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Fuji Post-Race Notebook

Post-race news and reaction from round four of the FIA World Endurance Championship…

Photo: MPS Agency

***Toyota’s victory on Sunday was its sixth in seven races at Fuji. The Japanese manufacturer also took its second 1-2 at the event after finishing first and second in 2014.

***Kamui Kobayashi said the winning No. 7 Toyota crew needed to gamble on its tire strategy at the start of the race, to get close to the pole-sitting sister car after starting eighth.

“We had to take some risks on strategy, that is why we didn’t take the extreme wet tire [at the start],” he said. “I think we were then a bit late on the inter tire, so we decided to jump on to dry tires and we gained a lot of positions during the safety car. In the end, we could [close] the margin to car eight.”

***The result marked Kobayashi and Conway’s first victories since Fuji 2016, while Lopez collected his first-ever WEC winners’ trophy.

***The Equivelence of Technology measures put in place before and during the weekend were a step in the right direction, according to Rebellion Racing vice-president Calim Bouhadra.

“The differences in performance between us and [the] Toyota hybrids are still visible but we are going in the right direction with the changes made by the ACO and the FIA,” he said. “I want to thank them for listening to us, and the whole Rebellion Racing team hopes to come back even stronger in Shanghai.”

***Rebellion’s third-placed No. 1 car driven by Andre Lotterer, Neel Jani and Bruno Senna finished four laps down on the Toyotas, with its fastest race lap being 1.478 seconds off the quickest lap of the race – a 1:25.603 set by Jose Maria Lopez.

***The fastest non-hybrid LMP1 lap was a 1:26.786 posted by Jenson Button in the No. 11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 AER.

***Dempsey-Proton Racing lost its GTE-Am class podium after its No. 88 car was found to have slipped under the minimum refueling time. Both the team’s Porsche 911 RSRs were punished with post-race time penalties.

*** Team Project 1 moved up to second in the GTE-Am standings with its first-ever class victory. The German squad is now 14 points behind Dempsey-Proton Racing’s No. 77 Porsche, which only scored four points after finishing down in eighth.

***In the LMP drivers’ world championship, the No. 7 Toyota crew is now second after the No. 3 Rebellion crashed out in the first hour. Lopez, Kobayashi and Conway are 13 points behind team-mates Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.

***The top three crews in the LMP2 drivers’ table are now separated by just one point. Victory for the No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing entry puts it on 86 points – the same as its sister No. 38 car – while third for Signatech Alpine places it on 87 points heading to Shanghai.

***Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen extended their GTE world championship lead to 31 points with their second win of the season and their fourth consecutive podium. Closest rivals Stefan Muecke and Olivier Pla only managed to finish sixth after their Ford GT was spun around by the Clearwater Racing Ferrari.

***Estre described the race as a “rollercoaster” for his team: “The first stint didn’t feel good and I think we were on different tyres to the others. It was a proper rollercoaster and after that first stint we made a good call for the second stint under safety car, and then the car was improving over every stint.”

***Porsche won each of the three GTE/GTLM races held this weekend. Seven hours after the CORE-run IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship crew won Motul Petit Le Mans, the German manufacturer took wins in both WEC GTE categories.

***The No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR and No. 47 Signatech Alpine A470 Gibson are the only cars to have been classified in the top three at every so far race this season.

***BMW took two podiums at the weekend as Tom Blomqvist and Antonio Felix da Costa gave the BMW M8 GTE its first WEC podium. Blomqvist, who was standing in for the DTM-bound Augusto Farfus, said the team “had to be happy” with the result, which included setting the fastest lap.

“We thought we would be a bit more competitive here but you never know until you arrive,” he said. “In practice, we struggled but we made good progress and then qualified on the front row. Ultimately, the win was out of reach today so we have to be happy with P2.”

***After qualifying first and third, Aston Martin’s new-generation Vantages performed well in the early wet conditions but tailed off in pace as the track dried out. Both cars stayed on wet tires during the safety car period while their GTE-Pro rivals took slicks, shortly before conditions improved rapidly in the second hour.

***Aston Martin Racing managing director John Gaw said: “We still have work to do in dry conditions across a full stint. We have taken more data from this weekend to go back and analyze fully to find out how we close the gap in these conditions.”

***Shoma Takaya won the Asia-Pacific round of the Le Mans esports series, which took place during Sunday’s WEC race. Takaya beat nine other competitors on Forza Motorsport 7 around a virtual rendition of Suzuka to book his place in the Super Final at Le Mans next June.

***Lap records fell in three of the four classes. Anthony Davidson’s qualifying effort of 1:28.011 in the DragonSpeed Oreca 07 Gibson is the new LMP2 best, while Nicki Thiim set a GTE-Pro record of 1:35.884 in the No. 95 Aston Martin.

***In GTE-Am, Matt Campbell’s 1:36.992 eclipsed Pedro Lamy’s 2016 record by two seconds.

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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