This was, in a number of ways, a remarkable race meeting.
It was, for starters, the first WEC race run under green flag conditions throughout since Spa in 2015 and thus produced a record distance for the race, 244 laps for the first 4 cars equals 1113.372km. the third time this season that the winning distance in a 6 hour race has exceeded 1100 km (after Silverstone and Spa).
All five class lap records went during the race too, this was quite a race!
Qualifying and the race saw record results.
Saturday’s Qually session saw the top three, a car apiece from each of the LMP1 Manufacturers separated by just 0.169 of a second, a record.
The race proper repeated that record breaking form with the closest two car finish, and three car spread between the manufacturers.
The winning distance was a record 1.439 seconds between the #6 Toyota and #8 Audi with the #1 Porsche 17.3 seconds back in third, the podium seeing one of each of the Manufacturers present for the third consecutive race, and the fourth out of the last five!
Its also the fourth consecutive race that has seen the top three finish on the same lap, the top four have finished on the same last lap for three of the last four WEC races (the fourth placed Porsche finished a single lap down at COTA).
The feel good result for the #6 Toyota saw Kamui Kobayashi score his first win in the FIA WEC, Toyota back onto the top step for the first time since Bahrain in 2014 where 2016 winners Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin were joined by Alex Wurz.
Incidentally that is the first race win for Kobayashi since January 2009 when he won in Bahrain in GP2 Asia.
Both Sarrazin and Conway now have five WEC class wins, and both have scored those wins in both LMP1 and LMP2!
The result also saw Toyota’s return to home race form with a fourth win in five years at Fuji following wins in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Porsche by contrast had their worst ‘best’ finish since Shanghai in 2014. That was the last race that saw the best finishing 919 Hybrid come home in third!
The result also ended a three race winning streak by 1 Porsche and continued a run of finishes off the podium from the Championship leading #2 car to four races!
Audi meanwhile will see this as yet another ‘what might have been’ event. Loic Duval’s late race charge proved once again that the R18 is the fastest car at the moment, his 1;24.645 was a new lap record, and his post race disappointment was apparently fuelled by his observations that Kamui Kobayashi’s pace was aided on the penultimate lap by a track limits moment at T16 in traffic, this apparently the point where the gap went from around 8 tenths to c.1.5 seconds.
Rebellion Racing kept their record of winning the LMP1 Privateers title every year it has been contested in the FIA WEC.
It is though a first title for each of the three drivers in the #13, Dominik Kraihamer, Alexandre Imperatori and Mathéo Tuscher and the first title too for the #13, the #12 always having been the highest scoring Rebellion entry in previous seasons.
The #13 crew haven won six of the seven WEC races this season, the sister #12 car took the double points win at Le Mans.
Fuji saw Rebellion Racing’s tenth consecutive class win, their run stretching back to Fuji last year.
Tuscher becomes the youngest ever Champion in any FIA WEC class and, at 19 years old, the first teenage WEC Champion.
Alexandre Imperatori took the LMP1L lap record with a 1:29.901.
Dunlop incidentally claim their first LMP1 title in the FIA WEC!
After a stunning LMP2 race, possibly the best in FIA WEC history the #26 G-Drive Racing team take their first win of the 2016 season.
It’s a first WEC win for Will Stevens, perhaps surprisingly a first WEC win too for Alex Brundle but Roman Rusinov extends his record class winning total to 13 (matching that of Gianmaria Bruni and now equalled by Pedro Lamy).
It’s also the first win for G-Drive with Jota Sport in the WEC (although they have won in the ELMS together) and a fourth win in a WEC event for Jota (following two wins at Spa and one at Le Mans under their own name).
The LMP2 lap record meanwhile went to another class debutant, Alex Lynn, the GP2 star banging in a 1:32.948 in the delayed #45 Manor Oreca.
It was a first pole position and first race win for the Chip Ganassi Racing Ford UK squad. and the second Ford GT race win of the year in a WEC event after the US arm of the effort took the win at Le Mans.
Andy Priaulx is yet another man to score his first WEC race win at Fuji this year (three of the five classes saw a first time winner).
Harry Tincknell scored his third WEC class win (after two with Jota in LMP2) and becomes only the seventh driver to score class wins in both a GT and LMP classes (after Sam Bird, Julien Canal, Romain Dumas, Luis Perez Companc, Enzo Potolicchio, and Bruno Senna).
And it’s Tincknell that now holds the GTE Pro lap record too, a 1:38.575.
The win for the #98 Aston Martin makes it seven wins for Mathias Lauda in his WEC career, a nice round 10 for Paul Dalla Lana, and a class record and overall record equalling 13 for Pedro Lamy.
Lamy completes the set with a class lap record, 1:40.052, all five classes beating the record mark this year.
The fourth win of the season for the #98 Aston Martin is also a record breaking 29th for Aston Martin who again edge ahead of Ferrari in the three way battle with Porsche to claim bragging rights as the manufacturer with most class wins in Championship history.
The Championship leading #83 AF Corse Ferrari was back on form and has now finished on the podium in all but one race this season.