Oliveira, who was nominated by Kondo Racing to take part in the second leg of qualifying, lapped the Suzuka circuit in 1m47.74s to secure Nissan’s first pole position of the year.
While only two Lexus cars made it into Q2, the highest-placed of them was on the front row of the grid courtesy of defending Super Formula champion Yuji Kunimoto.
The Japanese driver, who is part of the #19 WedsSports Bandoh line-up alongside former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi and Yuhi Sekiguchi, qualified second after lapping less than two tenths slower than Oliveira.
Honda locked the second row, with the #17 Real Racing duo of Takashi Kogure and Koudai Tsukakoshi edging out Kosuke Matsuura and Bertrand Baguette’s #64 Nakajima NSX-GT.
The #46 Mola Nissan of three-time Super GT champion Satoshi Motoyama and Katsumasa Chiyo qualified fifth, while the #100 Team Kunimutsu had to settle for sixth after a mistake on the final flyer by Takuya Izawa.
The Honda squad was fastest in Q1 in the hands of Naoki Yamamoto and looked set for a pole position until Izawa ran wide during his flyer.
The #12 Impul Nissan of GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough and Hironobu Yasuda was next up in seventh, while Okayama winners Nick Cassidy and Ryo Hirakawa qualified eighth in the #37 TOM’S.
Button, who shares the #16 Mugen Honda with Hideki Mutoh and Daisuke Nakajima, drove the car in Q1 but missed out making it to Q2 by just 0.089s.
The trio will start the race from the fifth row on the grid, alongside the second TOM’S car of Kazuki Nakajima and James Rossiter.
Watch Jenson Button in the Suzuka 1000kms live on Autosport from 4.30am UK time on Sunday
GT300: Toyota locks top three spots
The #25 VivaC crew of Takamitsu Matsui and Kenta Yamashita led a Toyota 1-2-3 in the GT300 class.
Despite 86 kg of ballast, Yamashita broke the lap record with a 1m57.543s en route to his first Super GT pole.
The #18 Team Upgarage duo of Yuhki Nakayama and Shintaro Kawabata qualified second, while the third spot was filled by Tetsuji Tamanaka, Kiyoto Fujinami and Natsu Sakaguchi in the #5 Team Mach.
Team Ukyo’s championship-leading crew Nobuteru Taniguchi and Tatsuya Kataoka were the best of the rest in the #4 Mercedes.