Jeroen Bleekemolen is in unfamiliar garb this weekend, the very rapid Dutchman anchors an intriguing new driver line-up in the #61 GTE Am AF Corse Ferrari 458 alongside Bret Curtis and 2014 Pirelli World Challenge race winner Mike Skeen.
“It’s my first time in a Ferrari ever,” said Jeroen, a man renowned for turning his hand to almost anything on four wheels, “that means either a Ferrari race or a road car.”
“I was close to racing in WEC this year but my deal with Viper to do Le Mans was an issue. It’s great to take a look at the WEC this weekend and there might be a possibility in 2015.”
The addition of the #35 Oak Racing Morgan Judd for Fuji, Shanghai and Bahrain adds a second engine note to the LMP2 grid for the second six hour race in succession (after the ESM HPD at the Circuit of the Americas).
ESM will return of course next time out with both of their current cars with the Strakka Dome Nissan promised to debut in Brazil.
Alex Brundle and Gustavo Yacaman bring real steel to the Oak Racing effort with Keiko Ihara bringing the added attraction of a local Japanese driver (together with Toyota’s Kazuki Nakajima, who won the rain affected race last year).
Richard Lietz is back in fine fettle after his broken arm suffered in a practice accident at Virginia International raceway in the United Sportscar Championship. This weekend’s race will be Richard’s first since his injury.
Pierre Kaffer makes his WEC LMP1 debut this weekend as he joins the Lotus/ CLM LMP1 effort in their #9 AER engined machine. Pierre has raced in LMP2 in the WEC in previous years for Pecom Racing and has raced in LMP1 before too as part of the Audi factory team in the Le Mans Series.
“I actually broke my elbow in eight places,” said Richard at Fuji today, “but luckily it healed really well and really quickly, there’s a little ache now and again but I’m absolutely fine.”
Alexandre Imperatori returns here for COTA LMP2 winners KCMG, as does Nicki Thiim for GTE AM Championship leaders the Young Driver AMR #95 crew.
The biggest potential headline here though is the weather, after the near washout in 2013 and another Typhoon closing on Japan at present.
Weather forecasts up to yesterday for the coming weekend were quite encouraging, but today’s projections are causing more furrowed brows along the pitlane with heavy rain this afternoon timing itself beautifully for the drivers track walk!