Brendon Hartley, Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard claimed a third consecutive WEC victory in the No.17 Porsche 919 Hybrid to emerge as the new championship leaders. The win came after a late-race call by the Porsche Team to allow Timo Bernhard through to gather another maximum score. Neel Jani in the No.18 Porsche 919 Hybrid duly obliged and allowed the No.17 car past. It was a gesture that now sees the No.17 crew head the 2015 World Endurance Drivers’ Championship by one point.
The No.18 Porsche 919 Hybrid, in the hands of Romain Dumas, had surged to the front of the field, after the Safety Car started the six hour race and stayed out to evaluate the treacherous conditions for the first 16 laps.
Dumas laid the foundations for team mates Marc Lieb and then Neel Jani to control the race, opening up a minute lead by the final hour. This was reduced substantially after Jani was adjudged to have improved a sector while under a yellow flag. The subsequent drive-through penalty and then Jani’s reduced pace, allowed Bernhard to make the move with just eight minutes of the race remaining.
52,000 thousand fans enjoyed the 6 Hours of Fuji over the weekend and they saw some incredible action throughout the classes. One of the most memorable battles was between Mark Webber and Marcel Fässler in the second hour, the two swapping positions multiple times as they fought for second place, thrilling the crowd.
The No.7 Audi ultimately lost out on the chance of challenging the Porsches when a mid-race gamble to try slick tyres on the slowly drying circuit failed to pay off. The extra pit stop and then a switch back to the Michelin Hybrid tyre ensured that they fell back behind the sister No.8 Audi R18 e-tron quattro.
Undeterred, Benoit Tréluyer set a succession of fastest laps in the final stint when the track was at its driest. Despite a brief collision with the No.88 Abu-Dhabi Proton Porsche, the Frenchman was able to take a sixth consecutive podium position for the Audi Sport Team Joest entered car.
Like Porsche, Audi made the call to switch the No.8 and No.7 Audi by calling Loïc Duval in to the pits for an extra stop in the final stages despite which the No.7 was still in a position to take the bottom rung of the podium. It was a replica of the team orders call that was made at Nürburgring in August, in an attempt to enhance the No.7 Audi trio’s title hopes.
Toyota had another tough race after the No.2 TS040 crewed by Mike Conway, Alex Wurz and Stephane Sarrazin was delayed with a cooling problem which was triggered after contact with an LMGTE car. Earlier in the race, Wurz was involved in a collision with Dumas and both cars spun but were able to re-join without losing much time.
The No.2 Toyota eventually finished sixth, behind the Davidson, Buemi and Nakajima crewed Toyota TS040 HYBRID which lost some time after serving a penalty for Davidson being adjudged to have cut the pit lane entry line in the second hour.
Rebellion Racing took its first LMP1 privateer class win since Le Mans as Mathias Beche and Nicolas Prost took the No.12 car to victory. Beche, who fought back from a drive-through penalty for overtaking under the Safety Car period at the start of the race, had an impressive race before handing over to Nicolas Prost who sealed the victory for the Anglo/Swiss team.
G-Drive takes second consecutive LMP2 win
The No.26 G-Drive Racing won the LMP2 class for the second race running, but only after a contentious and entertaining battle with the KCMG ORECA-Nissan which had gone into the race with a 13 point title lead.
Ultimately, the destiny of where the LMP2 class spoils would go came in the final hour after a titanic fight between the two G-Drive Ligiers and the KCMG car.
Julien Canal, Sam Bird and Roman Rusinov eventually took the win, but only after a collision between the No.28 G-Drive with KCMG in the last thirty minutes of the race took the ORECA out.
KCMG driver Richard Bradley had overtaken Roman Rusinov to claim the class lead but the Russian fought back strongly. The two touched several times and eventually the KCMG ORECA suffered some rear-bodywork damage.
British racer Bradley, who shared the KCMG entry with Nick Tandy and Matt Howson, returned to the track and became fiercely embroiled in a battle with the No.28 G-Drive Ligier-Nissan driven by Colombian Gustavo Yacaman. The fight, for what was the final place on the podium, ended with several contacts and Bradley being pitched into the wall and retirement.
