With half the WEC race run in Japan, Toyota Gazoo Racing’s TS050 HYBRIDs have moved into dominant positions up front, a lap clear of the rest of the field now, after two hours of green-flag running.
The #7 and #8 have switched places at various points, but with three hours to go it’s the #7 that leads the way with Mike Conway now at the wheel, leading Sebastien Buemi in the #8 by 11 seconds.
Third, and now a lap down is the sole-remaining Rebellion R-13 of Bruno Senna, which is 20 seconds clear of the best of the SMP Racing BR1s, the #11, driven by Vitaly Petrov that sits fourth. The #11 led into Hour 2 with Jenson Button driving, but faded away pretty quickly as the track dried and the team struggled to find car balance.
In LMP2, it’s now a Jackie Chan DC Racing 1-2 with the field now shaken out, the #37 leads the #38 with Weiron Tan now behind the wheel of the leading car, 35 seconds ahead of Gabriel Aubry. The Signatech Alpine A470 is third, after Nicolas Lapierre made a bold move up the inside of the TDS Racing ORECA at Turn 1 (which is now fourth) in the second hour.
GTE Pro continues to be a thriller, with four of the five marques having led the class at some point. As it stands BMW’s #82 M8 GTE is in the best shape, the car’s performance improving as the track dried out. Tom Blomqvist is now driving after Antonio Felix Da Costa’s rollercoaster opening stint.
Sam Bird is reeling Blomqvist in though, and is just 2.4 seconds behind after a storming drive through the field in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari, his best move round the outside of Michael Christensen’s #92 Porsche round the outside at Dunlop.
Third is the #67 Ford now, Andy Priaulx having also slipped past Christensen who is down to fourth. The two Aston Martins, running an alternative strategy, have dropped to the back of the field since the track dried.
GTE Am has also been eventful, the battle for the class lead between Spirit of Race’s #54 Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella and the Gulf Racing Porche of Ben Barker providing much entertainment in the second hour.
Now though, the #88 Dempsey Proton Porsche holds the lead, with the Clearwater Ferrari second and the Spirit of Race Ferrari third. Clearwater is expeted to have to serve a penalty though in Hour 4, after Weng Sun Mok hit the side of the #66 Ford at Turn 1 while trying to get past the Spirit of Race 488 for second.
Further down the order, drama struck the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche in Hour 3, Julien Andlauer suffering mechanical issues which have forced the car into the garage. Bad news for the Am points leaders.