After yesterday’s shortened session, the teams looked at recovering the lost track time this morning. Wet conditions still covered the track but through the final hour of practice it began to dry up. Sebastien Buemi was the man on top in the #8 championship-contending Toyota Gazoo Racing, bringing hope to the team that they could put the pressure on Porsche at their home race. Jackie Chan DC Racing remains to be the team adapting best to the Japanese circuit as Alex Brundle put the team on top. Porsche GT Team continued their run of dominance this weekend with another one-two finish in Pro as the Porsches in Am start to shine, with #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing topping the time sheets.
Porsche seemed to be trying to find their feet this morning and set up the best package for qualifying later on. Both cars had spins or multiple lock ups, but both continued in the session without a great deal of delay. Porsche do not need pole position this weekend to secure both Championships, but there is a small amount of pride to be able to end the weekend with a clean sweep, especially if they can win both titles on Toyota’s home ground.
Buemi laid down a marker of 1:35.414 early on in the session that was enough to keep the #8 ahead. The two Porsches were not fair behind as they took second and third, with the championship-leading #2 ahead. The sister Toyota had to settle for fourth at the back of the LMP1 class.
Brundle waited until late in the session to secure the top spot in LMP2 with his #38 Jackie Chan ORECA 07/Gibson. It was the team’s closest rivals that held the early pace. Nelson Piquet Jnr came out of the gate with a 1:43.956, which kept the #13 Vaillante Rebellion at the top of the class for most of the session. A late improvement from the Brit saw him clock a 1:43.745 and go fastest.
It was a Jackie Chan/Rebellion battle at the front of LMP2. Bruno Senna placed the second Rebellion just one tenth slower than the #13 for third, pushing the class leaders in the #38 Jackie Chan machine to fourth. The #38 in the hands of Oliver Jarvis was just under a second slower than the sister car that lead the class. It looks like the battle for class pole will come from these two teams, and with the championship close between them it will be a fight you would not want to miss.
Porsche were back on the pace this morning, taking another dominant one-two ahead of qualifying. Frederic Makowiecki topped the class in the #91 with a 1:47.724. The sister car dragged by six tenths to give Makowiecki a comfortable advantage, but secure the one-two. The third placed car was a further four-tenths off Makowiecki’s time in the hands of Harry Tincknell with the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK.
It looks like Porsche will be the team to beat this weekend, with none of the other GTE Pro cars looking to have made much of an impacted on their competitiveness. For the title, if Tincknell and Andy Priaulx could get between the Porsches or at least take the bottom step they would extend their lead over the ever-nearing Ferraris, who’s pace seems to have disappeared a little this morning.
Porsche remained strong in the Am class, with the championship-fighting #77 Dempsey-Proton car taking the fastest lap. This weekend looks to be a struggle for Aston Martin Racing and Dempsey-Proton would be clever to utilise their short-comings and try to retake the lead of the Am championship. With the Ferrari’s being a strong force this weekend they could get a few cars in between them and extend a nice points lead.
Matteo Cairoli put the new ‘Pink Ribbon’ charity-liveried Porsche fastest with a 1:49.387, ahead of the #61 Clearwater Racing and the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari. The Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda was at the bottom of the timing sheet, 2.5 seconds off the fastest lap time of the class-topping #77 Porsche.
Qualifying has been brought forward to a 14:00 local time start to get the track running in with the best weather conditions. As the weekend has been so wet so far it is fair to assume that there will be some rain during the race tomorrow.