Toyota take hard-fought win at home race

posted in: General | 0

2016-6-heures-de-fuji-adrenal-media-gt7d3966_hd

Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Con­way and Stéphane Sar­razin took a cathar­tic vic­to­ry for Toy­ota at their home race in Fuji after a grip­ping tac­ti­cal bat­tle over six hours. The #6 car was fol­lowed home by the #8 Audi R18 of Lucas di Gras­si, Loic Duval and Oliv­er Jarvis and the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Timo Bern­hard, Bren­don Hart­ley and Mark Web­ber.

The #8 Audi put in an almost flaw­less start from pole, dri­ving away from the rest of the field in the ear­ly stages to lead by a small mar­gin. How­ev­er, the #6 Toy­ota TS050 and #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid were nev­er far behind, with the lead con­stant­ly chang­ing dur­ing the pit stops over the course of the race.

There was no such luck for the sis­ter #7 Audi, how­ev­er, which was forced to retire from the race ear­ly on after los­ing its front-axle hybrid sys­tem. Despite dis­con­nect­ing the sys­tem from the rest of the car and get­ting back out on the track after a 90-minute stop, the stew­ards ruled that the car no longer com­plied with its homolo­ga­tion and effec­tive­ly dis­qual­i­fied it.

The grip­ping tac­ti­cal bat­tle among three equal­ly matched cars cul­mi­nat­ed in a straight shoot-out for vic­to­ry in the final hour. Kamui Kobayashi embarked on his final stint just eight sec­onds ahead of the erst­while leader, Loic Duval in the #8 Audi, with only half an hour of the race remain­ing.

Duval gave it his all in his chase of Kobayashi, tak­ing the che­quered flag just 1.5 sec­onds behind the #6 Toy­ota TS050. For Toy­ota, this marked their first WEC vic­to­ry since the Six Hours of Bahrain in 2014 and pro­vid­ed at least some pay­back after the team’s Le Mans heart­break in June.

2016-6-heures-de-fuji-adrenal-media-gt7d4147_hd

In LMP2, G-Dri­ve Rac­ing con­vert­ed their pole posi­tion to lead the field through­out the race while the remain­der of the pack bat­tled tooth and nail behind. The #36 Sig­nat­e­ch Alpine car bat­tled hard with the #43 RGR by Morand machine and the #31 ESM crew in the ear­ly stages, pro­vid­ing some of most excit­ing rac­ing of the day.

What appeared to be a dom­i­nant per­for­mance from G-Dri­ve Rac­ing turned into anoth­er final-hour shoot-out. A com­plete­ly green race allowed each team’s strat­e­gy to play out unin­ter­rupt­ed, and RGR Sport by Morand appeared to have pulled off an out­stand­ing strate­gic move – appear­ing from the pit lane just ahead of the #26 machine with only half an hour remain­ing.

One lap lat­er Will Stevens’ #26 Ore­ca caught and passed Bruno Senna’s #43 Ligi­er – but the ques­tion­able move on the long start/finish straight was deemed exces­sive by the race direc­tor and Stevens was ordered to give the posi­tion back to Sen­na.

The Brit wasn’t fazed by the pun­ish­ment and, after sur­ren­der­ing the lead back to Sen­na, slow­ly caught back up with the Brazil­ian with just ten min­utes left. This time the G-Dri­ve man made it count, pass­ing the RGR Sport by Morand car fair­ly this time and secur­ing the first vic­to­ry of the sea­son for the Russ­ian-entered team.

GTE Pro was a sto­ry for Ford dom­i­nance, after the US man­u­fac­tur­er secured a rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple one-two on a cir­cuit to which the new-for-2016 Ford GT was evi­dent­ly suit­ed. Vic­to­ry went to Andy Pri­aulx and Har­ry Tinck­nell – their first in the Blue Oval’s debut WEC sea­son – some fif­teen sec­onds ahead of their team­mates Ste­fan Mücke and Olivi­er Pla in the #66 machine.

Ford’s Fuji dom­i­nance means that the cham­pi­onship bat­tle remains tight, with Ferrari’s 27-point haul giv­ing the Ital­ian con­struc­tor a three-point lead in the GT man­u­fac­tur­ers’ title ahead of Aston Mar­tin, who only man­aged to secure eigh­teen points.

Paul Dal­la Lana, Matthias Lau­da and Pedro Lamy record­ed their fourth win of the sea­son in GTE Am in the #98 Aston Mar­tin. Cham­pi­onship lead­ers Rui Aguas, Emmanuel Col­lard and Fran­cois Per­ro­do fin­ished sec­ond for the #83 AF Corse crew to rein­force their title chal­lenge, while KCMG made it three dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers in the top three posi­tions by secur­ing third.

Images © FIA WEC / Adren­al Media