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Fuji Pre-Race Notebook

John Dagys’ pre-race notebook for FIA WEC 6H Fuji…

Photo: Vincent Wouters

Photo: Vincent Wouters

***Thousands of fans have descended upon Fuji Speedway for today’s race. Two autograph sessions were held this weekend, due to the increased demand, along with a jam-packed pit walk this morning.

***Qualifying proved to be the closest of the season, with five of the six factory LMP1 hybrids separated by 0.286 seconds, and the quickest cars from all three manufacturers within less than two-tenths. Teams are predicting it could translate into one of the hardest-fought races of the season.

***Toyota’s Pascal Vasselon believes their biggest gain has come from its switch from supercapacitor to battery storage for this year, which has particularly benefited them at this track. “You need two big boosts, which until last year we weren’t able to do them with the capacitor. It was able to do many small boosts but not big ones,” Vasselon told Sportscar365.

***Toyota has a strong record on home ground, having won three consecutive races at Fuji Speedway from 2012-14, making it the team’s most successful circuit on the WEC calendar. The Japanese manufacturer has been on the podium four times this year but is searching for its first win since Bahrain 2014.

***2015 Le Mans winners Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber are the leading candidates to replace the retiring Mark Webber, according to Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl, who reaffirmed their commitment to promoting exiting Porsche drivers rather than bringing someone in from the outside.

***Seidl said he still remains in contact with Juan Pablo Montoya but is unlikely to be in the frame for the seat. “Juan Pablo is a world class driver,” he said. “He was impressive what he did in the Bahrain test last year. For sure he’s an interesting guy to have in our car but I think the priority will be with the Porsche drivers we have on board first.”

***Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich has given high marks on Antonio Giovanazzi, who has been selected to test the Audi R18 in next month’s WEC Rookie Test. “We know him; he’s already been working with us in DTM and we are quite convinced he’s really one of the big talents and it’s great if there’s a chance we can put him into our sports car,” he said.

***Ullrich said a decision on Rene Rast’s program for next year has not yet been made. The German ace is filling in for Mattias Ekstrom in this weekend’s DTM season finale, thus missing his first WEC race of the season. “He’s proved that wherever we put him he’s very fast. If it fits, we can have him race in any category.”

***Watch the Six Hours of Fuji on the FOX Sports family of networks. FOX Sports GO will cover the first three hours (Sat. 10 p.m. – Sun. 1 a.m. ET), with FS2 picking up coverage from 1-2 a.m. before switching to FS1 for the final two hours at 2-4 a.m.

***Eurosport will show live coverage of the last 90 minutes of the race. UK viewers can tune in, beginning at 7:30 a.m. BST on Eurosport 2 for commentary from Mark Cole and Stuart Hall. International viewers can watch the English-language coverage on Eurosport 1.

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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