The end of the 2017 World Endurance Championship is drawing closer as the grid heads to the Asian continent to take on the last two rounds before the season finale in Bahrain. 78 points remain available in each respective championship, but some are closer to their conclusion than others. The 6 Hours of Fuji looks set to host the crowning of another team in the World Endurance Drivers’ Championship and wrap up the World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship, leaving only pride to play for in the last two round for the LMP1 teams. But with two championships potentially coming to an end it is still all to play for in the other title battles.
If Porsche continues its dominant run that is has had of late, securing pole position and a one-two with championship leading #2 ahead, they will take both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ championships by the end of the weekend. Just 78 points remain available for the individual teams with three rounds left, and a victory for the #2 team of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard, and Earl Bamber will see Porsche take their third consecutive Drivers’ championship. The trio do not even have to start on pole, just so long as they win at the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing does not finish higher than third the title is theirs. The same applies for Porsche looking at the Manufacturers’ title. As long as they take maximum points in the race they will become Manufacturer champions (also not needing pole position).
With Toyota’s form of late it does not look like the Japanese team will be able to do much to prevent Porsche from claiming both championships this weekend. However, the home advantage could see Toyota able to stay within punching distance of Porsche, hopefully sparking an intense six-hour on track battle between the two competitors. All eyes will be on Toyota this weekend as it is hoped they will announce a decision about their future in WEC. The announcement coming from the team at their home event seems fitting, and with Toyota declaring that they would not make any decisions until October their self set deadline is up. Be sure to keep an eye on TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk as any breaking news from Toyota will be announced here.
Signatech Alpine have had a strong run of late, taking their first win of the season last time out at the 6 Hours of COTA. Gustavo Menezes is the sole driver for the team who sits in contention for the LMP2 Endurance Trophy. He is third, 28 points behind leading team; the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing team. However, after such a competitive first four rounds, the Jackie Chan team has struggled in the flyaway rounds. They will be hoping they have a return to form as their home race comes ever closer. The #31 Vaillante Rebellion duo of Bruno Senna and Julien Canal sit second in the championship, only 20 points behind the leaders with 78 points left to claim. It is certainly possible that the #38 will lose the lead of the LMP2 class for the first time this season, especially if their form does not improve.
Ben Hanley continues to try his hand in the LMP2 class, this weekend stepping into the #26 G-Drive Racing for absent Alex Lynn. Hanley has been trialling a few LMP2 cars this season, alongside his European Le Mans Series commitments. He has made a good impression on the grid, with CEFC Manor TRS Racing team principle Graeme Lowdon speaking very highly of him after the Brit joined Manor last race. It is looking good for Hanley’s future in endurance racing.
Although they have not had the strongest of runs of late, the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK car has had a fairly consistent finishing result. because of this, Andy Prialux and Harry Tincknell still lead the GT Wolrd Endurance Drivers’ Championship. However, the rest of the GT Pro class are closing in on the duo as they current have only a eight-point lead. The Pro class is extremely close and it is predicted that, with the competitive pace so close between the manufacturers, that the title decider will be in Bahrain.
Just eight points off, in second, Richard Liez and Frederic Makowiecki sit after their impressive performance at the 6 Hours of Mexico. But a resurgence of pace from AF Corse last time out in COTA has seen the Ferrari drivers close in on second place, with second to fifth covered by just one point. It is all still to race for in the Pro class and hopefully the competitive closeness remains until the season finale in November.
After a bad 24 Hours of Le Mans for the second year in a row, the #98 Aston Martin Racing team have been looking to get back to the top of the championship. Unlike last year, they did not lose as many points as they could have done at Le Mans, finishing fourth. This meant that their fight back was not as steep as it was in 2016, and so with their highly competitive line up of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda they began reeling in the leaders quickly. Only three rounds after the prestigious event and already the Aston Martin crew are back to leading the Am class.
A great drive last race sees the trio now leading the class again, with a four-point advantage on the three-time race winning #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche. It is fairly tight at the top of the Pro class, with Clearwater Racing Ferrari just ten ponts off second place, 14 down on the leaders. The championship looks to be shaping up as a Porsche/Aston fight between the #98 AMR and the #77 Dempsey Porsche. They will definitely be the teams to watch this weekend as the end of the season draws ever closer.
Action for the 6 Hours of Fuji kicks off at 03:00 BST Friday 13th of October. Make sure to keep an eye on The Checkered Flag for updates throughout the weekend from all the action at the Fuji Speedway for the seventh round of the 2017 World Endurance Championship.