Toyota Gazoo Racing held a 1-2 after one hour of racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship round at Fuji, after being split by Rebellion Racing’s Bruno Senna early on.
Senna led Kamui Kobayashi for the first 20 minutes of the six-hour race after getting past the No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid with a lunge into Turn 3.
The Brazilian continued to hold off the Silverstone-winning Toyota – which has a 1.4-second success handicap this weekend – for several laps before Kobayashi eventually got past not long before the half-hour mark.
Their entertaining battle saw Kobayashi repeatedly accelerate past Senna heading onto the long main straight at Fuji Speedway, only for the Rebellion to draft past the Toyota with its higher top-end speed.
This all enabled Sebastien Buemi to build a clear advantage in the opening stint, with the No. 8 Toyota driver rounding out the opening hour 23 seconds ahead of Kobayashi.
The gap between the No. 7 Toyota and the sole Rebellion had swelled to 21 seconds by the start of hour two, while the No. 5 Team LNT Ginetta G60-LT-P1 AER ran a further 20 seconds back in fourth.
Egor Orudzhev made a good start and briefly moved up to second with a sweep around Senna and Kobayashi into Turn 1, but lost ground in the following corners.
In LMP2, Giedo van der Garde made a brilliant getaway to put the Racing Team Nederland Oreca 07 Gibson into the class lead despite starting seventh out of eight entries.
With one hour complete, the Dutchman had a 23-second advantage over Kenta Yamashita in the High Class Racing Oreca, with Gabriel Aubry running third for Signatech Alpine.
The GTE-Pro category saw three changes for the lead in the opening stint, with pole-sitter Gianmaria Bruni being overtaken by Ferrari’s Alessandro Pier Guidi on lap one.
But Bruni repaid the favor in his Porsche 911 RSR, diving underneath the Italian into Turn 1 half an hour in, only for Marco Sorensen to put the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE out front later on.
Before the first round of pit stops took place, Sorensen led Bruni by less than a second, with Maxime Martin third in the sister Aston, ahead of Bruni’s teammate Kevin Estre and the two AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evos.
Salih Yoluc dominated the opening hour in GTE-Am, with the TF Sport Aston Martin driver working his way into a near half-minute lead.
The class produced a brief early safety car period on lap one, which occurred after Satoshi Hoshino careered into the side of the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage driven by Paul Dalla Lana as they entered the chicane.