This weekend, the FIA World Endurance Championship competitors will battle it out at the Fuji circuit in Japan, the venue for the fourth round of the season. Championship leader Toyota will, of course, have the support of the home crowd, but other teams hold hopes of upsetting the odds!
Fuji Speedway has hosted the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) every year since 2012. Thirty-four cars will line up for the fourth round of the 2018-19 Super Season.
The grid will feature eight LMP1s following the withdrawal of the Ginetta G60-LT-P1 by CEFC TRSM Racing. Toyota Gazoo Racing will hope to see its two TS050 Hybrids come out on top on home soil with recent 24 Hours of Le Mans winners Kazuki Nakajima, Sébastien Buemi and Fernando Alonso undoubtedly treated to a heroes’ welcome following the Japanese manufacturer’s first triumph in the French marathon. Six non-hybrid LMP1s will be looking to rain on Toyota’s parade, not least SMP Racing (BR Engineering BR1-Gibson) with Jenson Button, current leader of the Japanese Super GT Series, and Rebellion Racing (Rebellion R13-Gibson), who won the latest round at Silverstone following the post-race exclusion of both Toyotas (excessive underfloor plank deflection). Several changes have been made to the LMP1 crews. Frenchman Tom Dillmann will once again share the wheel of ByKolles Racing Team’s #4 ENSO CLM P1/01 with Oliver Webb et James Rossiter. DragonSpeed will rely on Ben Hanley and James Allen for the #10 BR Engineering BR1-Gibson.
Following confirmation of the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans classifications, Signatech Alpine (#36) tops the LMP2 standings ahead of the #37 and #38 Oreca 07-Gibsons fielded by Jackie Chan DC Racing. The #38 car won the 6 Hours of Silverstone in August. TDS Racing has chosen Jean-Eric Vergne to partner Matthieu Vaxivière and François Perrodo in the #28 Oreca 07-Gibson in place of Loïc Duval. The 2013 Le Mans winner will instead be racing for Audi in the DTM German touring car championship. Japanese driver Keiko Ihara is making her WEC comeback in the #50 Larbre Compétition Ligier JS P217-Gibson alongside Erwin Creed and Romano Ricci.
Porsche currently dominates the LMGTE Pro class with a 40-point lead over Ford and Ferrari, but with four rounds still to go ahead of the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans, everything is still to play for. Kévin Estre and Michael Christensen (#92 911 RSR) top the Drivers’ standings. This year’s LMGTE Am class winners at Le Mans, Dempsey-Proton Racing and the trio of Christian Ried, Matt Campbell and Julien Andlauer in the #77 Porsche 911 RSR, lead the championship ahead of Clearwater Racing and Team Project 1. Two driver changes have been announced for Fuji. Japanese Porsche specialist Satoshi Hoshino will be making his WEC bow in the #88 911 RSR for Dempsey-Proton Racing, while Austrian Thomas Preining will appear in Gulf Racing’s #86 Porsche with Michael Wainwright and Ben Barker (in place of Australian Alex Davison).
Adjustments to Equivalence of Technology (EoT) and Balance of Performance (BoP)
The final changes for the 6 Hours of Fuji (12-14 October) concern the weight of the cars. The joint FIA/ACO Endurance Committee has announced some adjustments to the Equivalence of Technology (EoT) for the LMP1 class. The weight of the Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Hybrids is increased by 26 kg to reduce the performance differential with the non-hybrid LMP1 prototypes. They will also lose their two laps-per-stint advantage over their non-hybrid counterparts.
The data collected at Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone has resulted in a few modifications to the automated Balance of Performance (BoP). At Fuji, the two M8 GTEs fielded by BMW Team MTEK will run 20 kg lighter than in previous races and will benefit from a higher turbo boost pressure level. They will also be able to carry an extra two litres of fuel. Conversely, the weight of the two Ford GTs has been increased by 18 kg and their turbo boost pressure slightly reduced, whereas the two Porsche 911 RSRs will run 2 kg heavier and their air restrictor will be 0.3 mm smaller. The fuel capacity of these four cars is reduced by one litre. In LMGTE Am, the weight of the Porsche 911 RSR and the Aston Martin GTE is increased by 10 and 5 kg respectively.
The 6 Hours of Fuji will be started by Japanese former tennis star Kimiko Date. Date’s career highlights include three Grand Slam semi-finals at the Australian Open in 1994, the French Open in 1995 and Wimbledon in 1996.
A taste of what’s in store at the 6 Hours of Fuji.
Free practice and qualifying for the 6 Hours of Fuji will be held on 12 and 13 October, with the race itself scheduled to start at 11:00 local time (GMT+9) on Sunday 14 October. See tweet below for details. The full rundown is here.
EoT and BoP information is available on the official WEC site.