Tuesday, 17 October 2017

FIA WEC - 6 Hours of Fuji: Toyota takes 1-2 in wet & foggy home race

What a difference a year makes ... last years race at the foot of Mount Fuji was flawless with 6 hours of uninterrupted racing, this years race saw 6 safety cars and 2 red flags. It's not the first time the 6 Hours of Fuji are hit by bad weather conditions, remember the 2013 monsoon edition. 

This year not only the rain affected the race on Sunday but most of all mist and clouds taking away visibility. Conditions changed by the minute, resulting in multiple safety cars, slow zones and eventually in 2 red flags. An eventful race with the Toyota's taking a 1-2 finish in front of the Porsches, closing down the gap a bit in the manufacturers championship and keeping their title hopes alive. 

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media


The race got underway behind the safety car for the first five laps, mainly due to restricted visibility on the start/finish straight. When the green flag was waived after 5 laps, there still was a slow zone introduced at the main straight.  Earl Bamber held on to first place in the #2 Porsche, André Lotterer behind him in the #1 Porsche was quickly attacked by both Toyota's. Buemi in the #8 Toyota got past Lotterer in the first lap, but was lucky not to score any damage when both cars touched.  Lotterer lost a dive plane in that incident, and fell back to fourth when Kobayashi got past him.  The German didn't give in to the Toyota, and after some fierce battles in tricky conditions he got back into third. 

 The safety car rolled out again just before the 1 hour mark, as visibility got worse again. This allowed most cars to go for their first pitstop of the race and several driver changes.  Conditions didn't improve, bringing out the first red flag of the afternoon. The #2 Porsche was still in the lead but didn't have a pitstop yet, ahead of both Toyota's. 

The restart was given at 12h50, again with a slow zone between turn 15 and turn 1 as visibility remained a problem on the main straight.  Bamber got straight into the pits for his first stop, handing over the lead to both Toyota's but losing over a minute to the race leaders. Timo Bernhard took over the #2 Porsche but struggled to get heat into his tyres and had almost no grip, causing him to lap 3 seconds slower than the Toyota's who seemed to be in excellent shape.  Minutes before the next safety car he got lapped by Nakajima in the leading #8 Toyota. 

As rain intensified another safety car was rolled out for about 25 minutes, changing the order again in the LMP1 class.  When the safety car got back in & safety zones were removed, Nakajima was leading in the #8 Toyota by 19 seconds from Nick Tandy. All three leading cars kept on racing close to eachother, each leading the race at a certain point during the pitstop cycles.  Meanwhile 2 more safety cars were sent out, the first when Andy Priaulx in the #67 Porsche drove into the leading GTE Pro Porsche and wandered into the barriers afterwards, the second when poor visibility created another yellow zone in the first sector of the track. 

© Toyota Motorsport Gmbh

The poor visibility brought out the second red flag after 4 hours and 24 minutes, freezing all positions. With 30 minutes left visibility was slightly improvoing but still poor. Yannick Dalmas went out in the safety car, taking Gérard Neveu as a passenger to check on the track conditions. A restart behind the safety car was announced, assuming we'd get a 10 minute sprint race to the flag. The conditions got worse again though, and the whole field was led into parc ferme, ending the race about 15 minutes early. 

Toyota scored a well needed 1-2 victory in their home race, with the #8 TS050 Hybrid of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Anthony Davidson on the top spot of the podium. They also closed the gap in the manufacturers championship down to 39 points with 12 hours of racing to in China and Bahrain. 


In LMP2 the #31 Vaillante Rebellion took its second victory of the season and closes up the gap with the championship leading #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing down to 10 points. The #13 Rebellion sister car had a less succesful Sunday afternoon, spinning in the first corner at the start of the race and going hard into the barriers in the fourth hour of the race after contact with Eric Vergne in the #24 Manor.



Bruno Senna had the best start in the #31, quickly building up a comfortable lead. Behind the Brazilian, the battles for the top 5 were fierce with Nico Lapierre in the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut charging through the field up to second place. When the first safety car came out, Alex Brundle held on to third in the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing with the #38 sister car close behind him. As the race was red flagged after 1h20' and after the first sequence of pitstops, the #31 was leading the #38, with the #36 now in third place. 



After the restart the #28 TDS Racing got up to second place due to a different strategy, but still behind the leading Rebellion. The #37 Jackie Chan Oreca would fall down the order complety when electrical gremlins forced them into the garage for repairs. Lots of battles were fought out before the second red flag, with André Negrao fighting back to second in the #36 Alpine.



