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Fuji Post-Race Notebook

John Dagys’ post-race notebook from Six Hours of Fuji…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

***Sunday’s Six Hours of Fuji saw 60 percent of the race either run behind the safety car or in red flag conditions, largely due to rain and fog. The race, which was called 14 minutes early, had two reds, totaling for 1 hour and 49 minutes, and more than 90 minutes of safety car conditions.

***The race also saw Slow Zones enforced for the first time outside of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with cars limited to 80 km/h on the front straight on the lap following each restart, in order to help prevent incidents in the mist and fog.

***Drivers and teams largely praised the efforts of Race Director Eduardo Freitas for getting as much of the race in, given the challenging conditions, although Toyota’s Pascal Vasselon questioned the use of local yellows twice in the first sector, due to visibility. “This is a lottery because with a yellow flag you cannot pass,” he told Sportscar365. “If you catch a GT in this area, you can spend a complete sector [getting stuck behind them].”

***Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber scored their first non-podium finish of the year, in fourth, with both Porsche 919 Hybrids struggling in the wet conditions. The trio, who were on the verge of locking up the Drivers’ World Championship last weekend, have now seen their lead reduced to 39 points over Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi, who along with Anthony Davidson, scored the win on Sunday.

***While unlikely to overturn Porsche, the Toyota driver pairing still have a mathematical shot of the title, with 52 points up for grabs in the final two races. “The only target is to win the next races,” Vasselon said. “Then the combination of points, we’ll find out at the end what it gives.”

***Davidson, like a handful of other drivers, did not drive in Sunday’s race due to the lengthy stoppages. It came four years after Toyota won the rain-shortened 2013 race at Fuji, which saw only 16 laps completed behind the safety car. “Alex Wurz said to me today, ‘Hey you’re in my club now – you managed to win a race without actually driving!” Davidson told Sportscar365.

***Ten drivers, including Davidson and LMP2 class winner Julien Canal, who either did not drive in the race or complete the required minimum drive time, have all been classified and have scored points, due to force majeure.

***Had the race restarted, both Toyota TS050 Hybrids likely would have had to pit. Nakajima’s No. 8 car had less than ten minutes of fuel remaining, while the No. 7 Toyota had a suspected slow puncture in the right-rear, according to Mike Conway.

***It could have handed the victory to the No. 1 Porsche of Nick Tandy, Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer, who is still seeking his elusive first win at Fuji, as well as with the German manufacturer. “It got close in the end,” Lotterer said. “Neel was about to pass the No. 7 and the No. 8 had to pit. A couple laps more and we would have had a different story.”

***Toyota’s Vasselon, who said the late-race tire issue for the No. 7 car could have been a measurement problem, insisted that luck didn’t play a factor into the race, which was dominated by the Japanese manufacturer. “When you have this kind of finish it can be [good] luck or bad luck,” he told Sportscar365. “In our case, we had been in the lead of the race for most of the time. I think we cannot talk about a lucky win.”

***The No. 7 Toyota rebounded from an issue with its windshield wiper in the third hour, which forced Jose Maria Lopez to make an early stop to replace the steering wheel. The Argentinean drove off course prior to the stop, due to visibility issues.

***Sunday’s win for Toyota, its third of the WEC season, came on the 20th anniversary weekend of the launch of the Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid car.

***It appeared Porsche’s tire choice ultimately caught the German manufacturer out in the race. “For us, it looked like when there was less rain we started to pick up pace,” Jani said. “When there was more water on the track, we started to lose pace compared to Toyota. Whenever there was a restart, we struggled to warm up the tires. But once we got going, we just got quicker and quicker.”

***The second, and ultimately race-ending red flag came out with exactly 75 percent of race time elapsed, the requirement for full points to be awarded. Only half points would have been issued if the overall leader did not hit the three-quarter mark. 

***With their second LMP2 class win in the last three races, Vaillante Rebellion’s Canal and Bruno Senna have closed to within 10 points of Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Oliver Jarvis, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent, who finished third on Sunday.

***The No. 37 DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson was the race’s only retirement, dropping out early with alternator issues, with the No. 13 Rebellion entry having been disqualified for David Heinemeier Hansson not driving and Mathias Beche not meeting the minimum drive time, following the Swiss driver’s heavy accident in the fourth hour.

***Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell have dropped from the lead in the GT Drivers’ World Championship to fifth following an incident-filled day for the No. 67 Ford GT, which included a pit lane penalty, two on-track incidents and a lengthy trip to the garage.

***Priaulx and Tincknell now trail new championship leaders James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi by 17.5 points, with the No. 91 Porsche duo of Fred Makowiecki and Richard Lietz remaining in second, but five points behind the AF Corse Ferrari drivers with two rounds to go.

***The auto BoP for next month’s penultimate round of the season in Shanghai will remain unchanged, due to the weather-impacted Fuji event. ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil told Sportscar365 the system does not take into account wet sessions and other variables, with the entire weekend having been run in the rain.

***GTE-Am has also seen a new championship leader in the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche lineup of Matteo Cairoli, Christian Reid and Marvin Dienst, who are now one-point ahead of Aston Martin Racing’s Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda.

***Francesco Castellacci, who scored his first WEC GTE-Am class victory in the No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE, dedicated the win to Sean Edwards, who died four years ago to the day on Sunday. Castellacci is a driver ambassador for the Sean Edwards Foundation. 

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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