Porsche’s Fuji outlook
With the Driver’s Championship all but sealed, Porsche will not be employing team orders, as it has done the past three races, unless real misfortune intervenes. The #2 car (above) now needs only to outscore the #8 Toyota here for Earl Bamber to claim his first FIA WEC Driver’s Championship and for teammates Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley to become the first double LMP1 Driver’s World Champions.
Bamber is set to make his first start today for Porsche team, with Andre Lotterer in the cockpit for the start in the #1 car. Lotterer is searching for his first win with Porsche.
Porsche thus far this weekend, has run only on full wets, while Toyota tried intermediates during Free Practice and Qualifying.
Davidson on Toyota’s shift in objective
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Anthony Davidson told DSC yesterday that while he and teammates Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima will be pushing hard in today’s 6 Hours of Fuji, the #8 duo have shifted their focus from winning the title, to scoring as many race wins as possible.
Davidson of course, has already been eliminated from the title race after missing the WEC round at CoTA due to personal reasons.
“While there’s still a mathematical chance for Seb and Kazuki to win the Driver’s World Championship, it’s looking less and less likely now, after the Porsche crew took pole today and scored another point,” he admitted. “We’re going to keep pushing, though, as much as we can, and if that puts them into a position for the championship then that’s great.
“We’re just looking to win races now though – the mood has shifted, as the Driver’s Championship is almost out of reach. We started the year brilliantly, winning at Silverstone and Spa, and yes there’s been a dip with bad luck and performances since Porsche changed to its high-downforce kit, but it feels like we can regain the momentum for the rest of the season. Fuji, Shanghai and Bahrain suit the TS050 better.”
Weather forecast improving
Whilst the weather forecast has been dire, at present, it appears that conditions will not be as bad as predicted for the race. The race organisers though, still have several strategies prepared depending on how severe and when predicted rain fronts arrive.
How points will work if it’s a shortened race
Notably, the Sporting Regulations have changed somewhat since 2013 at Fuji and the infamous WEC ‘race that never was’.
That race, heavily impacted by heavy rain and poor drainage saw the WEC cards complete only 15 laps, all under the Safety Car, before the race was finally red flagged, all cars scoring half points.
Now the cars must complete at least two laps under green flag conditions before half points would be awarded (with no points awarded if they do not do so. Half points would continue to be issued unless and until the cars complete 75% of the ORIGINAL 6 hour race distance, whether or not the race is shortened for any reason.
Also since 2013, the circuit has been improved, with additional channels to clear standing water now built into the kerbs. All drainage channels have been cleared in the days before the race meeting got underway.
Rossiter undecided on further G-Drive Racing appearances
James Rossiter is making a welcome return to the WEC this weekend in the LMP2 class with G-Drive Racing, after competing with ByKolles at the start of the season.
The Briton is unsure at present whether he will return for either or both of the remaining 2017 round following Fuji.
“There’s that possibility, I’m expecting to have the discussion with G-Drive before the race about further appearances. My calendar is clear for both, we’ll see.”
Rossiter has unique experience this season, having sampled the ByKolles CLM LMP1, alongside his full season Super GT GT500 commitments with Lexus and now, for the first time, a new generation of LMP2.
“I’d heard a lot about the new LMP2s, but I have to say that I was surprised, and a little disappointed when you compare them to a Super GT GT500 cars. The LMP1 car has more power, and you can feel that, but it’s the way that the LMP2 car only really delivers its performance at the top end, that makes it stand apart from the GT500, which has performance everywhere.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that in these conditions, a Super GT car would outperform not only the LMP2s, but I think the LMP1s as well.”
GTE news coming
News is coming as early as tomorrow on DSC of at least one additional, as-yet unannounced GTE programmes for the 2017/18 ‘Super Season’.
British GT legend in the WEC paddock
DSC’s random moment of the weekend, was undoubtedly a conversation with Gulf UK Michelin Le Mans Cup racer Andrew Baker, and his travelling companion Nigel Barrett; yes, that Nigel Barrett, the inagural British GT champion in 1993, who went on to race for the Blue Coral team in one of its Porsche 911 GT1s.
Whilst no longer racing, Barrett is still a huge enthusiast following the WEC and the other international racing closely.