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Toyota 1-2 in Fuji Opening Practice

Buemi leads FP1 in Japan; Button half a second off Toyota in best non-hybrid LMP1…

Photo: Toyota

Sebastien Buemi led a Toyota 1-2 in opening practice for the Fuji round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The Swiss driver, who shares the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid with Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso, posted a time of 1:25.847 as both Toyotas out-paced the non-hybrid LMP1 pack.

Buemi was half a second quicker than Kamui Kobayashi in the Japanese manufacturer’s sister car which was, in turn, half a second quicker than the fastest non-hybrid.

SMP Racing’s Jenson Button offered the closest challenge in the No. 11 BR Engineering BR1 AER, with the 2009 Formula 1 world champion’s best effort being a 1:26.890.

The two BR1s sandwiched the pair of Rebellion R13 Gibsons for most of the session until Stephane Sarrazin squeezed in a late flyer that moved the sister SMP car up to fourth behind Neel Jani in the No. 1 Rebellion.

LMP2 was led by Matthieu Vaxiviere in the No. 28 TDS Racing Oreca 07 Gibson, who posted a 1:30.360 to lead the class by 1.2 seconds from the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing and No. 31 DragonSpeed Orecas.

In GTE-Pro, Ford and Porsche shared out the top four positions as BMW ran off-pace despite receiving gains in the latest automatic Balance of Performance ruling.

At the front, Stefan Muecke’s time of 1:38.555 in the No. 66 Ford GT was two-tenths faster than Gianmaria Bruni in the best of the Porsche 911 RSRs, while Michael Christensen ran third ahead of Andy Priaulx.

FP1 was extended by 30 minutes to compensate for a red flag that was brought out for kerb repairs at turn 15.

BMW Team MTEK’s Tom Blomqvist was one of few drivers to improve in the additional time, although his run in the best-placed BMW M8 GTE was still 1.1 seconds off the pace in seventh, behind the quickest Ferrari and Aston Martin entries.

GTE-Am was led by the No. 98 AMR Aston Martin Vantage which Pedro Lamy put on top with his final lap.

Free Practice 2 is scheduled to get underway at 3:30 p.m local time.

RESULTS: Free Practice 1

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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