Saturday, 13 October 2018

FIA WEC: Pole postion for Toyota and Aston Martin in Fuji

After a dramatic qualifying session, Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi in the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid claimed pole position for their home race in Fuji tomorrow. 

© Joao Filipe/

Initially, the #7 Toyota of Jose Maria Lopes and Kamui Kobayashi earned pole position when Sebastian Buemi saw his best time being deleted due to track limits violation. But when Lopes entered the pitlane too fast after his flying lap, his only laptime was deleted, forcing them to the back end of the LMP1 grid. An average laptime of 1.23.648 put the #8 on pole then for tomorrow’s race. 

© Rebellion Racing

Quickest of the non-Hybrids and on front row tomorrow was the #1 Rebellion R13 of André Lotterer and Neel Jani with an average time of 1.24.359, 0.711 seconds shy of the Toyota. The #3 sister car of Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes will be third on the grid and ova the #17 SMP Racing BR1 of Egor Ordhzev and Stephane Sarrazin next to them. Row three will be filled by the #11 SMP Racing and the #4 ByKolles Eens CLM/P1 while Dragonspeed will have the second Toyota next to them on the fourth row of the grid. 

After the free practice sessions, the non-hybrid LMP1’s have been given an extra EoT break in a new attempt to make them more competitive against the Toyota’s. The normally aspirated cars (Rebellion, Dragonspeed) now have an increased fuel weight per stint (55,5 kg vs 54,4 kg), the turbo powered LMP1’s (ByKolles, SMP Racing) also got an increased amount of fuel up to 50,3 kg. Also the maximum amount of petrol energy per lap has been increased for all non hybrid cars. 

© Joao Filipe/

In the LMP2 class, Anthony Davidson and Roberto Gonzalez scored the first pole position in the FIA WEC for Dragonspeed. Their average laptime of 1.28.906 in the #31 Oreca held off both Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca’s; the #38 of Stephane Richelmi and Gabriel Aubry and the #37 of Jazeman Jafaar and Nabil Jeffri.  Championship leaders Signatech Alpine were fourth fastest, TDS Racing completing the top 5 for Oreca once again.  Racing Team Nederland (Dallara) and Larbre Competition (Ligier) took sixth and seventh place. 

© Aston Martin Racing

Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen claimed pole position in the LMGTE Pro class with their #95 Aston Martin,  the first pole position for the new Aston Martin Vantage. With an average laptime of 1.36.093, the “Dane train” outpaced the surprising #82 BMW M8 GTE of Tom Blomqvist and Antonio Felix Da Costa (1.36.275). The second Aston Martin (#97) of Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn took the third sport on the grid and will have the #67 Ford GT of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell next to them.  Rounding out the top 5 was the first Ferrari, #71 of Davide Rigon and Sam Bird. The Porsches who had been top runners in all practice sessions had a bit a disappointing session, only managing 8th and 10th place on the grid. Qualifying in the Pro class was very close again with all ten cars in just over a second.   

© Porsche

Dempsey Proton Competition scored its second pole in the Super season with the #88  of Matteo Cairoli and Satoshi Hoshino. Quite a debut for the 57 year old Hoshino in the FIA WEC. Their combined average laptime of  1.38.366 was just 0.064 seconds quicker than Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana in the #98 Aston Martine Vantage. Third fastest was the second Proton Porsche of Matt Campbell and Christian Ried. 

The start for the 6 Hours of Fuji will be given at 11h00 on Sunday morning local time, that’s 4h00 CET so an early morning wake up call if you want to watch the race in Europe (or a short night if you’ve survived Petit Le Mans on Saturday evening/night). 

Friday practice sessions

© Toyota Gazoo Racing

Toyota also set yesterday’s pace with Fernando Alonso (#7) on top of both free practice sessions. Alonso set a best time of 1.23.973 in the afternoon session, just over a second faster than Jose Maria Lopez in the #7 TS050 Hybrid. 

All laptimes in the second session were significantly faster as the morning session was driven on a damp and drying track. Issues with some of the kers disrupted both practice sessions though, both sessions being red flagged for some time to deal with damage to some kerbs which had to be removed. The quickest non-hybrid LMP1 was the #3 Rebellion of Thomas Laurent.  Despite the new BoP which was introduced for the race weekend in Fuji, the gap with the leading Toyota was still just over 1.7 seconds (1.25.697). Jenson Button put his #11 SMP Racing BR1 on fourth place. 

© TDS Racing

In LMP2, Matthieu Vaxiviere set the quickest time over both 90 minute sessions with a 1.30.630.  Vaxiviere’s time was the only one from the first practice session which wasn’t improved in the afternoon session. Freshly crowned Le Mans champions Signatech Alpine Matmut were second fastest, Andre Negrao just 0.050 seconds off the TDS Oreca. Third quickest was Silverstone winner Ho-Pin Tung in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing.  Nyck De Vries in the #29 Racing Team Nederland was the fastest non-Oreca driver in sixth place overall. 

© Aston Martin Racing

Nicki Thiim in the #95 Aston Martin Vantage was the man to beat in LMGTE Pro yesterday. His time of 1.37.659 was 0.162 seconds faster than Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford GT who held off Davide Rigon in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari.  Both Porsches followed in fourth and fifth. Despite their BoP adjustments, the BMW’s didn’t get any further than 8th and 10th on Friday, although all GTE Pro cars were within a margin of 0.845 seconds. 

