Former Formula 2 driver Matsushita finished second behind Toshiki Oyu in his Q2 group, but in the eight-car shootout the tables were turned with Matsushita setting the fastest time of the day at 1m36.717s.
This slightly overshadowed the time with which Oyu dominated Q2 as the Nakajima Racing driver failed to improve on his previous time with a time of 1m36.901s, leaving him 0.184s off pole.
This is only the second time that the B-Max minnow team have taken pole after Sergio Sette Camara leading qualifying last year at Sugo.
Dandelion Racing duo Nirei Fukuzumi – who won pole on Super Formula’s last visit to Suzuka in April but missed 0.216 seconds on that occasion – and Tadasuke Makino will form the second row.
New champion Tomoki Nojiri suffered a scare at first as he barely scratched his Q1 group in sixth place, but the Mugen rider managed to advance to Q3 for the fifth fastest time.
Ritomo Miyata (TOM’S) was the best of the Toyota contingent in sixth place, having dominated its Q1 and Q2 groups, followed by race winner Motegi Hiroki Otsu (Mugen) and Sacha Fenestraz (Kondo Racing), the only other Toyota rider to do it until Q3.
Tomoki Nojiri, MUGEN TEAM
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Ryo Hirakawa narrowly missed out on a place in Q3 with the fifth fastest time in his Q2 segment and will start ninth ahead of KCMG’s Yuji Kunimoto, who secured his best grid place of the year with a 10th place finish.
Giuliano Alesi, once again replacing Toyota World Endurance Championship driver Kazuki Nakajima at TOM’S, could not keep pace with his teammate Miyata and will start from 13th place, one place ahead of Yuhi Sekiguchi.
The Impuls rider currently holds a slim lead over Oyu in the battle for second place in the standings, but has some catching up to do from 14th place.
Naoki Yamamoto (Nakajima) suffered his third Q1 retirement of the season on a track where he had six victories in his Super Formula career, and will line up 16th behind Sho Tsuboi (Inging).
Tatiana Calderon was the last of her group for Drago Corse and will start the race on Sunday 19th.