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Fuji Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s first notebook from the WEC weekend at Fuji Speedway…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

***A total of 11 drivers are at Fuji Speedway straight off the back of last weekend’s Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup finale at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, including all three of TF Sport’s GTE-Am drivers. 

***Jonny Adam, Charlie Eastwood, Salih Yoluc, Andrew Watson, Miguel Molina, Davide Rigon, Norman Nato, Alex Lynn, Maxime Martin, Matt Campbell and Felipe Fraga all made quick turnarounds from the SRO European season-closer.

***Additionally, Nyck de Vries is racing at Fuji one week after clinching the FIA Formula 2 Championship at Sochi Autodrom. Ginetta LMP1 driver Luca Ghiotto also raced in Russia and traveled straight to Japan for his sports car debut.

***De Vries is set for his first WEC appearance of the season with Racing Team Nederland after Job van Uitert stood in for him at Silverstone.

***Alexandre Coigny is on-site with Cool Racing and is expected to be evaluated during Free Practice 1 as to whether he will compete with the LMP2 team after skipping the 4 Hours of Silverstone. Nico Lapierre and Antonin Borga contested both the season-opener and the ELMS 4 Hours of Spa as a pair while Coigny recovered from a hip injury sustained during the Silverstone ELMS race.

***Gulf Racing’s Porsche 911 RSR is competing in a new livery this weekend. The traditional light blue and orange Gulf scheme, which the team has used continuously since 2016, has been replaced by a matte and gloss black design with orange highlights.

***It’s understood that the reason for the change is the end of Gulf Oil’s sponsorship of the entry, which is co-driven by Mike Wainwright, Ben Barker and Andrew Watson.

***Rebellion is also running a new livery after both its cars appeared in temporary designs at Silverstone. This weekend marks the first time that Rebellion has fielded a single car in WEC since the 2016 season finale in Bahrain.

***Goodyear has been testing its wet tire compound ahead of the anticipated rainfall at Fuji. The LMP2 supplier has carried out tests on flooded tracks at Bishopscourt – a bike racing circuit in Northern Ireland – and Sebring. It also recently carried out high-speed testing at Monza without the first chicane.

***Goodyear’s manager of race sales, testing and track support Mike McGregor said: “Fuji is a very different type of circuit to the newly resurfaced Silverstone for two main reasons. It has an abrasive track surface and the final sector is very different from any other track. It has a lot of tight corners that require heavy braking but demand strong traction on the exit.”

***Felipe Fraga confirmed that the 6 Hours of Fuji will be his last WEC race of this calendar year. The Team Project 1 GTE-Am driver’s Stock Car Brasil commitments will force him to miss both the 4 Hours of Shanghai next month and the 8 Hours of Bahrain in December. It’s not yet known who will team up with Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen for those races.

***Fraga said that the allocation of his FIA driver rating, which is currently Silver, will determine what he does next year and whether he can replicate his packed 31-weekend 2019 schedule. A Stock Car Brasil return is almost certain for the 2016 national champion.

***Dempsey-Proton Racing’s all-Monegasaque driver lineup for Shanghai is set to utilize a third Porsche 911 RSR for the German team. The No. 78 Proton Competition-entered car appears on the first entry list draft with Louis and Philippe Prette named as drivers.

***The No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche is running with D’Station Racing decals at Fuji, reflecting the team affiliation of Satoshi Hoshino who is at the wheel this weekend.

***United Autosports has partnered with the ‘halow project’, a charity dedicated to supporting young adults with learning difficulties. The team will take part in a 15-car Citroen 2CV rally challenge from Hampshire, in southern England, to Le Mans and back on October 25-27.

***Founder of the halow project, Richard Meins, is a former British Touring Car Championship competitor who also contested a season of the Michelin Le Mans Cup with United last year.

***Groups of local schoolchildren got to experience the WEC paddock on Thursday and were treated to behind-the-scenes access of the teams’ garages. Some even drew motivational pictures that have been put on display outside the pit buildings.

***The paddock got in the Rugby World Cup spirit on Thursday with a place-kicking competition on the main straight. Toyota Gazoo Racing’s No. 7 crew of Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi also attended Japan’s shock victory over Ireland last weekend.

***Toyota’s Japanese drivers, Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima, took their respective mechanic crews out for dinner on Thursday, on the occasion of the marque’s home race.

***The popular ‘circuit safari’ attraction is returning this year, with all teams expected to field one car in the unique on-track opportunity which sees tourist coaches join the live circuit for a short spell before Free Practice 3 on Saturday.

***The first timed session of the weekend, Free Practice 1, is set to get underway on Friday at 11 a.m. local time (Thursday 10 p.m. EST, Friday 3 a.m. BST).

***The 2020-21 WEC calendar is set to be announced at the 8 Hours of Bahrain in December, while the drivers taking part in the revived Bahrain rookie test will be made known on Friday.

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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