Baguette ended up second-to-last in Q1 on Saturday afternoon at the wheel of the #1 Nissan Z, only managing to outpace the TOM’S Toyota that is carrying the highest success handicap in the GT500 field.
The Impul machine Baguette shares with Kazuki Hiramine was carrying 36kg of ballast, half of the nominal handicap of the points-leading TOM’S car, after a subdued start to the squad’s title defence.
The Belgian had been hoping to continue the strong form he and Hiramine showed in the previous race at Suzuka, where they turned around their fortunes with a podium after a dismal showing on SUPER GT’s last visit to Fuji in May.
But things wet awry when Baguette got caught up behind the Racing Project Bandoh Toyota of Yuji Kunimoto in the final sector of what turned out to be his fastest lap, which he says ruined what would have been his final flier.
“I don’t know what he [Kunimoto] was doing, he had a lot of space in front of him but he slowed down right in front of me,” Baguette recalled to Motorsport.com.
“I was planning to push for two laps in a row, and when I started the second lap I was right behind him and my lap was completely screwed. For the second sector, I was right behind him and I lost downforce.
“It was a bit stupid of him, I don’t know why he waited so long before pushing. If he wanted to keep warming up his tyres, he should have let me pass. It’s not a nice thing to do.”
However, Baguette conceded that making it through to Q2 would have been a tall order even without being baulked by Kunimoto.
“We are struggling big-time,” he said. “Maybe we made a wrong choice on the tyre side. The pre-season test here [at Fuji] was wet so we couldn’t test the tyres properly, and then in Round 2 we had some set-up issues.
“We solved those, and the lap time is still slow, so I think that [tyre choice] is the reason. But we will confirm that tomorrow [in the race].”
Engine issues in practice forced Team Impul to take a change of engine prior to qualifying, severely limiting their running in the morning.
While GT500 teams are permitted to use two engines a season, meaning the change comes without a penalty, it means Baguette and Hiramine will not be able to use a ‘Spec 2’ engine later in the year without punishment.
“In free practice we only did six laps and then we had an engine issue,” said Baguette. “So I didn’t do much running in practice, wrong tyre choice… just a shit day, but that’s how it is sometimes.
“Tomorrow it might rain, which could be good for us… it can only be better than today.”