Will Hoskins and FUN topped the timesheets in practice for the British V-Prix, ahead of Olen Inman in the DS. Hoskins' team-mate Carson Davenport took third, while Johan Halvosen and Nikolai Milkovich rounded out the top 5.
Franklin continued their slightly improved pace with 7th and 9th, while championship leader Adrien Simon struggled, only setting the 10th fastest time, one and a half seconds off the pace. North Star topped the new teams, with both Sikes and Nowosinki beating their closest rivals. Kiara Thunder failed to set a lap time in her Holmqvist.
Full lap times and standings are below:
News in the driver market continues to emerge in the aftermath of the French V-Prix, with North Star Racing confirming that Judson Sikes will remain at the team after the current one-year loan deal expires, following a buyout of the Russian's contract from Ocelot.
"We do believe this is the best outcome for everyone involved," North Star team principal Nick Forrest told reporters, "The speculation is that the vacant seat at Ocelot will go to Giodano, and while he's had his fair share of misfortune in the opening races with us, Judson has certainly shown he's a very talented racer, and we're delighted to keep him on board the team as we hope to move forward through the field."
Sikes, who scored his season best result of 16th in China following a collision on the grid, was optimistic about his team's prospects.
"I'm very happy to be staying with North Star, obviously I'm thankful to Ocelot for giving me a start in the series last year, but North Star have made some fantastic progress in the first few races. I think we can make some real strides forward next year, maybe fighting often for points, but for now we can focus on trying to finish the best of the new teams this season."
There had also been rumours circulating the paddock that Westwood had offered for Will Hoskins to drive for North Star from Spain onwards, which Forrest was asked to address. "I know he's headed to FUN, so I don't think there's much left to discuss in that regard," he dismissed, "I'm sure Harry [Westwood] spoke to a few teams and made the best decision in his eyes, but we do have a plan in place at North Star for the foreseeable future, and we don't intend to deviate from it."
This would seem to suggest that Aleksy Nowosinki will also remain with North Star for the 2017 season, but no official confirmation has come from either party at the time of writing.
Ocelot team principle Rai Miyamoto has stated his disappointment with the car this season, Ocelot having scored 1 point more than they did last year currently lie in 9th position in the standings having been out developed by the more experienced teams. The upgrades for the teams came for the European season where things are looking rather gloom for Ocelot who started the season strongly. The team's disappointment is however understandable as drivers Puccio Giodano and Karl Beckenbaur could only manage 19th and 20th during qualifying which was slightly ahead of the newer teams this season. The disappointing weekend continued for the team however following a disastrous French GP.
Miyamoto expressed his disappointment to the media following the two consecutive poor race weekends. ''It sadness me and the team very much to see us fall back so heavily following the upgrades, we have been out developed by the more experienced teams and I guess it's a learning curve for us all. Granted we came into the sport being ambitious however I still urge the fans to believe, our season may look like it's over and we might be down and out. But everyone at the team is working as hard as they can to deliver the results we need.'
Although while in reality we may lose ninth to Downton, I urge everyone to still dream of the possibility of one day an Ocelot driver being on the podium. FUN just recently did it and it's fantastic to see what they have achieved. On a more positive note, I can proudly confirm we have narrowed our engine search to two manufacturers who we are in key discussions with.''
Westwood Racing have confirmed that their driver, Will Hoskins, is going to be moving to FUN after the French V-Prix, our sources say. This sheds light on the Kip Maxwell situation, as to who Kip would be replacing. The brit (Will Hoskins) has said
"For sure, I have an attatchment to Westwood, they offered me a chance at success last season but I couldn't quite do much before they swapped me with Nathaniel. I know I can do better at FUN as their general all round package looks a bit stronger than the Westwoods, which have had really disappointing pace although the development is on the right track. It will be bizarre to watch that ugly green in my mirrors but I look forward to working with Dick Diceman and the whole team."
It's not been confirmed who Hoskins will replace, nor what fee his contract was purchased for. It is believed to be close to what Westwood paid to sign him at the end of last season. The rumours in the paddock are that Diceman wants to replace Davenport with Hoskins, though Dick refuted these claims as "Nonsensical rubbish". After the French V-Prix, Westwood have confirmed that Kinnumen will be joined by Maxwell for the remainder of the season, with Christodoulou remaining in his testing role whilst competing in FV2.
Today it's been confirmed in the paddock that Kip Maxwell's loan deal has been purchased from DS by Westwood Racing. It's not known as to why Westwood have done this, as they have three drivers already, but it is rumoured he's being drafted in to replace Hoskins, despite the team having paid roughly three million pounds for the brit, who's finished in the top ten of the driver's championship every year.
Maxwell had this to say: "I am very excited to be working with Westwood again. The negotiations took ages cos we had a few differences to settle and all that mallarky, but while I can tell you I will be racing, I can't tell you who won't be. You'll just have to wait a few hours, boss man is gonna announce the new system later!"
So we'll bring you anything we know about whom Maxwell is replacing, later on. It has been confirmed that whatever the change is, it will be made post France, as all the teams have started arriving in Paul Ricard with their parts.
Downton High Performance Engines and DS Performance have tonight released a joint statement announcing the withdrawal of their engine supply to the Lopez and Ocelot teams for 2017.
Olen Inman has taken pole position for the third time in his four race old career in Japan with a half second margin to the Meteor of Stuart Harrison. The Ingrams continued their impressive recent pace with third and fifth, Milkovich ahead of Mattson, with Halvosen between them in fourth. Adrien Simon was a full second down on his pole-sitting team-mate in sixth, while the two Lopez cars occupy row four. AMR took 9th and 11th with Beyer and Ellington, while Franklin's Wagner and Ruiz were 10th and 12th respectively. Ocelot took 13th and 15th and FUN 16th and 18th, each with a Westwood sandwiched between them, while North Star beat established runners Downton in addition to their fellow newcomers FIRST and Holmqvist, with each of them in team order on the grid.
Below are the full times from the Qualifying Session:
Also, below are the tyre choices for each of the drivers competing in the Japanese V-Prix:
The latest in other series