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BERNHARD: Fuji Debrief

Timo Bernhard files his latest Sportscar365 column following Fuji…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

I love coming to Japan. I instantly liked the country after my first race there last year, not just because of the Japanese fans but also because of our podium finish in 2014.

The only other time I’ve driven the track was in 2006 as an instructor for the Japanese Carrera Cup where drove the Porsche 911 Type 997, but I only got to see it in the rain!

The circuit has a variety of different characteristics. The track surface is rather slippery and I enjoy the combination of a long straight and tight corners.

The weekend started out with us splitting the strategy in practice, and trying lots of basic setup changes.

We had different aero packages on the two cars, but it didn’t take us long to decide to go for the higher downforce configuration, which cost us top speed but it makes the car much better to drive around the high speed corners.

We were happy with our choice when we topped the timesheets in second practice.

Saturday’s qualifying went very well for us. Mark and I were on driving duty and he put a great lap in and I was pleased with mine too although I lose a little bit of time in the first sector.

Our sister car and the Audis were very strong so we were very happy to be on pole.

The race didn’t get off to the best start as after having had great weather all week conditions had changed a lot and Mark started the race behind the safety car.

Once the race got underway Mark had a slip and went off the track and we lost a few places.

The Audis managed to get a good lead but Mark caught back up with the No. 7 Audi and our sister car who were fighting for first, with the No. 18 car taking the lead.

After 81 laps Mark pitted as the full course yellow came out for an LMP2 incident and Brendon got in the car and took on a set of intermediate slick tires.

He was a bit unlucky with the traffic after the and got passed by the No. 7 Audi, but it didn’t take Brendon long to repass André (Lotterer).

I got in the car on lap 160 and then with thirty minutes to go there was a full course caution which caught out our sister car who ended up with a drive through penalty.

We passed them just before the end of the race and sealed another 1-2 for Porsche.

It would have been the day of our sister car and they deserved the win, but we are grateful for the full points as we had a difficult day.

We managed to achieve our target of a 1-2 result for the manufacturers’ championship which for me was the most important thing.

There’s still a long way to go to win the title as we have two more six-hour races in China and Bahrain ahead of us.

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