Drivers are expecting to face “really tricky conditions” in tomorrow’s Six Hours of Fuji, should the race not be halted altogether due to rain, which is again in the forecast for the third consecutive day.
FIA World Endurance Championship competitors have battled the weather since the start of on-track activity, with all three Free Practice sessions and qualifying having been impacted by steady rain.
The forecast for Sunday calls for the heaviest showers of the weekend, bringing the likelihood of standing water and visibility issues, which has been the primary concerns among drivers throughout the sessions so far this weekend.
Some are even questioning whether the race will go ahead as scheduled, should conditions deteriorate and potentially pose a safety risk.
“Hopefully it will be good enough to race,” Porsche GT Team’s Kevin Estre told Sportscar365.
“Our tires are good, they survive well under heavy rain. But there was one point where in FP2, it was too much. It was tough; we had a lot of aquaplaning.
“For me, the start [of the race], having a lot of cars behind each other, is going to be really hard. In practice, you can back off and give some gap but in the race, you race.
“I think it can be really, really tricky conditions. And to make the call to race or not, I think it’s going to be hard.”
More than a half an inch of rain is expected on Sunday, in what brings back memories of the 2013 race at Fuji, which was called after just 16 laps, and run entirely behind the safety car.
“You’ve got to look at safety,” said Porsche LMP1 driver Nick Tandy. “It sounds obvious but there were times in practice where it got red-flagged.
“It wasn’t raining that hard. You see the standing water; we’re not going slowly.
“If it does really rain hard at some point, I hope we do as much as we do, whether it’s keeping under the safety car, to try and do as much as possible.”
The rain-shortened Fuji round from four years ago led to changes in the allocation of points, should a race not run to the full distance.
Full points will be awarded should the leader complete more than 75 percent of the original race time, with half points given if more than 2 laps, but less than 75 percent is run, and no points for races that are abandoned after less than two laps.
Additionally, a minimum of two green flag laps by the leader is required for points to be scored.
Alex Brundle, who took part in the rain-soaked 2013 event, believes the WEC has made sufficient steps forward in the years since, particularly through its partnership with Meteo France, which has brought real-time weather reporting.
“I think things have moved on a bit since then,” Brundle said. “Some of the ways Free Practices have been managed here have been pretty good.
“To maximize the green flag running, good calls have been made.
“But at the end of the day, if there’s too much rain for a race car to circulate, there’s nothing they can do about it.”
While realizing the likely challenge ahead, WEC CEO Gerard Neveu said they will do everything possible to ensure a full-distance race but stressed they will not take any undue risks.
“We will do the race in the safest condition as possible,” Neveu told Sportscar365. “This is a World Championship and it’s professional drivers and officials. We’ll take [any] decision together. We’ll find a way, for sure.”