When the second red flag came out, the #38 DC Racing Oreca was in third place. An order that wouldn't change anymore.  Completing the top 5 were the #28 TDS Racing which was still on route for a strong finish of the race and the #24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing. 



In the GTE Pro class, James Calado & Alessandro Pier Guido took their third won of the season and the lead in the championship after an eventful race. Richard Lietz had the best start leading ahead of Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford and Pier Guidi in the #51 Ferrari who jumped from fifth to third.  In the second hour of the race, the second Ford GT got into the top 3 when they leapfrogged the #51 Ferrari who pitted just before the red flag. 

When the green flag was waived again, Pier Guidi kept on chasing Makowiecki in the #91 Porsche, and managed to pass the Frenchman with a ballsy move in the chicane, sliding his Ferrari into the lead right before another yellow flag in sector 1 and the second red flag due to a lack of visibility.  As the race wouldn't be green flagged anymore, the #51 took victory, with both Porsches behind; #91 in second and #92 in third.



The Ford #67 had a disastrous race in Japan. It all started with a one minute stop & go penalty for exiting the pit lane under red light. Later on Priaulx tried to unlap himself from Kevin Estre in the leading #92 Porsche but completely missed his braking point, driving into the Porsche. Both cars could drive on, but a puncture and a spin into the barriers ended their race and lost them the lead in the championship.  The Aston Martins struggled for grip and pace on their Dunlops and never even had a chance to get to a podium finish. 

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media



The #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari of Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellacci and Miguel Molina took their first ever victory in the FIA WEC yesterday. Keita Sawa in the #61 Clearwater Ferrari led the GTE Am field when the safety car came out for the first time.  When the race was red flagged for the first time they fell back to second behind the #98 Aston Martin which hadn't made a pitstop by then. After the restart the order was shuffled again, the #61 now back up front with the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari in second and the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche in third. 



The #54 ran a faultless race in challenging conditions, getting into first place after the third round of pitstops, leaving the Clearwater Ferrari behind them. The Dempsey-Proton Porsche held on to third place, although an a reasonable distance from both Ferrari's. When the second red flag came out, the first win for the #54 was in the bag. The championship leading #98 Aston Martin had the same problem as the Pro cars all weekend, and finished 2 laps down from the winning Ferrari. 

The fight for the championship is really too close to call now, with all three title contenders within 3 points from eachother. Clearwater has taken the lead again with 149 points, two more than Dempsey-Proton, who are trailed by Dalla Lana & co in the #98 Aston by one point.

The next race for the World Endurance Championship will be held in Shanghai, China on November 3rd.


Kristof Vermeulen.
Pictures: Lennart Sorth/Club Arnage & Adrenal Media

Saturday, 14 October 2017

FIA WEC - 6 hours of Fuji: Porsche claims pole in LMP1 & GTE

Trying to avoid the expected heavy rain, qualifying got underway a bit earlier than planned this afternoon. The GTE cars kicked off todays qualifying session in mixed conditions, but managed to get out with intermediate tyres. By the time the qualifying session for the LMP's got underway conditions got worse again, pulling out the full wets again.

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media


Frederic Makowiecki and Richard Lietz scored their first pole position of the season in the GTE Pro class with their #91 Porsche 911 RSR. With an average laptime of 1.47.577 they kept both Ford GT's behind them. Andy Priaulx & Harry Tincknell were second fastest, 0.441 seconds behind the Porsche. Stefan Mücke & Olivier Pla parked their #66 Ford on third place, just over half a second behind the #67. The #71 AF Corse Ferrari and #92 Porsche completed the top 5.

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media


Clearwater racing took their first pole position in the World Endurance Championship, maximising their advantage of track knowledge as the sole Asian team in the class. Weng Sun Mok and Matt Griffin set a time of 1.49.408, holding off Matteo Cairoli & Christian Ried in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche and Pedro Lamy & Paul Dalla Lana in the #98 Aston Martin. The 3 teams battling for the championship on the top 3 spots of the class, GTE Am will be one to watch tomorrow !

Conditions got worse when the LMP cars went on track for their 20 minute qualifying session. Some teams still managed to start on intermediate tyres, but had to switch to full wets early in the session.

The battle for pole position again went on between both Porsche 919 Hybrids, who scored their fourth front row lockout of the season. Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber took pole position with an average time of 1.35.068, only 28 thousands of a second faster than Nick Tandy (who set the fastest time overall) and André Lotterer.

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media


The extra point for pole position extends the #2 crews lead in the championship to 52 points. If they finish ahead of the #8 Toyota tomorrow, Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley will be crowned as the 2017 drivers champions. More good news for Brendon Hartley came out yesterday evening, when STR Toro Rosso announced Hartley as their second driver in next weeks F1 race in Austin. That's 3 different cars in 3 different championships in 3 consecutive weekend for the Kiwi.

