Toyota lead shortened second practice session at Fuji


Credit: Marcel Langer/FIA World Endurance Championship

The heavens opened as second practice ahead of the 6 hours of Fuji was due to start, forcing all cars  to fit full wet tyres for the session. A red flag incident highlighted that it was too wet on track, and with the rain just getting harder the session was aborted after just 22 minutes of running.

Jose-Maria Lopez put Toyota Gazoo Racing on top of LMP1 whilst Thoms Laurent took the honours in LMP2. Olivier Pla made a great start to the session in his Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK car which placed the #66 machine at the top of GTE Pro when the premature chequered flag fell. On his home race weekend, Keita Sawa gave the crowd something to cheer about as he placed the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari fastest in GTE Am.

It was Toyota, Porsche, Toyota, Porsche after 22 minutes of running as Lopez’s first lap time of 1:39.202 could not be caught by any of the others. Porsche were just getting ready to start their 90-minute programme when the red flag ended the session. Because of this, the closest that Porsche could get to Lopez’s time was 1.3 seconds slower. Kazuki Nakajima was third in the championship-contending #8 Toyota and the championship leaders had to settle for fourth.

The red flag that brought a premature end to the session was activated because Vitaly Petrov crashed his CEFC Manor TRS Racing LMP2 car quite heavily. With little grip on the track and cool tyre and track temperatures a small mistake sent Petrov off into the barriers. The driver was fine and climbed out of the car quickly, but a red flag was put out so the broken Manor with rear damage could be cleared from the track. Whist this was happening, the rain got heavier and harder, meaning that once the Manor was cleared off the track the weather conditions were too dangerous to drive in. No let up in the weather meant the session did not resume.

Laurent was the first aboard the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing and placed it fastest. His 1:47.437 was enough to stay ahead of Bruno Senna in the #31 Vaillante Rebellion. The pace of the LMP2 cars is very similar, just as it has been throughout the season, but it would be great to see the #38 and #31 battling on track with the LMP2 title potentially getting closer. Petrov put the Manor third fastest before his crash that ended the session.

Heavy rain stopped the session from restarting after the red flag brought out by Petrov, leading to a 22-minute long session.
Credit: Marcel Langer/FIA World Endurance Championship

Porsche GT Team was still a force to be reckoned with, even though Pla was able to set the fastest time of this session. His 1:52.658 put him head of the Porsche duo, with the #91 leading the #92 across the line. With such a short session it is difficult to put clear predictions out of the day, but one thing can be predicted: Porsche will have both of their GTE cars at the front of the field pushing for top points.

Although the session was ended early and 78 minutes of track running was lost, the Japanese crowd had something to smile about as the day came to an end because home racer Sawa put the Clearwater Racing Ferrari fastest in the Am class. The two Ferraris had been the cars to watch in the first practice session and stayed on form for practice two by taking the top two spots in the class.

After today’s running it looks like Porsche and Ferrari will be the ones to watch in the GTE classes, whilst the question of dominance still lingers a little over the LMP1 teams. Jackie Chan DC Racing seem to have a small advantage over the LMP2 field here, but the other teams are not letting them walk away and are keeping them honest as we get closer to lights out for the 6 Hours of Fuji.