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JOTA Strategy Needed “Super Short” FCY That Never Came

JOTA opted for fuel-save strategy early in 6H Fuji but unusually green race put win out of reach…

Photo: Jose Bispo

Will Stevens assessed that even a “super short” Full Course Yellow would have won the LMP2 race at Fuji for his JOTA crew, which continued its march toward the class title despite missing out on victory.

The No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson that Stevens shared with Antonio Felix da Costa and Roberto Gonzalez went on a different strategy to its LMP2 rivals in Sunday’s six-hour race, by attempting to eke out one lap extra per stint to save a pit stop at the end.

They came close to achieving that target as Stevens pitted just before 40 minutes to go, which is usually the safe point from where LMP2 cars can make the end without needing to pit again for a brief splash of fuel.

But Stevens found that he needed to come back in with four minutes to go, passing the class lead back to Robin Frijns who went on to take the win alongside his Team WRT co-drivers Sean Gelael and Dries Vanthoor.

A remarkably clean race without any safety car or Full Course Yellow interventions put paid to JOTA’s strategy plan, which could have sealed the title with a round to spare.

“We opted to try and save fuel more and do longer stints,” Stevens told Sportscar365.

“We always knew there was going to be a splash for everyone at the end, so we tried to get that as short as we could.

“We needed a Full Course Yellow: a super short one and we would have made it. That was our strategy ‘gamble’ from quite early on in the race.

“Saving that much fuel and trying to get one more lap each stint is difficult.

“We chose the right option, and I don’t think we would have done anything different on strategy if we were to re-run the race.

“I think, overall, it’s a good result for us and good for the championship, pushing into Bahrain.”

JOTA switched to its 28-lap strategy early in the contest, after just two stints.

Team principal Sam Hignett, who also felt that a short FCY would have swung the race in JOTA’s favor, told Sportscar365 that the team’s observation of a 27-lap second stint from Gelael in the WRT Oreca prompted it to go for the fuel-saving option.

WRT led the opening hour with Gelael behind the wheel, until the Indonesian driver was overtaken by Jonathan Aberdeinin the other JOTA Oreca.

The No. 38 JOTA, meanwhile, sat a couple of positions further back and opted to try something different with its strategy to reach the front.

“We purely saw where we were in the race, and that there was a potential big gain if we could do it because you can gain massively on anyone,” Stevens said.

“Once a certain part of the race had gone, the others couldn’t switch to our strategy because they would never be able to recover the lap.

“We went with what we felt could win us the race and that’s what we did all weekend. We’ve been pushing hard to win races: if we win races, we’ll win the championship.”

Stevens added that the No. 38 JOTA crew is in a “great place” heading into the 8 Hours of Bahrain season finale, with one of its hands now on the LMP2 trophy.

Stevens, da Costa and Gonzalez hold the biggest lead of any lineup in the four classes, with United Autosports’ Oliver Jarvis and Josh Pierson being their closest rivals.

“At the start of the year, if you said we would head into the final race 28 points ahead, we would have taken it,” Stevens suggested.

“Bahrain is a long race, a very tough circuit and very different. We will go there with the same mindset.

“If we perform well and we’re fighting for the podium, we don’t need to worry about anyone else. We can just do our own thing.”

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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