Toyota had a frustrating run in qualifying. The #8 TS050 of Sébastian Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima seemed to have the pace to challenge Porsche for pole position, but was delayed in traffic twice, losing out the best performance of their tyres. With an average time of 1.35.355 they qualified third, ahead of the #7 Toyota which struggled for pace and grip on the wet track.


© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media


Vaillante Rebellion also scored a front row lockout in the LMP2 class. Nelson Piquet Jr and David Henemeier Hansson claimed their first pole position of the season in the #13 Oreca 07. With an average laptime of 1.44.196, they were over 0.7 seconds faster than the second Vaillante of Bruno Senna and Julien Canal. Championship leaders Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing took third place in 1.45.078. Austin winners Signatech Alpine put the #36 also on the second row of the grid, the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing completed the top 5.

This morning, on track action started with a "Circuit Safari" ... The concept: put race fans & media in a bus on the track and release the race cars.  It's kind of a Japanese tradition and has been organised for the first time today during a WEC race. Every team had to send out 1 car on track during the session, but evetually all cars went out for an unprecedented show on the Fuji Speedway.  It certainly made for some unique footage as can be seen below: 


In the third and final practice session, Toyota set the pace again after being quickest in yesterday's afternoon session too. Sébastien Buemi put the #8 TS050 Hybrid on top with a lap of 1.35.414, 0.850 seconds faster than Earl Bamber in the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid. André Lotterer was fastest again in the #1 Porsche in third, Mike Conway set the best time in the #7 Toyota.

© Toyota Motorsport Gmbh


Jackie Chan DC Racing continued to dominate in the LMP2 class, now with the #37 Oreca 07 of Alex Brundle in 1.43.745. Nelson Piquet Jr came 0.002 seconds short in his #13 Vaillante Rebellion to snatch away the top spot. The second Vaillante Rebellion of Bruno Senna was third fastest, 0.316 seconds behind its sister car.

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media


Porsche looked strong again in the GTE Pro class, both Richard Lietz (1:47.724) and Fred Makowiecki (1:48.125 ) in the #91 Porsche 911 RSR outpacing the rest of the field. Michael Christensen was third fastest in the #92 Porsche (1:48.358), ahead of Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford GT. Matteo Cairoli was oustanding in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche in GTE Am, his time of 1.49.387 putting him right in the mix with the Pro cars. Matt Griffin in the #61 Clearwater Ferrari and Francesco Castellacci in the #54 Spirit of Race completed the final top 3 of the morning session.

Fuji post-qualifying press conference

The race is due to start at 11.00h local time tomorrow, unless the weather decides differently.

Qualifying results
LMP1 & LMP2
LM GTE Pro & Am

Kristof Vermeulen.

Friday, 13 October 2017

FIA WEC - AIM/JUDD offer LMP1 engine for privateer teams in LMP1 as from 2018

British race engine manufacturer Engine Developments Ltd and AIM Co Ltd of Japan today announced a program to offer a new LMP1 engine for privateer teams. The engine will be available to private teams on a lease-only basis for the start of the 2018/2019 Super season. 



Since the introduction of fuel flow limiting regulations in the FIA WEC LMP1 class in 2013 AIM/Judd has tested and developed a number of different engine configurations including naturally aspirated and turbocharged platforms. Performance levels have increased significantly as the regulations have evolved, the result being that what may have been the optimum engine configuration in 2013 is no longer the best package to deliver the performance and reliability required.

At the current performance level of over 700PS and with a minimum car weight of less than 850kg, the new normally aspirated 5.5 litre V10 is designed to deliver extremely competitive lap times. The new V10 engine does not have the problems of throttle response, complexity and reliability associated with turbocharged engines or the weight and size issues associated with similar capacity normally aspirated V8 and V12 engines.

The AIM-JUDD V10 engine will incorporate a number of new developments aimed at maximising performance potential under the fuel flow limiting regulations whilst retaining the excellent reliability record that the previous JUDD and AIM V10 engines achieved in endurance racing. These include a new 72 degree cylinder block which is significantly lighter than any of our previous designs, a new combustion chamber, cooling system and piston design as well as an updated engine management system with electronic throttle and fuel flow management software. The expected technical regulations in LMP1 will guarantee parity of performance between the various engine types being used through a rigorous FIA homologation procedure. We therefore believe the V10 platform should be the natural choice for any LMP1 team that is serious about having a trouble-free run in the 2018 Le Mans 24hrs race. JUDD is delighted to again take on the Le Mans challenge with long-standing partners AIM in this new and exciting program. The new engine will be available to private teams on a lease-only basis for the beginning of the 2018/19 Super Season.

