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Hartley Out Front at Halfway as Light Rain Arrives

No. 8 Toyota continues to control 6H Fuji; Aston Martin running 1-2 in GTE-Pro…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

Brendon Hartley maintained the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid’s lead in the 6 Hours of Fuji as the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship reached its halfway point.

The New Zealander was almost 40 seconds ahead of Mike Conway in the Japanese manufacturer’s No. 7 car heading into the fourth hour, having led since taking over the No. 8 machine from Sebastien Buemi.

Buemi, who started from pole, built up a 21-second gap to the second-placed Toyota in the opening stint, which Hartley expanded on in the second and third hours.

At the turnover between hours two and three, the lead Toyota got past the No. 1 Rebellion R13 Gibson to put the highest-placed LMP1 non-hybrid a lap down.

Norman Nato is currently safe in third, with the Rebellion driver a lap ahead of the fourth-placed No. 5 Team LNT Ginetta G60-LT-P1 AER with Luca Ghiotto at the wheel.

Light rain started to fall as the first half of the race drew to a close, with the slippery conditions changing the shape of the LMP2 lead battle.

Anders Fjordbach was out front in the No. 33 High Class Racing Oreca 07 Gibson, but the Danish driver skidded wide to allow Will Stevens through in the No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca.

Phil Hanson also profited, with the United Autosports driver moving the No. 22 Oreca up to second past Fjordbach, but the Englishman had a lurid moment of his own just a few moments later.

This left Stevens clear with a seven-second lead, while Fjordbach assumed second ahead of Racing Team Nederland’s Nyck de Vries, who drafted past Antonio Felix da Costa on the main straight shortly before the positions all changed.

In GTE-Pro, Aston Martin Racing took control of the class contest with the British marque’s cars running first and second shortly before the end of hour three.

After Marco Sorensen took the lead from Porsche’s Gianmaria Bruni at the end of the first hour, the Dane’s No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE slid to fourth in the pits.

A quick stop for the No. 97 Aston crew set Alex Lynn out front, with the two Porsche 911 RSRs in between. One of those was taken out of the battle with a drive-through penalty for track limits, while Sorensen’s co-driver Thiim overtook Kevin Estre for second.

Thiim then set his sights on the lead and completed his car’s miniature recovery with a well-timed lunge down the inside of Lynn into the chicane.

An Aston Martin crew also led GTE-Am at halfway, with TF Sport continuing to dominate the class after stints from Salih Yoluc and Charlie Eastwood.

With three hours gone, Eastwood was running second, but held the net lead with the on-track leading No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo still to make its third stop.

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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