6H Fuji: Porsche quickest on Friday as #7 Audi hits trouble

Porsche topped the timesheets during Friday practice for the Japanese round of the World Endurance Championship at Fuji Speedway.

The #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, driven by Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley, set a 1:24.074s time in the second of two 90 minute sessions to end the day quickest.

The fastest lap was recorded by Webber, who earlier announced his retirement from racing at the end of the 2016 WEC season.

Audi led the morning session with its #7 R18, but a crash for Andre Lotterer in the afternoon forced the German squad to make repairs to the car’s front nose.

After a quick patch up, Lotterer was able to return to the track shortly after to continue circulating.

Second fastest on Friday was the sister Audi driven by Oliver Jarvis. The British driver’s afternoon time of 1:24.968s fell 0.894 seconds shy of Webber, who set a commanding pace at the head of the field.

A 1:25.000s lap by Lotterer just before his incident ensured both Audis held a place in the top three heading into Saturday qualifying.

Audi is searching for a good result at Fuji to keep its hopes of winning the WEC drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships alive.

Fourth quickest was the #2 Porsche driven by Marc Lieb, who turned in a 1:25.078s marker during the second session.

Completing the top five was the first of the Toyota TS050s, which in the hands of local hero Kamui Kobayashi set a time of 1:25.556s. That was enough to place the #6 car second in the morning run, but improvements for the other manufacturers later in the day would drop it down the order.

Rebellion Racing’s Matheo Tuscher set the fastest lap of the privateer LMP1 category with a 1:29.653.

In LMP2, Filipe Albuquerque stood out at the top of the class order thanks to an impressive 1:31.909s effort in the #43 Ligier.

The RGR Sport by Morand driver ended the day 0.833 seconds clear of Alex Brundle in the G-Drive Racing entered ORECA.

Brundle’s time was enough to edge out the Manor ORECA driven by Richard Bradley by just five thousandths of a second.

GTE-Pro saw Ford top the tables in both sessions, with Andy Priaulx going quickest in FP1 before Stefan Muecke eclipsed him in the #66 car with a 1:38.743.

Ford led convincingly throughout the day, but the pair of AF Corse Ferrari 488s did pick up the pace in the final session to ultimately finish second and third at the close of play.

Gianmaria Bruni’s 1:38.935s effort was 0.192 seconds shy of Muecke, whilst Davide Rigon followed closely in the sister car.

Both Aston Martin Racing and the Proton-run Porsche squad struggled to match the times of the turbocharged GT entries on Friday.

However, Aston Martin’s older-spec Vantage did manage to take the top spot in GTE-Am, with Pedro Lamy setting the fastest lap.

A third and final free practice schedule for the 6 Hours of Fuji will take place on Saturday, October 15 at 02:00 UK time.