Andre Lotterer says he’s expecting a “close fight” with Toyota in Sunday’s Six Hours of Fuji, with the forecasted rain to potentially be an equalizer between the two LMP1 manufacturers.
The German driver has been off to a quick start this weekend, topping the time charts in a rain-soaked Free Practice 1, which saw Porsche some four-tenths ahead of its LMP1 rival.
While still winless this year, largely due to team orders, Lotterer said the manufacturer’s different approaches to aero could make the expected wet race a fascinating battle.
“So far it’s been looking pretty good in those conditions,” he said. “But we don’t really know with the different [aero] concepts.
“We’re both on high downforce; typically they’re better in a straight line and we’re better in the corners.
“I don’t know how that trades off in terms of end-of-lap time performance. So we have to find a way to be better.”
Porsche enters this weekend’s seventh round of the FIA World Endurance Championship season on the string of four consecutive wins, while being undefeated with this year’s high downforce aero package, which it debuted at the Nürburgring in July.
While Toyota showed the upper hand at Le Mans, the Japanese manufacturer has yet to showcase the same pace at other tracks this year.
“For sure, the systems work differently,” Lotterer said. “Maybe we’re a bit more sorted in terms of braking and traction to compensate [in the wet].
“The gap is not huge so I expect a close fight. It’s possible that in the dry they might be a little bit stronger; we don’t know.”
While heavy rains are forecast for Sunday, strategy could come into play should there be changing conditions.
Michelin essentially has three different wet-weather tire compounds, a full wet, wet and a “hybrid” option, which is grooveless and can be used in damp and drying conditions.
“Then it becomes quite a bit of a team effort, us drivers included, picking the right time to change from one tire to another,” Lotterer said.
“The team has to find the best timing. Then it becomes a lot more random and a gamble.
“If everyone is fighting and battling, it’s fun. Hopefully no one is struggling with something because we want to have fun in the last few races.
“It’s been great racing all along. Hopefully we can have more at that.”
Team Orders Not at Play?
Lotterer believes team orders may not come into play, should Porsche run away with the race.
The German manufacturer can lock up both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ World Championships should it finish 1-2, regardless of the order, while Brendon Hartley, Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard will clinch the title if they place ahead of both Toyota TS050 Hybrids.
Despite arguably having the quicker car in the last three races, Lotterer and co-drivers Neel Jani and Nick Tandy have yet to win this year.
“I don’t think we have to worry that much anymore [about team orders],” Lotterer said.
“I think most of the job has been done to work as a team to bring them as close as possible to clinch the title.
“I think [the 2 car] has to finish ahead of the Toyota. It depends. If we’re 1-2 and the Toyota is third, there won’t be team orders; the job will be done.”
Lotterer, who moved to Japan in 2003, said he has some extra motivation to break through for his long-awaited first win with Porsche this weekend.
“On my side, it’s a race that I haven’t managed to win since the WEC calendar started,” he said.
“I was close a couple of times. I hope this year will be the one; it’s the last time with the LMP1 hybrids. Who knows what happens next year.”