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Fuji Saturday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Saturday notebook from the WEC paddock at Fuji Speedway…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

***Friday’s FIA World Motor Sport Council bulletin included confirmation of next year’s 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps date change to Apr. 25 to avoid a clash with the Formula E race in Seoul, South Korea.

***The ‘circuit safari’ returned to Fuji for the third time, in the form of a 12-minute live session before the start of FP3 on Saturday morning. In the unique on-track moment, fans packed onto coaches to be treated to the sights and sounds of WEC cars up close.

***Kazuki Nakajima set the fastest lap in qualifying, but the Japanese driver’s time of 1:24.822 was just over one and a half seconds slower than the best time from last year’s session, posted by Fernando Alonso. In addition to its powertrain-related success handicaps, the Toyota is running 28kg heavier than it did in 2018.

***Nicki Thiim went quickest in GTE-Pro qualifying for the second consecutive year, however the Aston Martin Racing driver’s 2019 time was 1.294 seconds slower than 12 months ago.

***In a reversal of the Silverstone event, which saw lap records broken in every class on the resurfaced British track, every category went slower at Fuji this year compared to last year. 

***Alexandre Coigny is on track to compete for Cool Racing tomorrow, despite not taking part in qualifying. A team comment on social media read: “Alex managed to make a long run [in practice], and although he has not yet found all his bearings – especially in fast corners – he is physically well [and] able to race.”

***Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon described operating two cars with different success handicap settings as a “real challenge” that his mechanics are relishing. “It generates a lot more work because we need to have two engine calibrations and two fuel setups, so we cannot share as much between the two cars,” he told Sportscar365. “The challenge is acceptable, and the prospect of having closer races is good for everyone.”

***The No. 6 Ginetta G60-LT-P1 AER will start tomorrow’s race from the pit lane after the car failed to set a two-driver average following Charlie Robertson’s spin near the end of qualifying. It was penalized for a quick release side door that wasn’t working properly, in a similar infraction to what stripped Team Project 1 of the GTE-Am pole.

***The car’s outside neutral switch was also found to be non-compliant because it was unable to disconnect the transmission.

***ACO sporting director Vincent Beaumesnil explained why the coefficient to determine the LMP1 success handicap amounts for each race was changed to 0.013 after the 4 Hours of Silverstone. “We decided that we had to [change it]. It was in the text that governs this, that we can change this parameter if we think it’s wrong. We don’t want to change it every weekend, but if something happens in a way that it shouldn’t, we need to be able to.”

***Toyota’s Vasselon, meanwhile, doesn’t think the coefficient should change. “The principle of success handicap is to set the rules, but the rule doesn’t change,” he said. “If you start to change it for every race, it becomes a balance of performance.”

***Kevin Estre reported that the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR didn’t incur any major internal damage after his co-driver Michael Christensen crashed it during qualifying. “No damage, which is good, but we flat-spotted the tires so we have one less set for tomorrow,” Estre told Sportscar365.

***The new GTE-Pro Porsche, which took its maiden pole on Saturday, has now experienced two high-speed spins in qualifying, after Gianmaria Bruni left the road in a big way at Silverstone.

***Aston Martin GTE-Pro driver Maxime Martin admitted that the British marque has found it tough to find the right setup on its No. 97 car this weekend. “We are struggling a bit with the brakes, on our car especially,” said the Belgian, who qualified fifth with Alex Lynn. “We are front-locking up a lot and we are just playing around, trying to find the best compromise.”

***Eurosport will broadcast the final two hours of the race live on Sunday, starting at 7:30 a.m. BST. Mark Cole and Tom Gaymor will present the English language coverage on Eurosport 1, which will include highlights of the first four hours.

***American viewers can watch the full race live on Motortrend, while British viewers can tune in via Eurosport and BT Sport. Click Here for a full breakdown of the global TV listings.

***The 6 Hours of Fuji is set to get underway at 11 a.m. local time on Sunday (Sat. 10 p.m. EST, Sun. 3 a.m. BST).

***Rain is forecast for tomorrow, with an 80 percent chance of precipitation and a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms in the Fuji /Shizuoka area.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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