Toyota claimed a dominant victory in Sunday’s FIA WEC Six Hours of Fuji, taking a 1-2 result for the pair of factory prototypes on home soil.
Anthony Davidson took the No. 8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid to a 25.627-second victory over the sister entry of Stephane Sarrazin, in a race that saw the Japanese manufacturer led virtually from the start to finish.
Pole-sitter Sebastien Buemi took control early following a frantic opening few laps that saw both LMP1-H rivals Audi and Porsche lead briefly, although unable to put together the overall pace.
An unscheduled stop for the No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Mark Webber, who had a slow puncture, saw the No. 7 Toyota of Kazuki Nakajima move into second, with the pair of TS040s never relinquishing the position in the remaining five hours.
The commanding run was rewarded with Davidson and Buemi’s third victory of the year, which sees the duo extend their lead in the Drivers’ World Championship and Toyota retake the LMP1 Manufacturers’ Championship with three rounds still to go.
The No. 7 entry of Nakajima and co-drivers Sarrazin and Alex Wurz ended up two laps ahead of the No. 20 Porsche of Brendon Hartley, Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard in third, which stretched the fuel mileage in the closing stages.
Power issues slowed both Porsches through the middle stages but showed pace in the end, with the No. 14 entry coming home in fourth and the pair of Audis finishing a distant fifth and sixth after a challenging race for the two-time and defending series champions.
LMP1-L class honors came down to a last-man-standing affair, following issues for all three of the lightweight prototypes, including an inferno for the Lotus CLM P1/01 AER in the final hour.
Christophe Bouchut escaped injury after his Lotus caught fire and nearly burned to the ground on pit lane.
The car was running second in class just moments before the leading No. 13 Rebellion R-One Toyota was wheeled to the garage with rear damper failure.
Dominik Kraihamer rejoined and limped the No. 13 car to the class win, despite briefly stopping on track with electrical issues.
Kraihamer and co-drivers Andrea Belicchi and Fabio Leimer finished 20 laps behind the overall winner in 11th. It marked the trio’s first class victory of the year.
The No. 12 Rebellion entry lost more than 50 laps early with sensor issues and turned the remainder of the race into a test session, making multiple trips to the garage.
G-Drive Racing’s Olivier Pla, Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal took top honors in LMP2, giving the Ligier JS P2 its maiden victory.
It didn’t come without a fight, as Pla got around the No. 47 KCMG Oreca 03 Nissan of Alexandre Imperatori to re-take the lead with less than 20 minutes to go after he was forced to make an unscheduled stop due to a left-rear puncture.
The OAK Racing-run entry, however, held control for the majority of the race prior to the late-race drama, with Pla having taken the lead in the opening hour after surging from fourth in class on the grid.
Imperatori and co-drivers Richard Bradley and Matt Howson settled for second in class, just five seconds behind the winning G-Drive entry, with the No. 35 OAK Morgan-Judd of Alex Brundle, Gustavo Yacaman and Keiko Ihara coming home third.
Contact was made between Yacaman’s Morgan-Judd and the No. 27 SMP Racing Oreca Nissan of Sergey Zlobin while battling for the final podium position late in the fifth hour, much to the aggravation of the Russian driver.
However, no penalty was called. The pair of SMP Racing entries completed the top-five in class.
OAK’s Ihara, meanwhile, becomes the first female driver to claim a podium finish in FIA WEC competition.
RESULTS: Six Hours of Fuji