***Local school children participated in Friday’s pre-event press conference, asking questions to Kamui Kobayashi, Kazuki Nakajima and Keita Sawa, the three Japanese drivers in this weekend’s race. The children posed for photos with the drivers following the press conference (pictured above).
***Despite heavy rain forecast on Sunday, the race time has been fixed. A WEC spokesperson told Sportscar365 the race will not start any earlier than the scheduled 11 a.m. local time and cannot be extended past 5 p.m. due to darkness.
***The only WEC race that didn’t run to its full length was Fuji in 2013, which saw only 16 laps completed, all behind the safety car, due to monsoon-like conditions.
***Nakajima, who won that race alongside his Toyota co-drivers Nico Lapierre and Alex Wurz, hopes they can “race properly” this year. “I just hope the weather will be OK for Sunday. I hope it’s not going to be as bad as 2013 when we just had a race behind the safety car.”
***James Rossiter, who joins G-Drive Racing this weekend replacing Alex Lynn, said he could complete the season in the No. 26 Oreca 07 Gibson. A decision is understood to have not yet been taken by the Russian-backed squad. “It’s a possibility,” he told Sportscar365. “I have quite a busy schedule but it can fit in.”
***Rossiter revealed that this weekend’s drive came in a rather unexpected way. “It came out of the blue,” he said. “Roman [Rusinov] sent me a message on Instagram, asking if I was available! That was a bit of a unique way to end up with a drive.”
***Fellow Japan-based driver Andre Lotterer has strong links to Fuji Speedway, with the German’s first test in Japan having come at the circuit in 2003. “The team told me that if they take me, I’d stay for the first half of the season, so I packed my bag just in case,” he said. “I’ve been staying there since then. I initially thought I’d just stay a year or two but it’s just gotten better and better.”
***While having signed for Teechetah for the 2017/18 FIA Formula E Championship season, Lotterer said he expects to take part in selected endurance races with Porsche, in GT machinery, as he will remain under contract with the manufacturer. “They are finding out the program now but obviously GT is the only program they have,” he said. “There’s plenty of exciting endurance races that are happening, so maybe I’ll join them.”
***Both Brendon Hartley and Sebastien Buemi have been linked to replacing Pierre Gasly at Toro Rosso in next weekend’s Formula One U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas. While Buemi spent three seasons with the team from 2019-11, it would mark Hartley’s F1 race debut. The last full-time WEC driver to take part in a F1 race was Andre Lotterer, in a one-off start with Caterham in 2014.
***Patrick Dempsey will be serving as the honorary starter on Sunday. The Porsche brand ambassador is in Japan to support the Dempsey Center charity for the fight against cancer, with the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR sporting a pink livery this weekend. Dempsey claimed his one, and only, sports car racing win to date, at Fuji in 2015.