The #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley was victorious at the second round of the 2019/2020 FIA World Endurance Championship in Fuji, ahead of the sister #7 car and the #1 Rebellion Racing machine. Elsewhere, there were maiden victories for Racing Team Nederland in LMP2 and TF Sport in GTE Am, while Aston Martin made it a GTE double by securing the GTE Pro win.
Works Toyota dominant despite success ballast
At the head of the field, Toyota continued its excellent record at the track it owns in southern Japan. Only once has the works team failed to win here, in 2015 when victory went to Porsche.
All told, it was a relatively simple victory for the #8 crew with no major incidents to speak of. However, a strong-starting Rebellion Racing R13 split the factory cars on the first lap, with the non-hybrid privateers benefitting from a higher top speed down Fuji International Speedway’s long start/finish straight.
The advantage was short-lived though, as through traffic the Toyotas were able to take more risks thanks to their hybrid systems. The #5 Ginetta G60-P1-LT kept pace with the lead cars for much of the race before mechanic issues saw the crew finish down in 12th position with the sister car just ahead in 10th.
Maiden victory for Racing Team Nederland
There was plenty to cheer for the FIA WEC’s Dutch contingent, after the #29 Racing Team Nederland crew of Nick de Vries, Giedo van der Garde and Fritz van Eerd secured their first-ever victory in the WEC.
In a close class battle, the #29 machine was lightning quick with professional drivers De Vries and Van der Garde behind the wheel and consistent and error-free while Fritz van Eerd completed his mandatory 90 minutes of driving time.
After falling out of sync in the pit stop pattern, De Vries emerged after his final stop just 6 seconds ahead of the #38 Jota Oreca with 30 minutes of the race remaining. On fresh tyres, De Vries made light work of tricky conditions in the final stages of the race to bring the car home in first. The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca of Will Stevens, Ho Ping Tung and Gabriel Aubry rounded out the podium.
A post-race penalty was then imposed on the #38 Jota machine, promoting the #37 Jackie DC Racing crew to second and the #22 United Autosports Oreca to third.
Aston Martin prevail in tight GTE Pro battle
It was a happy return to Japan for the Aston Martin Racing crew, after the British marque finished first and third in class. Victory went to Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen in the #95 Vantage.
The #91 Porsche had been in contention in the early stages, before a drive-through penalty hurt their chances of two wins in a row. The best-placed Ferrari was the #51 AF Corse machine piloted by James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi.
GTE Am win for TF Sport
Aston Martin were also victorious in GTE Am after an impressive performance by the TF Sport crew of Johnny Adam, Salih Yoluç and Charlie Eastwood. The UK-based team barely put a foot wrong all race and recorded a commanded lights-to-flag victory.
Second was the #83 AF Corse team of Collard/Perrodo/Nielsen and the #57 Team Project 1 Porsche made it three manufacturers in the top three.
Images © FIA WEC Pressematerial – Image 1: 2019 Tim Hearn / AdrenalMedia.com – Image 2: 2019 Marius Hecker / AdrenalMedia.com