© Joao Filipe/

Dempsey-Proton racing set the pace in the LMGTE Am class, with the #77 of Matteo Cairoli quickest in 1.38.989 ahead of Matt Campbell in the #88 sister car. The #61 Ferrari F488 GTE of Keita Sawa was third fastest in the shadow of Mount Fuji, leading the two other Ferrari’s of Spirit of Race and MR Racing. 

Qualifying results LMP1/LMP2
Qualifying results GTE

Results Free Practice 1
Results Free Practice 2
Results Free Practice 3

Kristof Vermeulen.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

FIA WEC: 6 Hours of Fuji preview

The FIA World Endurance championship arrives in Japan this weekend for the fourth race of the 2018/2019 Super season. 34 cars are due to start in the seventh edition of the 6 Hour race in the shadow of Mount Fuji. 

Toyota arrives at their home race leading the championship with the #8 TS050 Hybrid of Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima on top with 65 points after 3 races. After Toyota’s disqualification in Silverstone, the Rebellion #3 of Thomas Laurent, Gustavo Menezes and Mathias Beche is now second in the championship, only 2 points behind the leading Toyota.  The #7 Toyota is third with 46 points so far.  Will Rebellion be able to keep up with the Toyota’s this weekend after the updated Balance of Performance (see below) ?  If so, the race for the championship might be open again.

Dragonspeed will run its BR1/Gibson with just two drivers this weekend.  With Henrik Hedman and Pietro Fittipaldi both to miss the 6 hours of Fuji, team regular Ben Hanley will be joined by James Allen.  The 22 year old Australian driver will make hes debut in the LMP1 class after 2 succesful seasons in the ELMS with Graff.  The crew of the #11 SMP Racing is back to its usual line-up with Matevos Isaakyan joining Stéphane Sarrazin and Egor Orudhzev again in the AER powered BR1.  

Oliver Webb in the #4 ByKolles will be joined by Tom Dillman and James Rossiter. Where as the first provisional entry list for Fuji featured one AER powered Ginetta, that car is now gone from the list, the team missing their second race in succession in the championship. 

In LMP2 it’s Signatech Alpine Matmut who arrives in Fuji as championship leaders, after being declared Le Mans winners last week. The #36 Alpine of Nico Lapierre, André Negrao and Pierre Thiriet has a lead of 4 points over the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing of Silverstone winners Ho-Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry and Stéphane Richelmi. The second Jackie Chan Oreca, #37, is third in the championship with 61 points. 

TDS Racing has to replace Loic Duval in their Gibson powered Oreca 07 for this weekend, the Frenchman on DTM duty for the season finale at Hockenheim. He will be replaced by Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne. There’s also a driver change to be noted at Larbre Competition where Keiko Ihara will race next to Romano Ricci and Erwin Creed in the #50 Ligier.  

The championship lead in the GTE Pro class is for the Porsche #92 of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen with 71 points. They have a lead of 14 points over Olivier Pla and Stefan Mücke in the #66 Ford GT. The Ferrari #51 of Allesandro Pier Guidi and James Calado are in third positiion so far with 43,5 points. 

Only one driver change to be noted in the GTE Pro class: Augusto Farfus will also race at the DTM finale in Hockenheim and is being replaced by Tom Blomqvist who returns to the #82 after Le Mans. 

Porsche also leads the GTE Am class, with the #77 Proton Competition of Christian Ried, Julien Andlauer and Matt Campbell scoring 76 points so far. The #61 Clearwater Ferrari is second with 43 points, with the Team Project 1 Porsche just 2 points behind.  

Gianluca Roda won’t race the #88 Proton Competition Porsche in the GTE Am class, his place will be filled by Japanese driver Satoshi Hoshino.  Gulf Racing UK also has a new driver in the #86 Porsche: Austrian Thomas Preining will takes Alex Davison’s place and make his debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship.  

Balance of Performance adjustments

In the latest bulletin of the FIA WEC Endurance Commission, several adjustments for the Balance of Performance (BoP) have been announced for the 6 Hours of Fuji this weekend. 

The Toyota TS050 Hybrids will have to carry 26 kg of extra weight with them, now up to a minimal weight of 904 kg, while the non-hybrid LMP1’s have a minimum weight of 818 kg for the atmospheric cars and 833 kg for the turbocharged ones.  It seems as Toyota has given its consent for these adjustments as the regulations for the Super season clearly stated their would be no changes to the specs of the TS050 Hybrid.

The two lap stint advantage over the non-hybrids has also been dropped due to a fuel allocation increase for the non-hybrid cars and adjustments to the refueling restrictors, which should equalize the refueling times for all LMP1’s. 

Both GTE classes also see a few changes in the BoP for Japan. After a difficult start of the season, BMW gains the most in the Balance of Performance adjustments for this weekend.  Their M8 GTE will be 20 kg lighter, an additional increase in turbo boost pressure and a 2 liter fuel capacity increase. 

The Ford GT’s are to receive a weight increase of 18 kg and a small reduction of turbo boost. Porsche also gets a weight increase, although just 2 kg, and a 0.3 mm smaller air restrictor. Both Fords and Porsches also will have one liter less fuel on board. There’s no changes announced for the Astons and Ferrari’s.  In the Am class, the Porsche 911 RSR gets a weight increase of 10 kg.  The “old” Aston Martin Vantages also see their weight increased by an extra 5 kilograms.

Track action starts Friday at 11h00 local time in Fuji.