UPDATE: After the race JOTA’s ORECA was disqualified from the results, and lost its podium, meaning the Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA inherited second place in LMP2 and United Autosports took the final podium spot.
The reason for the disqualification was because in post-race scrutineering the car’s “outside neutral switch was unable to disconnect the transmission”, a breach of the technical regulations.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s #8 Toyota TS050 HYBRID took a dominant lights-to-flag victory at the Fuji Speedway today, leading a 1-2 finish for the brand on home soil. Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley were untouchable in scoring Toyota its seventh win in eight WEC races at Fuji.
The sister #7 TS050 HYBRID finished second, but hindered by the ‘Success Handicap’ applied for its Silverstone win, Jose Maria Lopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi were never in the fight for the win, unable to extract the pace required to battle for the lead.
“It was a good race for us. There was a bit of a mistake for us in the middle of the race with a drive-through but we all had the pace and kept it clean,” said Nakajima, who now has four wins at Fuji in WEC competition.
As for the privateer cars from Rebellion Racing and Team LNT, they had the one lap pace here, but not the legs over a stint. The #1 Rebellion R-13 completed the podium, and Gustavo Menezes, Bruno Senna and Norman Nato were strong throughout, but once the race settled down gradually faded away.
Senna was able to create an entertaining opening hour though, the Brazillian getting past Kobayashi for second in at the start before spending much of the first stint battling for the second spot on the podium through traffic.
During that, Toyota’s superiority exiting corners was apparent, as was the R-13’s top-end speed. The fight between the two resulted in multiple sequences where Kobayashi had to fight past Senna who on the pit straight was able to get a tow and retake the place.
“It was fun, in the beginning, we had enough grip to keep them behind,” Senna said. “It’s a shame about the safety car as I think we could have taken the lead. I had to give them a fight, I knew once they got ahead they’d pull away.”
For Team LNT it was another outing that showed promise, but also inconsistency.
The #6 G60-LT-P1 took fourth in LMP1, after starting a lap down following its issues in Qualifying, while the #5 dropped to last in the top class.
Brake failure and puncture caused by brake cooling issues forced Ben Hanley into the garage for repairs during Hour 5. This dropped the #5 behind the delayed sister car before a six-minute stop and hold were handed to the #5 for using too many tyres, costing it further time.
Racing Team Nederland storm to LMP2 victory
LMP2 was full of intrigue, with multiple contending teams all spending time in the lead. The mixed conditions caused by light rain saw some drivers struggle and others prosper.
By race end it was Racing Team Nederland’s day, the outfit scoring its first-ever LMP2 win. It was a phenomenal result for the Dutch team in only its second race with an ORECA chassis.
When the conditions were at their worst, Giedo van der Garde and Nyck de Vries were rapid, de Vries, in particular, played a huge part in the team building enough of a lead for Frits van Eerd to defend during his time in the car.
This made it two wins out of two races for Michelin against its new competitor Goodyear, which at times looked like the stronger of the constructors.
In the final hour, after a mercurial performance by de Vries earlier in the race, the Dutchman took fuel only at the team’s final stop and had to fend off Anthony Davidson in the JOTA ORECA behind. Davidson, couldn’t catch him, instead, the Jumbo-backed car pulled away and finished 25 seconds clear at the front.
A win here followed up the team’s maiden WEC podium at Silverstone perfectly.
“Last year we were in the shadow because we were in a Dallara and the team to me wasn’t at the level it should have been racing in FIA WEC,” said de Vries, who was in the car for over three hours of the race, to DSC.
“I always put effort into my work and I expect that from those around me. Last year we weren’t on the same page, so it was the correct decision to move to TDS and the ORECA chassis. They are amazing, the car was amazing.
“I just did my job today, I was just hoping for a podium because I missed on the Silverstone occasion. To score a win with Frits is surreal really. He is so passionate about motorsport and cars, he deserves this more than any of us. I was surprised that at the last pit stop we were fighting for the win.”
JOTA finished second, ahead of the Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA (also run by JOTA), which started from pole and was a contender during Gabriel Aubry and Will Stevens’ time in the car.
Fourth place went to United Autosports, its ORECA unable to fight for a podium in the closing hours after multiple electrical issues for the team’s ORECA which caused the car to lose power and stop.
High Class Racing completed the top five and starred in this one, the one-two-punch of Toyota junior Kenta Yamashita and Anders Fjordbach was good enough to see the Danish team lead at multiple points during the race. Yamashita made moves at the start to climb to second and in the second half of the race took the lead on more than one occasion to keep High Class in the fight for a win.
Fjordbach also had a notable outing, he fought his way to the lead during a mid-race double stint and held off a hard-charging Will Stevens for a lengthy sequence.
Mark Patterson’s stint at the end, while pro drivers around him were making a late push, saw the team drop to fifth. No podium finish here but make no mistake, this was the team’s greatest race since its move into prototype racing.
After a rollercoaster season in the ELMS and a disappointing WEC debut, this strong run will feel like a victory of sorts for all involved.
Thiim and Sorensen win Pro
In GTE Pro, strategy and performance levels in tricky conditions handed this one to Aston Martin Racing’s #95 crew.
Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen didn’t put a foot wrong and opened up a big lead when the team opted not to pit for inters or wets when the rain arrived in the first half of the race like their rivals. This opened them up a lead, which the duo defended in the second half of the race.
The sister car also had a chance, after double-stinting tyres early vaulted Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin to the lead. But, a move at Turn 10 by Thiim on Lynn for the lead, and later a trip through the gravel for Martin dropped the #97 back. From there it was the Danish duo’s race to lose and they kept it clean, taking their second win with the new Vantage since the beginning of last season.
“It was really tricky in the middle when there was drizzle consistently for an hour. The grip was changing in different areas. We had to believe staying out was the right decision. I’m really happy for the team,” Sorensen said.
For the #97 duo, a third place finish was still a strong result. They crossed the line behind the best of the Porsche 911 RSR 19s, the #92 of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen which failed to reel in the leading Aston Martin late in the race.
Both AF Corse Ferraris were in the fight here, but couldn’t find a way to finish on the podium. The #51 came home fourth ahead of the #71 in fifth. The team believes a caution period cost them valuable time.
Porsche’s sister car looked strong early, led, but lost time due to a drive through for track limits which ended the challenge of pole-sitters Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz.
TF Sport triumphant in Am
GTE Am too saw a controlling performance from an Aston Martin prove too much for the competition. After coming achingly close to taking wins last season, today was TF Sport’s day.
Tom Ferrier’s team were dominant in Japan, Charlie Eastwood, Jonny Adam and Salih Yoluc (now the FIA WEC’s first-ever Turkish winner) by far the most consistent trio in the class. That was indeed the first win for the current Vantage AMR in GTE Am competition.
“We were fast in Silverstone and just didn’t get the result,” said Eastwood. “Last year we had four second places, so many times we could have got the win. It was a long time coming and a perfect race for us from start to finish.”
Behind, the Silverstone winners in the #83 AF Corse Ferrari had a strong run to second. Manu Collard, Francois Perrodo and Nicklass Nielsen were all mistakes free here and look increasingly like a title contender this season.
The #57 Project 1 Porsche, which took pole but had its laps deleted after qualifying and started at the back, took third. A set of trophies will do much to lift the spirits of Jeroen Bleekemolen, Felipe Fraga and Ben Keating after a tough start to the season.
#95 Aston Martin photo courtesy of Aston Martin Racing/Drew Gibson