Oliver Rowland delivered a popular home pole position for Nissan in the inaugural Tokyo E-Prix, narrowly defeating Maximilian Guenther in the final of the head-to-head Duels.

Rowland’s lap time of 1m 19.023s in the Final was a mere 0.021s ahead of the Maserati MSG driver, who went quicker in the final two sectors, but lost time in Turn 1 which ultimately cost him the top spot. That enabled Rowland to claim an eighth career pole and his second of the season.

Ahead of the Final, a number of big names fell in the first round of Duels, with reigning world champion Jake Dennis, Mitch Evans, and Pascal Wehrlein all being defeated.

Andretti’s Dennis lost out to Edoardo Mortara by 0.315s, while TAG Heuer Porsche driver Werhlein was eliminated by a comparable margin by Guenther.

Evans initially didn’t even make the Duels, finishing his group qualifying session in fifth, but he got a reprieve after his Jaguar TCS teammate Nick Cassidy – who’d initially advanced to the head-to-heads after finishing third – had his best time deleted for an unspecified technical infringement.

Then in Evans’ Duel race, he lost out to Rowland by 0.284 after slamming the outside wall at Turn 9.

Evans (and Cassidy) and Wehrlein’s early eliminations from the Duels ensured that for the first time this season the fight for pole would not feature a single Porsche or Jaguar-powered car for the first time this season. Eight different teams occupied the eight spots in the Duels, however, for the first time this season.

In the Semifinals, Rowland defeated Mortara, who’d taken his Mahindra further than the Indian team had been in qualifying all season. He finished 0.226s adrift of the Brit despite gaining time in the second half of his lap. Guenther had an easier ride, with early wall contact for ERT’s Sergio Sette Camara taking him out of contention right away.

In the opening Group sessions, Porsche’s Antonio Felix da Costa, Andretti’s Norman Nato, NEOM McLaren’s Jake Hughes, Abt Cupra’s Lucas di Grassi, Maserati’s Jehan Daruvala, and Envision Racing’s Sebastien Buemi – who clipped a wall and bent his steering – all joined Cassidy in being eliminated.

In the second group, it was Robin Frijns (Envision), Nyck de Vries (Mahindra), Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Penske), Dan Ticktum (ERT), Stoffel Vandoorne (DS Penske), Sacha Fenestraz (Nissan) and Sam Brid (McLaren) were all eliminated.

For Bird, it was particularly disappointing to wind up last after winning the most recent race in Sao Paulo, Nissan customer McLaren’s first victory in Formula E. He lost control through Turns 16-17, spinning off behind de Vries who’d had a similar off, on his final timed lap.

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