Baguette, who shares the Real Racing Honda NSX-GT with Koudai Tsukakoshi, could only manage 10th in Q1 on Saturday as several of the title protagonists struggled for pace.
Honda meanwhile secured a top-three lockout with its three cars that did make it into the eight-car pole shootout, leaving the Real Racing machine as the slowest of the three Bridgestone-shod NSX-GTs by some distance.
Discussing he and Tsukakoshi’s title prospects, Baguette told Motorsport.com on Friday that “our only chance is to take points off [Toyota] in this race”, echoing views put forward recently by Honda’s project leader Masahiro Saiki that Toyota will be difficult to beat in the season finale at Fuji Speedway later this month.
The Belgian driver says he’s confident of having strong race pace in Sunday’s Motegi race but admitted that starting down in 10th means he has no option but to go on the attack.
“The car felt quite good,” Baguette told Motorsport.com. “I did a good lap and we missed Q2 by half a tenth. Really disappointing.
“The car feels amazing for the race, I am pretty confident we’ll be really strong in the race but I was hoping to start higher up. It’s difficult to know what went wrong, really.
“I don’t know how exactly the tyres compare to the other [Bridgestone-shod Hondas], I just know the #100 [Team Kunimitsu car] and the #8 [ARTA car] did a completely different choice. But let’s see who has the best tyres tomorrow.”
Bertrand Baguette, #17 KEIHIN NSX-GT
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Baguette and Tsukakoshi won on SUPER GT’s first visit of the season to Motegi in September despite carrying 46kg of success ballast, almost the exact amount the #17 car has for this weekend’s race despite the penalties being halved.
“I remember how difficult it was to overtake the #38 [Cerumo Toyota] last time,” continued Baguette. “It will be difficult again. The situation is different now, we are two races from the end and we have to take maximum risk for the championship.
“For sure I will be pushing a bit more than Round 4 and I will sure I will be much faster than the guys in front of me.”
Asked if he could take comfort in the fact the championship-leading #14 Cerumo Toyota will start only one place ahead, Baguette replied: “Not really. Everyone is so close in the points, we need to be fighting at the front here otherwise in Fuji we have no chance.
“Even the #100 now is looking dangerous for the championship. We cannot be happy with this qualifying. We have to gain those places back tomorrow in the race.”
Makino delighted with third after practice drama
Kunimitsu driver Tadasuke Makino was third-fastest in Q2 behind fellow Honda runners Takuya Izawa and Nirei Fukuzumi, but it came after the #100 car suffered a clutch problem in practice, denying Makino the chance to do any running.
Makino and Naoki Yamamoto are seventh in the standings after their retirement last time out at Suzuka, where Makino was hit from behind by Nick Cassidy entering the pits, but the duo are still within nine points of the leading Cerumo Toyota.
“To be honest, I thought things weren’t going our way after last time [at Suzuka], but after Naoki drove in Q1, it seemed the car was in good shape,” Makino told Motorsport.com. “So when it was my turn to go in Q2, I just went for it without thinking about anything.
“I made some mistakes on my best lap and I couldn’t put everything together, but I think third is a good result and gives us a good starting position for tomorrow.
“There are only two races left in the championship, so we absolutely have to win at Motegi, and I hope we can do that tomorrow. I want to take advantage of this chance.”
Additional reporting by Tomohiro Yoshida
#100 RAYBRIG NSX-GT
Photo by: Masahide Kamio