***The FIA World Endurance Championship held a “Circuit Safari” on Saturday morning, prior to Free Practice 3, which saw five coach buses filled with fans and members of the media take to the track alongside cars running at reduced speeds. While a fixture in Super GT, it marked the first time the WEC has organized such an event.
***WEC boss Gerard Neveu hailed its first-ever Circuit Safari a success. “We were very happy to work with our local promoter to hold the first Circuit Safari in the WEC, and it’s great to hear that it was such a success for fans, teams and media alike,” he said. “We are always looking for different ways to engage with [fans]. This was the perfect solution here in Japan, and perhaps Circuit Safaris are something we will now look at doing at some of our other races around the world.”
***The pole for the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid was Earl Bamber’s first in LMP1 competition for the Kiwi, who shared qualifying duties with Brendon Hartley. “It was nice to share it with Brendon,” Bamber said. “It was a pretty special moment.”
***Traffic ultimately dashed Toyota’s hope of scoring pole on home soil, with both Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi losing time, with Buemi reportedly getting blocked by Hartley on his flying lap.
***While all LMP1 cars remained on full Michelin wet tires, a gamble for Vaillante Rebellion to switch to intermediates for David Heinemeier Hanssson’s flying lap paid off wth the car’s first LMP2 class pole of the season. “When I had to go out on the inters as the weather was coming down, I [thought] there was no way it was going to end nicely,” he said. “But the car amazingly stayed together even as the rain got worse towards the end of the session.”
***Despite rain impacting every session to date this weekend, Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon said they have no concerns of running out of wet tires in the race, with the Japanese manufacturer having a “reasonable allocation.”. LMP1 teams are limited to four sets of tires for qualifying and the race, but that rule is thrown out when the race is declared wet.
“We are not concerned to run out of tires,” Vasselon told Sportscar365. “Of course if we have six hours of intermediate conditions, maybe it will be difficult. But if we manage to spread the wets and the inters, we should have enough.”
***With only two-tenths separating the quickest Porsche and Toyota in qualifying, tomorrow’s race could go either way, according to Porsche LMP1 team principal Andrea Seidl. “We saw in free practice, depending on how the conditions are, how you hit the window with the tires and everything, Toyota is faster or we are faster. I think it’s an open battle tomorrow,” Seidl told Sportscar365.
***Seidl confirmed that team orders are “not required” anymore within the Porsche camp, as Hartley, Bamber and Timo Bernhard will clinch the Drivers’ World Championship tomorrow should they finish ahead of the No. 8 Toyota. Porsche can also lock up the Manufacturers’ World Championship with a 1-2 finish.
***The Porsche LMP1 team boss added that they’re unlikely to enact reverse team orders to help the No. 1 car of Nick Tandy, Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani move higher in the Drivers’ Championship.
***Driver selections for the Bahrain Rookie Test is set to be confirmed later this month, according to a WEC spokesperson. As in previous years, the WEC will nominate drivers to turn laps in factory LMP1 machinery, with this year’s championship-winning teams in LMP2, GTE-Pro also now required to take part with drivers selected by the promoter.
***WEC boss Gerard Neveu has confirmed that the 2020/21 LMP1 regulations must be finalized and presented to the FIA World Motor Sport Council for approval during the next meeting in early December. Neveu told Sportscar365 they’ve made continued progress in recent weeks, although declined to go into detail.
***The FIA organized a LMP1 Manufacturers’ Working Group meeting in Paris last week, in the wake of Peugeot’s decision not to commit to a re-entry into the top prototype class. It’s understood to have resulted in a re-think of the regulations.
***Watch the Six Hours of Fuji across the FOX Sports family of networks, beginning Saturday at 10 p.m. ET on FS GO. FS2 picks up coverage from 1-2:30 a.m. ET before switching to FS1 for the run to the checkered flag. Eurosport, meanwhile, will broadcast the final two hours of the race, with Mark Cole on the comms, beginning at 6:30 a.m. GMT. Click Here for the full worldwide TV distribution for the race.