***Mark Webber has effectively ruled out a one-off driving appearance in the future, following his decision to retire from racing at the end of this season. “At the moment I say it’s incredibly unlikely,” he told Sportscar365. “It would need to be in a Porsche…. I can’t imagine what type of racing I could do. I would be very unlikely to do something in GT.”
***Audi’s future involvement in the FIA World Endurance Championship is unclear, following a report from leading German publication Auto Motor und Sport indicating that the German manufacturer could withdraw from LMP1 at the end of the 2017 season. Journalist Marcus Schurig cites evidence pointing that a decision to end the program could have already been made but not yet announced.
***The No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid lost over an hour in FP1 due to a gearbox change for the front axle’s electro motor due to an oil leak. Despite the setback, team principal Andreas Seidl said they were able to almost complete their planned program on Friday.
***Alex Lynn, who makes his sports car racing debut this weekend, has been confirmed in the No. 45 Manor Oreca 05 Nissan for the remainder of the season. The 23-year-old Englishman, a Williams F1 development driver, currently sits ninth in the GP2 championship and has been linked to a high-profile prototype program for next year.
***Sean Gelael becomes the first Indonesian driver to compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The 19-year-old GP2 ace is also the fourth youngest to compete in the series, following Matt McMurry (16, 2014), Mathaeo Tuscher (18, 2015) and Nicolai Sylvest (19, 2015).
***Toyota’s Kamui Kobayshi makes only his third start at Fuji Speedway. The ex-Formula One driver took part in the rain-shortened 2013 race in an AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia. “It’s great to be back because it’s a home race for Toyota,” he said. This weekend marks the first time Toyota has used two Japanese drivers in its lineup at Fuji.
***Porsche could mathematically clinch the Manufacturer’s World Championship this weekend. The German manufacturer, which currently holds a 53-point lead over Audi, will need to have at least an 88-point advantage heading into the final two rounds in order to lock up the title. It would, however, require a retirement from at least one of the Audi R18s in the race.
***Interest is building for the end-of-season Rookie Test at Bahrain on Nov. 20, with at least one LMP1 manufacturer already having locked in a star driver from LMP2. It’s understood that both Signatech Alpine and RGR Sport will also test up-and-coming talent in their LMP2 cars.
***Dallara has contracted former Rebellion Racing driver Andrea Belicchi as the test and development driver for its new LMP2 car. The Italian took part in the Gibson-engined prototype’s first shakedown and tests earlier this month.
***Eurosport has been named the exclusive media rights partner of the ACO and WEC, which will see the TV network continue live coverage of the championship and 24 Hours of Le Mans through the 2020 season. “We’re very focused on developing TV coverage of the Le Mans 24 Hours and the FIA WEC, and we gave an undertaking to our partners to achieve this,” said ACO President Pierre Fillon.
***A memorial was held yesterday in the Fuji Speedway media center to honor Ietoshi Kaneko, who died suddenly last month. The entire Larbre Competition was present, along with Romain Dumas, a longtime friend of Kaneko-san. A photo wall is in place in the Larbre pit. Nei Kaneko, the daughter of Kaneko, is present this weekend in Fuji.
***The 2017/2018 Asian Le Mans Series schedule, as well as the 2017 Asian Le Mans Sprint Cup calendar, will be announced during the 2016/2017 season-opening round at Zhuhai later this month. A total of 33 cars are entered for the upcoming four-round championship, nearly triple from last year’s full-season entry.
Laurent Mercier contributed to this report