Victory for Toyota Gazoo, Jackie Chan DC Racing and Porsche in Fuji
Toyota brushed aside penalties, spins and mechanical concerns to grab a 1-2 victory at their home race the 6 Hours of Fuji with the number 7 TS050 of Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway leading home the number 8 sister car of Fernando Alonsdo, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.
Nakajima had an easy jump over both Rebellion entries at the start, with Kobayashi making short work of the non-hybrid LMP1 field after starting from the rear of the class. By lap 3, Kamui was in second and bridging the gap to the number 8 car.
Matthieu Vaxiviere put the number 28 TDS Oreca into the lead of LMP2 during the first round of pit stops, however by the second hour, Jackie Chan DC Racing had a firm grip of the race, with Nabil Jeffri leading the Anglo-Chinese squad in the number 37 entry.
Jeffri had built a thirty second lead over the number 38 sister car after an errant spin from Stephane Richelmi while the number 36 Signatech Alpine of Pierre Thiriet was third, albeit one lap in arrears.
Aston Martin took control of the top two positions of GTE Pro. However a mixed strategy during the first two safety car periods saw the number 82 Team MTEK BMW of Antonio Felix Da Costa take the lead.
In GTE Am, Ben Barker took an early lead at the one hour mark, only to lose out during the stops to the number 88 Dempsey Proton entry of Matteo Cairoli.
Early into the first stint, the MR Racing Ferrari made short work of the brake markers into the turn 1 braking zone after a tyre blowout; scattering debris over the main straight.
The incident brought out the safety car, but the restart caught out a few runners, including the number 3 Rebellion of Gustavo Menezes, who lost control after changing to slicks a little too early and positioned a wheel on the slippery kerbs.
The incident put the 6 Hours of Silverstone winner into the wall and out of the race. Toyota opted to pit both cars which saw Jenson Button take the lead in the number 11 SMP entry. The number 17 SMP entry didn’t fare as well – losing a wheel as did the number 29 Team Nederlands entry.
The moment was short-lived though, with Toyota quickly resuming in front, but with little to separate Nakajima from Kobayashi. By the half way mark, Mike Conway – now in the number 7 car – had used the stops to perfection and built a twelve second lead over Sebastien Buemi.
Both Buemi and Alonso were both complaining of understeer in the number 8 car and neither could get any real life out of fresh tyres without having to make significant differential setting changes. All things being equal, the number 7 TSO50 was managing a slight aero issue due to contact earlier in the race allowing Alonso to close once more.
In GTE Pro, Sam Bird had brought the number 71 AF Corse Ferrari from 5th to 2nd in class to be within striking distance of Antonio Felix Da Costa’s number 82 MTEK BMW. Once Antonio pitted, Bird slotted into the lead, proving their long runs in practice were no fluke.
Disaster struck the number 71 Ferrari first with a puncture whilst Davide Rigon was at the wheel and then suspension damage after contact with the number 31 DragonSpeed LMP2 of Pastor Maldonado.
This brought the Aston Martins into play, but both AMR entries began to lose pace as the track began to dry. Kevin Estre seized the opportunity to put the number 91 GT Porsche into the lead with a handy advantage over the number 82 BMW of Tom Blomqvist. They would finish that way with the number 67 Ford of Andy Priaulx in third – however a potential penalty hung over the Ford for passing under yellows.
Kobayashi would hold sway over Nakajima to take the overall victory with the number 1 Rebellion entry of Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Bruno Senna in third. A late stop for Jenson Button saw him lose fourth to the number 4 ByKolles of James Rossiter and would need to close two seconds a lap to regain the position – a challenged that was accepted and accomplished with five minutes in hand.
Jackie Chan DC Racing were assured a 1-2 in LMP2, with the number 37 entry enjoying a one lap advantage over the number 38 sister car. Their nearest challenger, the number 36 Signatech Alpine would finish another 21 seconds away in third. It was the first all-Malaysian victory in LMP2 after the team seized pole at Silverstone.
Matteo Cairoli’s Dempsey Proton Porsche would steal 2nd from Johnny Adam’s TF Sport Aston in GTE Am, with Jorg Bergmeister taking the overall victory in the Team Project 1 Porsche.
Images: Adrenal Media
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