Audi’s factory sportscar team will race in Japan for the first time this weekend at the Six Hours of Mount Fuji, the seventh round of the inaugural FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
The Ingolstadt brand have already secured the manufacturers’ title in the series, but continue to face strong opposition from the Toyota squad, who will be trying to add a second win to their name at their home event at Fuji Speedway. Furthermore the drivers’ title is still undecided between Audi’s two crews, Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer extending their lead to 13.5 points over Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen following the three strong line-up’s victory in Bahrain at the most recent round. Both teams will, as in Bahrain, race the Audi R18 e-tron quattro hybrid.
Experience alone, unusually, favours the younger of the two line-ups, though Tom Kristensen also has prior experience of racing in Japan, having competed both in single-seaters and touring cars during the early and mid-90s. Lotterer and Treluyer both bringing considerable knowledge having raced in Japan in the Formula Nippon and Super GT series alongside their commitments with Audi’s WEC and Le Mans campaigns.
“Fuji is almost a home round for me because I’ve been racing in Japan for nearly ten years and am still competing in Formula Nippon there,” explains Lotterer, who runs as teammate to Kazuki Nakajima in Formula Nippon. “My [Audi] team-mate Benoît Tréluyer and I’ve got a large number of fans in Japan. Japanese spectators love endurance racing. The fact that Ben and I were always running there as rivals and are now competing together for Audi makes for a very special situation. The race will be a real humdinger.”
Whether that more recent experience translates into an on track advantage amongst the changing weather conditions and the Fuji’s tracks array of atypical long corners remains to be seen with the chance – though only with a poor result for McNish and Kristensen – of clinching the drivers title with the finale in Shanghai still remaining.
“Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer are traveling to Japan with a relatively comfortable advantage,” said Ralf Juttner, team technical director, who pointes of out the other points’ situation possible this weekend. “If our cars had finished in reverse order in Bahrain our two driver squads would only have been separated by half a point. The battle remains thrilling. André and Benoît know the track well because they’ve got many years of experience in Japan. I’m looking forward to a nice battle between our cars and a fierce competition with Toyota.”