Just one month after the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship came the first Asian round of season eight – The Fuji 6 Hours. And it was Toyota on home soil that scored a dominant 1-2 finish in front of their adoring fans, with the #8 car of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima taking an unassailable victory from the Silverstone victors of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez.
The first lap was competitive however, with both Toyotas coming under pressure from the #5 Ginetta driven by Egor Orudzhev around the outside of turn one to take second place, but the hybrid system in the Toyotas made it easy for them to reclaim the 1-2 status quo for the first portion of the race. But it certainly appeared that the Rebellion driven by Bruno Senna had the pace to contend for victory, as the #1 car swept around the outside and into second place, splitting the two Toyotas early on.
They had re-established their 1-2 formation at the half hour mark however, as Bruno Senna was caught up on GTE traffic, enabling the #7 Toyota to reclaim second place. And just as a full course yellow was thrown for debris later in the race, the #5 Ginetta was forced to return to the garage with brake failure, promoting the sister #6 car into the fourth place at the finish. But after the Toyotas regained their dominance out front, it was plain sailing to the chequered flag, leading home the sole Rebellion driven by Bruno Senna, Gustavo Menezes and Norman Nato to take a 1-2 on home soil, and tying up the championship with it’s sister #7 car.
LMP2: Racing Team Nederland claim their first victory
In what was again the most competitive class of the race, it was the #29 car of the Racing Team Nederland squad piloted by Giedo van Der Garde, Frits van Eerd and newly crowned Formula 2 champion Nyck de Vries that took the win, outpacing the Jackie Chan DC racing machine and overturning a 1 minute 30 seconds deficit in the last two hours to score a stunning victory. And it was the JOTA Sport car of Anthony Davidson, Antonio Felix da Costa and Roberto Gonzalez that took second place after the Jackie Chan entry of Will Stevens, Ho-Pin Tung and Gabriel Aubry slowed late on with engine issues, eventually coming home on the final step of the podium.
It transpired after the race however that the #38 JOTA Sport car of Davidson, da Costa and Gonzalez would have their second place stripped as, according to the FIA bulletin, the car’s “outside neutral switch is unable to disconnect the transmission” in post-race scrutineering. The result was instant disqualification from the finishing results, promoting the Jackie Chan car of Stevens, Tung and Aubry to second place, promoting the United Autosports car of Filipe Albuquerque, Phil Hanson and Oliver Jarvis to third position.
The result now leaves Giedo van Der Garde and Frits van Eerd in the lead of the drivers’ championship ahead of Cool Racing’s Antonin Borga and Nicolas Lappiere after the Silverstone winner struggled home in sixth place.
GTE Pro: Aston Martin’s Dane Train fight back in Fuji
Aston Martin finally scored a dry weather win in their new Vantage, taking the chequered flag with the #95 car of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen ahead of the #92 Porsche of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen, which managed to sneak in between the two Astons with the help of a full course yellow, restraining the #97 Vantage of Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin to a second consecutive third place finish of the season.
The two Ferrari’s struggled home in fourth and fifth respectively, with the #51 car of James Calado and Alessandro Per Guidi leading home the #71 car of Miguel Molina and Davide Rigon, who will be thankful for getting some laps on the board after as non-finish in Silverstone following a incident with a Ginetta in Silverstone. The #91 Porsche 0f Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz struggled home in sixth place after some power problems coupled with a drive-through penalty for taking advantage of track limits rooted them two laps down.
This results now leaves the drivers’ championship very close at the top, with just two points separating the leading #92 Porsche of Estre and Christensen and the third place sister car of Bruni and Lietz, and the #95 Aston Martin of Thiim and Sorensen in between.
GTE Am: TF Sport dominate
TF Sport finally scored their first class victory with a dominant display in what backed up the Aston Martin pace in both GTE categories, finishing 42 seconds clear of their nearest rivals of Francis Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Nicklas Nielsen in the #83 AF Corse Ferrari. The #57 Porsche of Ben Keating and Felipe Fraga recovered from a back-row starting position to salvage the final spot on the podium.
The works Aston Martin in GTE Am piloted by Paul Dalla Lana, Ross Gunn and Darren Turner came home in 11th position after being hit by the Dempsey-Proton’s stand in driver Satoshi Hoshino on the opening lap of the race.
With and first and second place in the opening two rounds, the #83 AF Corse Ferrari has a 10-point cushion at the top of the drivers’ standings, followed by Fuji winners of Jonathan Adam, Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc.
The third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship is in five weeks time at the Shanghai International Circuit in China on November 10th.