The stewards later reprimanded Bradley for the way he had defended his position. The decision taken by the stewards was concluded after seeing video and telemetry evidence. Yacaman was not held responsible for the incident, so he, along with team mates Pipo Derani and Ricardo Gonzalez, could celebrate a fifth podium position of the season for the third place secured today.
Second place in LMP2 was the Signatech Alpine ORECA-Nissan 03R driven by Paul-Loup Chatin, Vincent Capillaire and Nelson Panciatici. Earlier in the race Chatin had led, revelling in the clearer visibility of the open-cockpit Alpine in what was the team’s most impressive race to date.
The next round of the 2015 FIA WEC takes place in Shanghai on 1st November.
Excitement and Action all the Way for LMGTE in Japan
The wet weather at Fuji provided the setting for one of the most dramatic FIA World Endurance Championship races so far this season. Played out in front of an enthusiastic crowd, which numbered 52,000 over the weekend, reigning GT World Champions Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander returned to winning ways in LMGTE Pro, and the Dempsey-Proton Porsche of Patrick Long, Patrick Dempsey and Marco Seefried took their debut WEC win today at Fuji Speedway.
A rain-soaked track meant the race started behind the safety car and for the first 38 minutes the field circulated at relatively slow speeds until it was deemed safe for the green flag to be waved.
Following an epic Ferrari / Porsche battle in the first half of the race, the non-stop action continued as the 6 Hours of Fuji entered the final stages. Toni Vilander completed a mammoth 3 hour 25 minute stint on one set of tyres before coming in during a Full Course Yellow to hand over to Gimmi Bruni and make the switch to slicks tyres earlier than some of their competitors. The strategy put them at the head of the field and Bruni was able to bring the car home to see the chequered flag one lap ahead of the rest of the field, winning for the first time since round 1 at Silverstone.
The race for second and third places on the LMGTE Pro podium was just as dramatic as the no71 AF Corse Ferrari of James Calado and Davide Rigon, which had started on pole position, came under pressure from the two Team Manthey Porsche 911s. With just 10 minutes left on the clock, Calado’s Ferrari had the no92 Team Manthey Porsche of Patrick Pilet filling his mirrors and, after some fantastic door-to-door racing, Pilet swept past Calado’s Ferrari to secure second place by just 1.9 seconds.
The no91 Porsche finished fourth to maintain Richard Lietz’s lead in the FIA Endurance World Cup for GT Drivers, with the Austrian on 110 points, now just 7 points ahead of Davide Rigon and James Calado and 16.5 points ahead of Gimmi Bruni and Toni Vilander.
The three Aston Martin Racing Vantages couldn’t compete with the pace of the Ferraris and Porsches and, after showing some early pace, they finished 5th, 6th and 7th, with the top finisher being the no95 Vantage V8 of Danish duo Christoffer Nygaard and Marco Sorensen, 2 laps behind the lead Ferrari.
The LMGTE Am victory in Japan went to the no77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche after excellent stints by all three drivers that saw the team’s first ever win in the WEC and the first podium since the 24 Hours of Le Mans where they finished second.
Patrick Dempsey took the chequered flag to the delight of Patrick Long, Marco Seefried and the rest of the team lining the pitwall. They finished 17 seconds ahead of the no98 Aston Martin Vantage of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda and one lap ahead of the no83 AF Corse Ferrari of Emmaunel Collard, Francois Perrodo and Rui Aguas.
Championship leaders SMP Racing finished in sixth, two laps down, after Andrea Bertolini had to limp back to the pits with a puncture to the left rear tyre. However, the 8 championship points plus the additional point for pole position means they maintain their lead in the LMGTE Am title race with Alexsey Basov, Andrea Bertolini and Victor Shaytar on 140 points, 29 ahead of Collard, Perrodo and Aguas.
The no50 Larbre Competition Corvette finished fourth in class, after starting the race from the back of the grid, some 20 seconds ahead of the no88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche which had been running as high as third before a puncture forced a late pitstop. The no96 Aston Martin Racing Vantage had run at the front of the field in the hands of Stuart Hall and Francesco Castellacci but fell back down the order towards the end of the race.
Ferrari extended their lead in the World Endurance Cup for GT Manufacturers with the Italian manufacturer on 228 points, 13 points ahead of Porsche with a maximum of 88 points available in the final two races.
The next race of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship will take place in Shanghai on Sunday 1 November.