AIM-JUDD is the fourth engine manufacturer who has an engine available for the LMP1 privateer class in the FIA World Endurance Championship next season. They have been active in LMP2 until 2016 after which Gibson was selected as the sole engine supplier for the new LMP2 cars. The 2016 Asian Le Mans Series champions Race Performance raced with a Judd engine in the Oreca 03.  In the privateer LMP1 class, Ginetta is working together with Mechachrome for its LMP1 customer car, but is offering the option to team up with a different manufacturer. BR Engineering/Dallara is believed to have a deal with AER for its engine, and ByKolles will keep on racing with Nismo engines next season. 

Whether we'll see a Judd/AIM engine on the grid in the 2018/2019 season, and if a V10 naturally aspirated engine will be the best available option is unclear. An earlier attempt in 2016 to commercialise a similar engine didn't get them any customers, as privateer teams Rebellion and ByKolles held on to their AER engines. The addition of an extra engine manufacturer might open up the privateer market though, and who doesn't want to hear a screaming V10 going round at Le Mans ? 

Kristof Vermeulen. 

FIA WEC 2017 - 6 Hours of Fuji: Wet practice on Friday


Wet weather and (very) tricky conditions today for the first free practice sessions ahead of the 6 Hours of Fuji on Sunday. After a rather uneventful first session, the second practice was shortened due to a 50 minute red flag when Vitaly Petrov had a rather big off in his Manor Oreca, requiring repair works to the barriers.

© Porsche



Porsche had the best start of the day with both 919 Hybrids on top of the timetable after the fiirst 90 minute practice session. André Lotterer went fastest in the #1 Porsche in a 1.35.527, beating Earl Bamber in the #2 sister car with 0.133 seconds. Jose Maria Lopez was the fastest Toyota driver, putting the #7 TS050 on third place, just under half a second behind Lotterer. Sébastian Buemi was fourth fastest in the #8 Toyota.

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media


In LMP2 Alex Brundle got around fastest in his #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 05 in a 1.42.735. Matthieu Vaxiviere in the #28 TDS Racing was a stong second fastest, 0.490 seconds behind Brundle. The #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing was third fastest in the hands of Ho-Pin Tung, with Ben Hanley in the #24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing behind him. Gustavo Menezes in the #36 Signatech Alpine completed the top 5, 0.992 seconds behind Brundle. 

© Porsche


Porsche not only dominated in LMP1, the GTE Pro class was also the German's territory with both 911's quickest in the morning session. Michael Christensen clocked a 1.47.365 in the #92, giving him an advantage of 0.252 seconds ahead of Richard Lietz in the #91 sister car. Both AF Corse Ferrari's followed the Porsches, Davide Rigon third fastest in the #71 (1.47.627), Alessandro Pier Guidi fourth in the #51 488 GTE. Ford took fifth and sixth place, the Aston Martins struggled for pace in the bad conditions, giving in over 5 seconds compared to the top runners.

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media


Ferrari was on top of the GTE-Am class, Miguel Molina fastest in 1.47.655 in the #54 Spirit of Race, 0.591 seconds ahead of Matt Griffin in the #61 Clearwater Ferrari. The pink #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche came in third fastest with Matteo Cairoli behind the wheel. 


Take a lap around the Fuji Speedway with Sébastian Buemi and Allan McNish

The second session was even wetter than the first session with heavy rain falling down on the track.  15 minutes into the session, Vitaly Petrov went hard into the barriers at the 100R corner, causing the session to be red flagged for about 50 minutes due to repairs to the barries. FP2 turned into a shortened session  in which the fastest times were set early on before the red flag and only 30 drivers set a time. 


© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media



José Maria Lopez was fastest in his #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid in 1.39.202, over 1.3 seconds ahead of Neel Jani in the #1 Porsche. Kazuki Nakajima went third fastest in the #8 Toyota, with Timo Bernhard behind him in the #2 Porsche. 

© JOTA Sport


Jackie Chan DC Racing was quikest again, but now it was Thomas Laurent in the #38 who set the fastest time. His 1.47.437 was 0.084 seconds faster than Bruno Senna in the #31 Vaillante Rebellion.  Despite his crash, Vitaly Petrov still clocked the third fastest time in the session with 1.48.004. Rounding out the top 5 were Roman Rusinov in the #26 G-Drive and Mathias Beche in the second Vaillante Rebellion (#13).

