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Buemi Quickest for Toyota in Fuji Opening Practice

Toyota leads Rebellion in Fuji FP1 as Porsche goes quickest in GTE-Pro…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

Sebastien Buemi set the fastest lap for Toyota Gazoo Racing in Friday’s first practice session for the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Fuji.

Buemi posted his time of 1:27.373 in the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid early in the 90-minute session, which got underway in damp conditions but quickly dried out.

The Swiss driver remained at the top of the leaderboard until the end, with the next-closest competitor being Norman Nato who went second-quickest late on.

Buemi’s lap gave him a lead of 0.286 seconds over Frenchman Nato in the No. 1 Rebellion Racing R13 Gibson.

Third-quickest was Kamui Kobayashi in the No. 7 Toyota with a 1:27.790 effort, while Team LNT rounded out the five-car LMP1 field with Ben Hanley and Charlie Robertson the only drivers to turn laps in each of the Ginetta G60-LT-P1 AERs.

Fuji marks the first event in which the new LMP1 success handicap system will be applied, with both Toyotas intended to be at least a second slower per lap than they were at Silverstone, where the manufacturer scored a 1-2 result.

In LMP2, Toyota junior Kenta Yamashita led the way in the High Class Racing Oreca 07 Gibson.

The Japanese driver, who is familiar with the Fuji circuit having already raced there twice this year in Super GT, was the only LMP2 competitor to break the 90-second barrier.

Yamashita’s time of 1:29.624 put him seven-tenths clear of Nyck de Vries in the second-placed Racing Team Nederland Oreca, while Nico Lapierre lapped third-quickest in class for Cool Racing.

Fastest in GTE-Pro was Gianmaria Bruni, who like Buemi and Yamashita went to the top of his class in the early stages of FP1.

Bruni’s 1:38.315 effort put the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR, which won at Silverstone, 0.104 seconds up on his teammate Michael Christensen, who shot to second position right at the end.

This pushed the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo down to third in class with Davide Rigon posting a 1:38.707 to narrowly beat Nicki Thiim in the best-placed Pro-class Aston Martin Vantage GTE.

An Aston Martin went quickest in GTE-Am, with factory driver Jonny Adam sending TF Sport’s No. 90 Vantage to the top of the charts ahead of the MR Racing Ferrari driven by Kei Cozzolino.

FP1 passed without major incident, with the only course intervention being a brief Full Course Yellow for the marshals to retrieve a small piece of debris.

The second practice session of the weekend, again lasting 90 minutes, is set to take place at 3:30 p.m. local time (2:30 a.m. EST, 7:30 a.m. BST).

RESULTS: Free Practice 1

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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