Audi hold the upper hand after three hours

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The #8 Audi leads the 6 Hours of Fuji after three hours, some ten sec­onds ahead of the #6 Toy­ota TS050 and the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid. The race got off to a fran­tic but large­ly clean start in bright sun­shine in south­ern Japan, with Oliv­er Jarvis turn­ing his pole posi­tion into a com­mand­ing lead for the #8 Audi R18 in the ear­ly stages. Jarvis’ team­mate Benoit Tréyuler, how­ev­er, was not so for­tu­nate, after his #7 Audi R18 slowed after half an hour of rac­ing and returned to the pits with a hybrid issue for expen­sive repairs.

The first round of pit stops saw the bat­tle for the lead heat up con­sid­er­ably, with Audi’s slow­er diesel flow rate bring­ing the lead­ing #8 car into the clutch­es of the #6 Toy­ota TS050 Hybrid now pilot­ed by Mike Con­way. Indeed, Con­way briefly snatched the lead com­ing out of the pit lane, but was forced to yield to Jarvis com­ing out of turn one.

This marked the begin­ning of a top­sy-turvy bat­tle between the three main chal­lengers, the #8 Audi R18, the #6 Toy­ota TS050 and the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, on fuel con­sump­tion and tyre wear. At the halfway stage the fight for the lead is fine­ly poised, with just fif­teen sec­onds sep­a­rat­ing the top three cars after three hours of rac­ing.

The #7 Audi R18, back out in the hands of Mar­cel Fässler, was then con­tro­ver­sial­ly dis­qual­i­fied as the team had dis­con­nect­ed the front hybrid sys­tem to get it back into the race and this no longer com­plied with the homolo­ga­tion.

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Fur­ther down the grid, the #26 G-Dri­ve Rac­ing Ore­ca 05 also wast­ed no time in estab­lish­ing its class lead, leav­ing a fierce bat­tle between the #36 Sig­nat­e­ch Alpine, the #30 Extreme Speed Motor­sports and #43 RGR Sport by Morand cars in its wake. The bat­tles con­tin­ued for sec­ond and third posi­tions, with Gus­ta­vo Menezes in the #36 Sig­nat­e­ch Alpine car lat­er dic­ing with Richard Bradley in the #44 Manor. The leader in LMP2 at the three-hour stage is Lewis Williamson in the Strak­ka Rac­ing car, but only due to the pit stops shuf­fling the field.

Else­where, the pair of Ford GTs hold a com­mand­ing lead of over thir­ty sec­onds from the pair of AF Corse Fer­raris, with the US mar­que enjoy­ing its first real advan­tage on pace since Le Mans. The #67 car leads the #66 machine by a mar­gin of five sec­onds. The two Aston Mar­tins are in fifth and sixth posi­tions in a strange­ly qui­et GTE Pro bat­tle.

It’s a sim­i­lar sto­ry in GTE Am, with the #98 Aston Mar­tin Rac­ing car com­fort­ably out in front by a mar­gin of a minute and a half over the #83 AF Corse Fer­rari – a lead extend­ed by a 35-sec­ond stop and go penal­ty hand­ed to the Ital­ian team due to speed­ing in the pit lane.

Images © FIA WEC / Adren­al Media