Toyota seals 1-2 finish at home race

#7 climbs from the back of the field to take first win of the season

Toyota Gazoo Racing secured a 1-2 finish at its home FIA World Endurance Championship race at Fuji Speedway as the #7 climbed from the back of the LMP1 field to take its first win of the superseason. The start of the race, held on a wet-but-drying track, was held under safety car conditions as teams got a feel for the conditions. As soon as the race went green, the #7 – of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez – started to gain positions as it cut its way through the LMP1 privateers. However, they didn’t have much chance to make real inroads as an explosive tyre failure for the MR Racing Ferrari 488 of Motoaki Ishikowa led to a lengthy caution period as the marshals cleared up tyre and bodywork debris scattered across the start-finish straight. While Jenson Button inherited the lead of the race – thanks to the Brit staying out under the safety car in his SMP Racing BR1, rather than pitting for new tyres – the #3 Rebellion Racing R13 of Gustavo Menezes had its race ended abruptly. Coming out of turn one, Menezes lost control of the car and hit the barriers causing extensive damage to the rear of the car. After the early excitement, the six hours turned into a comfortable rhythm for the Toyota crews as the #7 moved into the race lead by the end of the second hour and didn’t relinquish the position. The #8 of Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima finished second, 11.440sec behind. Rounding out the podium positions was the #1 Rebellion Racing R13, while Button brought the #11 – which he shared with Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov, home in fourth.

In LMP2, Jackie Chan DC Racing continued the dominant pace the team had shown from the start of the weekend as the #37 led home the #38 Oreca 07. The team had fortune on their side though, as the pole-sitting Dragonspeed Oreca – started by Anthony Davidson – gambled on full wets at the start but quickly lost positions to the cars behind which had started on intermediates on the rapidly driving track. The correct tyres, and good strategy, allowed Jazeman Jaafar and Gabriel Aubry to climb up to the top spots in the JCDC entries, while a great overtaking move at turn one by Nicolas Lapierre in the Signatech Alpine moved the Frenchman up to third during the second hour. When the chequered flag came out, those positions remained the same with Matthieu Vaxiviere – in the TDS Racing entry – finishing a lap down in fourth.

The GTE Pro battle proved to be one of the tightest on the track as most of the manufacturers led the class for at least some section of the race. Aston Martin Racing started on pole with the #95 of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen, but as the track dried out, the Vantage lost pace – allowing the BMW Team MTEK BMW M8 of Antonio Felix Da Costa to pull into the lead after a great opening stint. However, as the race went on, the #92 Porsche 911 RSR of Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre regained the positions they lost early on to take their second win of the season. The BMW of Da Costa and Blomqvist held onto second, as they opened up a solid gap over the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell.

Team Project 1 continued the Porsche dominance of the GTE classes as the #56 won GTE Am. Driven by Patrick Lidsey, Jorg Bergmeister and Egidio Perfetti, the trio were in contention from the start as they battled the Spirit of Race Ferrari on-and-off for the opening two-thirds of the race. As the Ferrari fell away, the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche moved into contention as Matteo Cairoli relegated Jonny Adam – in the TF Sport Aston Martin – to third in the final half hour. Cairoli looked to be closing in on Bergmeister, but ran out of time to have any chance of threatening the leaders. Adam finished on the podium, ahead of the factory Aston Martin of Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana despite the latter spinning to the back of the field on the opening lap.