Returning to the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) for the first time since August Kazuki Nakajima made a fast start to the Six Hours of Fuji, leading the opening free practice session for the race for Toyota Racing.
Local knowledge appeared to play a factor in the session with Nakajima leading the way for Toyota – which owns the race track – with Benoit Treluyer is second, Audi’s Frenchman another man who has experience of racing in Japan in both Formula Three and Super GT series.
Toyota and Nakajima dominated the top of the times after the opening 15 minutes, Nakajima setting the best time of the session (1:28.809) twenty minutes from the end of the 90-minute session. Treluyer moved into second place – leapfrogging an Allan McNish lap in the other Audi R18 e-tron Quattro – with ten minutes remaining with a lap of 1:29.228 on the final of a three flying lap stint.
The time gave the #1 crew of Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer the early upper hand in the internecine Audi battle for the drivers’ title in the WEC.
Danny Watts was the fastest privateer for Strakka Racing at the beginning of a weekend where they have to close the gap significantly to Rebellion Racing to remain in with a chance of the LMP1 teams’ title.
Nelson Panciatici was the fastest man in LMP2 in the #26 Signatech Nissan entry he shares with Roman Rusinov and Pierre Ragues ahead of John Martin, the usual fast man in the ADR-Delta ORECA 03-Nissan, Martin and Tor Graves joined by Shinji Nakano on a weekend where they have to rebound from two poor rounds to keep alive their slim championship hopes. The team who currently lead the class in points – Starworks Motorsports – were fifth fastest in the ten strong class, Ryan Dalziel setting a fastest lap for the team just within a second of Panciatici’s best.
Marc Lieb was the fastest man in LMGTE Pro for Team Felbermayr-Proton, setting pace on the Porsche with both AF Corse Ferrari and the lone Aston Martin Racing car trailing, but all within seven tenths of one another.
Pedro Lamy and Michele Rugolo were split by just 0.058 at the top of LMGTE Am in favour of the former Peugeot Sport driver in the #50 Larbre Competition Corvette. Behind the top two there was a 1.7 second gap to Paolo Ruberti in the Felbermayr-Proton Porsche third fastest overall, through fractionally slower than Patrick Bornhauser, one of Lamy’s teammates in the #50 car. Julien Canal, the third man in the #50 set the sixth fastest lap in the class, installing them as early favourites for the race win with no AF Corse Ferrari among the five entries for the weekend.