The talk of Friday practice for the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Fuji was not of lap times and the differences the BoP and EoT changes had made to the grid, but of kerb damage at Turn 15, which cost a lot of the track time available to the WEC competitors. It was, however, the Toyota Gazoo Racing team that came out on top of the LMP1 field, leading to suggest that the EoT changes that were implemented ahead of the weekend have made little difference on the grid.
It was closer in FP1, with Toyota’s Sebastien Buemi setting the pace just over a second faster than the closest Privateer runner: #11 SMP Racing. In the hands of Jenson Button, who set a consistent run of personal best laps after the 40-minutes red flag period, the BR Engineering BR1 placed 1.043 seconds off of Buemi’s time to beat (1:25.847), but just only half a second of the #7 Toyota that finished P2.
However, the second practice session seemed to see business reset to normal. The drivers of the Rebellion Racing #3 could not get any closer to the Toyota’s than just under a second to the slower of the Japanese pair, nearly two seconds off the pace setter, Fernando Alonso (1:23.973). It does appear from the initial pace of the weekend that Toyota will, once again, be in a class of their own.
Nevertheless, there does seem to be a tight battle between SMP and Rebellion revving up for the best-of-the-rest spot and the final position on the podium. SMP looked to have a foot ahead in the first session, but with both cars suffering suspect brake failures during the day reliability could be the factor that gives Rebellion the edge on Sunday’s race.
A total of nearly 90 minutes was lost in repairing the kerb at Turn 15 in today’s sessions. The original delay in FP1 came from an opportunity as the track action was halted due to debris on track. Track marshals repaired the damaged area, putting a 32-minute delay on the session, that was mostly returned to the WEC field as an additional 30 minutes of track time was added onto the end of the session.
Unfortunately, it seemed the repair job needed more work, as during second practice track action was stopped twice for more kerb repairs. This time, after losing 50 minutes in delays, the grid was only returned ten minutes of track access. Hopefully this marks the end of the kerb issues at Fuji Speedway, and the rest of the weekend can go by without further delays.
The Jackie Chan DC Racing duo showed they’re still in the position to fight in LMP2 this weekend, although they never topped a time sheet. First practice belonged to the TDS Racing team, who claimed fastest in class over the #38 Jackie Chan car by 1.2 seconds, whilst class Championship leaders Singatech Alpine raced to the front in the afternoon session.
Thus far, the LMP2 class looks like a close battle, with five teams showing they have the potential to be fighting for the top three. DragonSpeed‘s LMP2 entry positioned itself third in class in the hands of Anthony Davidson in first practice, but the Racing Team Nederland put up a good fight in FP2. This class seems very open heading into the weekend.
Despite the BoP changes ahead of the Japanese race, Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK are still the ones to beat, setting down a competitive pace in FP1 and only two tenths off the FP2 leaders in class. It appears the additional weight they have had added to their Ford GTs for the weekend has not had the desired effect in bringing the GT cars closer together.
BMW MTEK Team, who had been predicted as the team gaining the most from the new automated BoP, struggled during both practice sessions, unable to position any higher than eighth in either track session.
It was a fight between the Fords and the Porsches, as it has been for most of the season, with Nicki Thiim dropping in a last minute flyer to snatch fastest in class from the #67 Ford in practice two, giving Aston Martin Racing something to smile about.
The Porsche supremacy seemed to continue in LM GTE Am, with the #77 class Championship leader taking a secure second place finish in both sessions. Porsche took home a 1-2 to end the afternoon in FP2, whilst it was the works Aston Martin #98 that took the spot ahead of the Dempsey-Proton Racing car.