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Fuji Post-Race Notebook

Post-race news and notes from round two of the 2019-20 WEC at Fuji Speedway…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

***Frits van Eerd became the first Bronze-rated driver to win an FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 race. Van Eerd, Giedo van der Garde and Nyck de Vries all won in the series for the first time on Sunday, for Racing Team Nederland.

***Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc also became first-time winners in GTE-Am, with the pair taking TF Sport to its maiden WEC victory along with Jonny Adam.

***Eastwood explained that his decision to remain on slicks during the mid-race wet period was partly motivated by his experience of the Fuji track in a Lamborghini race with Yoluc last year. The Northern Irishman told Sportscar365 that his memories of high grip in damp conditions at the venue persuaded him and the team to remain on slick rubber.

***TF Sport’s win was the first for the second-generation Aston Martin Vantage GTE in customer hands. The manufacturer’s GTE-Pro team also picked up its first dry-weather win for the car, after two previous wins in wet conditions.

***Team LNT’s Charlie Robertson posted the fastest non-hybrid lap of the race and the second-fastest lap overall, behind only the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid. Robertson posted a time of 1:27.023 in the No. 6 Ginetta G60-LT-P1 AER, coming up just 0.366 seconds short of the day’s outright best from Sebastien Buemi.

***However, the Scot’s car was penalized with a six-minute stop/hold penalty in the final hour after it was found to have breached its dry-weather tire allowance, exceeding the 18-tire limit by two.

***Luca Ghiotto told Sportscar365 that the cause of his on-track stoppage in the sister No. 5 Ginetta late in the race was caused by the car’s electrical system shutting down. The No. 5 car finished 11th overall, with the No. 6 in ninth.

***Two circuit race records fell, in LMP2 and GTE-Am. De Vries broke the LMP2 record with a time of 1:30.042 for Racing Team Nederland, while AF Corse Ferrari driver Nicklas Nielsen set a new benchmark in GTE-Am with a 1:38.108 flyer.

***Despite being classified third in class, United Autosports’ Oreca 07 Gibson endured a tough second race in the WEC with an unspecified power issue. The car shared by Phil Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Oliver Jarvis cut out on each of the three drivers over the course of the race, and finished two laps off the LMP2 winner.

***United managing director Richard Dean said: “It’s frustrating to again suffer an electrical glitch that occurred three times, each time requiring a power reboot of the car. We are going to investigate but I’m delighted to score our first WEC points.”

***In the LMP world drivers’ championship, the two Toyota crews are tied on 44 points after achieving a victory, a second-place and a pole each in the opening two rounds. In the teams’ stakes, the Japanese manufacturer leads both Team LNT and Rebellion  – which are tied – by 35 points.

***Van der Garde and Van Eerd took the LMP2 drivers’ championship lead with Racing Team Nederlands’ class victory. Their closest rivals are Cool Racing’s Antonin Borga and Nico Lapierre, who are six points behind.

***The Cool Oreca finished three laps off the LMP2 victor in fifth, after winning the Silverstone season-opener.

***In GTE-Am, the drivers’ championship is being led by Nielsen, Emmanuel Collard and Francois Perrodo, who scored their second straight podium result.

***After being bumped to the back of the grid for a post-qualifying tech infringement, Team Project 1’s No. 57 Porsche fought back to take its first GTE-Am podium with Ben Keating, Felipe Fraga and Jeroen Bleekemolen.

“When we started the season in Silverstone, we demonstrated the all-important pace for the top three straight away. Of course, the penalty was bitter, but we managed to recover a lot of ground and fight back strongly in the six hours,” Keating said.

***All three drivers in the No. 57, along with six others, are heading straight for Atlanta after Fuji to take part in Motul Petit Le Mans. The other drivers making the trip are Mike Conway, Filipe Albuquerque, Oliver Jarvis, Gabriel Aubry, James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi.

***The drive-through penalty given to the winning No. 8  Toyota TS050 Hybrid was clarified by the team’s technical director Pascal Vasselon after the race. Vasselon explained that Brendon Hartley somehow turned off the pit speed limiter when getting out of the car, during his changeover to Kazuki Nakajima. This meant Nakajima was on full-power as he accelerated away from his pit stall, resulting in the speeding violation.

***Spotted in the paddock on Sunday taking in the WEC atmosphere was recently-crowned Japanese Formula 3 champion and Super GT competitor Sacha Fenestraz.

***ACO sporting director Vincent Beaumesnil dismissed the possibility of issuing a second round of LMP2 joker updates, following the recent extension of the current formula rulebook until 2022.

“This has not been proposed,” Beaumesnil said. “There was no decision in that direction. It’s what was discussed and agreed between the teams. They don’t want us to change the chassis.”

***Joker updates were granted to Ligier, Dallara and Riley in 2018 as part of an effort to close the performance gap to the so-far dominant Oreca 07 package.

***Beaumesnil also affirmed that the ‘Hypercar’ class name has not yet been decided: “I share the view that it is a name that everyone understands, but this is just a personal opinion. I cannot give a general opinion. It is a work in progress.”

***Fuji marked the 60th race in the modern history of the WEC, which dates back to the inaugural joint race with the American Le Mans Series at Sebring International Raceway in 2012.

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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