Preview: 2019 FIA World Endurance Championship – 6 Hours of Fuji

by Alice Holloway
Nose of the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing in racing traffic

The second round of the 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship will be held at Fuji Speedway this weekend, marking the return of six-hour events to the series. With the new success ballast coming into action in LMP1, the racing should be closer than it was at Silverstone.

30 cars are expected to take the start flag for Sunday’s race, with Rebellion Racing dropping back to one car until the championship returns to Europe. This race will be the first one where the FIA’s new success ballast is in place, so it will be interesting to see how much of an effect this will have on the LMP1 class.

Success ballast is determined by the points difference between the car leading the LMP1 championship and the car at the bottom, along with the length of the next track on the calendar. This means that, for Fuji, the Silverstone-winning Toyota Gazoo Racing of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez will have the correction factor multiplied by the length of the Japanese track (4.563km) and 25.5, as this is their championship lead over LMP1’s currently last-placed #6 Team LNT.

With the FIA and Automobile Clube de l’Ouest confirming that the correction factor would be 0.008 seconds per km, it is assumed that the #7 Toyota will have a success ballast added to their car equating to about 0.931 seconds per lap. This ballast of nearly a second should really make a difference to the car’s race pace. All cars apart from the #6 Team LNT will be handed a success ballast for the second round of the championship.

CarChampionship lead over #6 Team LNTPredicted Success Ballast
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing25.5 points0.931 seconds per lap
#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing17.5 points0.639 seconds per lap
#5 Team LNT14.5 points0.529 seconds per lap
#1 Rebellion Racing1.5 points0.055 seconds per lap

Luca Ghiotto makes his WEC debut this weekend, coming into the #5 Team LNT. He was forced to miss the opening round of the championship due to a Formula 2 clash on the same weekend. Oliver Jarvis stood in for Charlie Robertson during the Silverstone race, as he was put in the #5 to cover for the young Italian. Now with Robertson moving back into the #6, to partner with fellow Ginetta-driver Mike Simpson and Guy Smith, Jarvis is no longer needed at Team LNT and will not race with them for this round.

Jarvis instead moves to LMP2 with United Autosports, teaming up with Philip Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque. This time, Jarvis replaces Paul di Resta who will miss the Japanese round due to a DTM finale clash. di Resta is expected back in the car for Shanghai.

The team will be looking to build on their strong start to the season that was unfortunately cut short due to a suspected electrical issue that took them out of the 4 Hours of Silverstone in the opening lap. They had looked like a force to be reckoned with throughout the weekend, taking the fastest lap in every practice session and claiming pole position ahead of the race, so they are definitely a team to keep an eye on.

Alexandre Coigny returns to the LMP2-winning Cool Racing after he was forced to sit out the opening round due to injury. His team mates Nicolas Lapierre and Antonin Borga made WEC history last time out, becoming the first pair to win the LMP2 class with just a duo of drivers.

Arguably the safety car played into their hands at the British round, so the likes of Racing Team Nederland, Signatech Alpine and Jackie Chan DC Racing will be looking to make an impression on the Asian circuit.

Alike Ghiotto, Nyck de Vries missed the Silverstone round due to the Formula 2 clash. He is now back in the #29 Racing Team Nederland and takes back over from fellow countryman Job van Uitert.

Both AF Corse Pro Ferraris on track with the #71 leading.
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

After the odd revoked penalties of Silverstone, AF Corse will be racing for what they believed they deserved and could have claimed in the opening round. Neither Ferrari or Aston Martin were able to stop Porsche‘s assumed continued pace from last season, and the German outlet took the first one-two of the season.

The Aston Martins, that showed great potential pace in the Am class (with this being the first year the Am teams are running the evolved Vantage), will too be looking for a strong comeback at Fuji, with them also being sufferers of the bizarre overturned penalties in Silverstone. The works #98 managed to cross the line second despite this, but they – like Ferrari – feel they were robbed of the class win.

No line-ups have changed in either LM GTE class, with the exception of the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing car. Only Thomas Preining is confirmed to be in the car, with the other two drivers yet to be confirmed.

6 Hours of Fuji 2019 Entry List
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

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