The 6 Hours of Fuji delivered the most dramatic, and certainly one of the most memorable LMP2 battles in recent years. The championship-leading #47 KCMG Oreca 03 Nissan was hit from behind by the #28 G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2 of Gustavo Yacaman with just six minutes of the six hours remaining, putting it out of the race. But the fight started much earlier on.
An hour earlier, Roman Rusinov in the #26 machine had misjudged an overtaking maneuver on Richard Bradley in the #47 and made contact with the right-rear of the light blue Oreca. Bradley was forced to pit, slipping down to third position in the LMP2 class behind Rusinov and the #36 Signatech-Alpine.
Then, just six minutes before the end of the race, carbon-fibre flew through the air once again. The KCMG was once again running just ahead of a G-Drive car, but this time it was the sister #28 car of Gustavo Yacaman, who was one lap down. Despite not fighting for position, Yacaman closed in on Richard Bradley and as the British driver braked for the tight right-hander at Dunlop, Yacaman sent him flying into the barriers in a shower of debris. Fortunately Bradley was fine, but his – and KCMG’s – race was over just minutes before the chequered flag. Yacaman would finish third.
The KCMG team, my teammates Nick and Richard have been phenomenal today, there’s no point saying anything else
— Matt Howson (@MHowsonRacing) October 11, 2015
From the TV pictures at least, it seemed clear that Yacaman was at fault for the incident. It could even be argued that he intentionally caused the collision to assist the #26 car in the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles. But the race director then published a bulletin, which surprisingly pinned the blame solely on Bradley. He was accused of braking 37 metres earlier than normal in a manner that was “dangerous to other drivers”.
Happy everything got cleared up after a controversial finish. Data showed the KCMG car braked 37 meters early causing the contact. I was too close behind to react to this. Today I have learned 3 things. 1. Haters will always hate. 2. Opinions are worthless unless they are asked for. 3. Never make statements without all the facts. Much Aloha to all of you. Even my haters. This is the meaning of all the tribal designs on my helmet. #goodvibesonly Ein von Gustavo Yacaman (@gustavoyacaman) gepostetes Foto am
But as experienced LMP2 driver Alex Brundle said in a series of posts on Twitter, braking 37 metres earlier is not as early is it may first appear:
— Alex Brundle (@AlexBrundle) October 11, 2015
Then, half an hour after issuing their decision on the crash, the team stewards suspended it as new evidence had come to light. It turns out that KCMG appealed the decision and provided data showing that Richard Bradley was still on full throttle at the point of impact, suggesting that Yacaman had deliberately pushed him out. The appeal is currently being reviewed by the WEC. But with so much at stake in the championship, this certainly won’t be the last of the matter.
Image source: WEC-Magazin (Walter Schruff)