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media


Olivier Pla took the top spot in GTE Pro in his #66 Ford GT with a laptime of 1.52.658, holding off both Porsches. Fréd Makowiecki followed close in the #91 Porsche, just 0.052 seconds behind his fellow Frenchman. Kevin Estre was right on the heels of his teammate, 0.009 seconds slower in third place. The first Ferrari was the #51 AF Corse of James Calado in fifth place, both Aston Martins closed the GTE Pro classification this afternoon. 

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media


In GTE-Am the Clearwater Ferrari of Keita Sawa now was fastest in 1.53.381, even quicker than both AF Corse Pro Ferrari's. Francesco Castellacci in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari came in second fastest with Ben Barker behind him in the #86 Gulf Racing UK Porsche. 

Fuji pre-event press conference:





Kristof Vermeulen. 

Thursday, 12 October 2017

ELMS - United Autosports signs Phil Hanson & expand to 2 cars in LMP2

United Autosports announced more details about their 2018 program in the European Le Mans Series next season, with the signing of Phil Hanson and the addition of a second Ligier JS P217.

The American team will expand its presence in the European Le Mans Series to two cars in the LMP2 class, adding a second Gibson powered Ligier to their current line-up. The first season of United Autosports in the ELMS has been quite successful so far with a win at their maiden race in Silverstone and the Red Bull Ring.  The team is still in contention for this years title, which will be decided next week in Portimao, Portugal. 



Also confirmed is the signing of Phil Hanson to the team, who will start his season with United Autosports in the Daytona 24 Hours next January. He will also be one of the designated drivers in the European Le Mans Series.  18-year old Hanson made an impressive debut in the European Le Mans Series with Tockwith Motorsports, showing some outright speed in both LMP3 and LMP2 machinery and clinched this years Asian Le Mans Series championship.  He will race alongside Lando Norris in one of the team's Daytona 24 Hours entries, the third driver to be announced soon. 


Phil Hanson, driver, United Autosports: “I’m very excited to be racing for reigning European Le Mans Series champions United Autosports next year. The Rolex 24 at Daytona will be my first race in America. Racing at Daytona is a very exhilarating way to start my 2018 season, as it is one of the most famous races in the world. I can’t wait to get going.”

Zak Brown, Team Owner and Chairman, United Autosports: “I’m really looking forward to working with Phil next year. Although relatively new to sports car racing, he’s got some experience under his belt already and he will only get better with time. 2018 is looking to be very exciting for the team."



Wednesday, 11 October 2017

FIA WEC 2017 - 6 Hours of Fuji: Preview

The FIA World Endurance Championship arrived in Japan this week for the seventh race of the 2017 season in the shadows of Mount Fuji.

The 6 Hours of Fuji is the home race for Toyota Gazoo Racing, not just as the Japanese round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, but also because the Higashi-Fuji technical centre where Toyota's engine and hybrid systems are being developed, is just a few kilometers from the track.  Since its return to the World Endurance Championship, Toyota has won 5 out of races on their home soil in Japan. The performance gap the TS050 had compared with the Porsche has been significantly reduced in Austin last month, so Toyota will be eager to chase their third win of the season this weekend.



Last years winners Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi are joined by José Maria Lopez this season in the #7 TS050 Hybrid. Anthony Daivdson returns to his driving duties after missing the race in Texas, joining Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima again in the #8 Toyota.

The future of Toyota in the FIA World Endurance Championship remains unclear so far. An announcement is expected for this month, but accoring to the team's latest press release isn't necessarily during the Fuji event.

© Porsche


Porsche arrives in Fuji as leaders in the championship with a total of 242 points, giving them an advantage of 73,5 points over Toyota. The German manufacturer also leads the drivers championship with Brendon Hartley, Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard who have scored 159 point so far in the #2 919 Hybrid.  Kazuki Nakajima and Sébastien Buemi occupy second place with their #8 Toyota, but are already 51 points behind.

If the trio racing in the #2 Porsche finish ahead of the #8 Toyota, they will be crowned as world champions on Sunday evening. Porsche can also claim their third successive manufacturers championship if they manage to score a fourth one-two victory of the season. To achieve that goal, Porsche will race with the high downforce kit on the 919 Hybrid, which will be tuned towards medium downforce within the prescribed possibilities.


In LMP2 the crew of the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca will be out for a good finish after 2 disappointing races in the Americas, losing out a lot of their lead in the championship. A season low ninth place finish after a desastrous race in Mexico and a non podium finish in Austin didn't really add to their title challenge. The #31 Vaillante Rebellion scored 40 points in the last 2 races compared to DC Racing's 14, reducing the gap to just 20 points with 3 races to go (130 points vs 110).



Third in the championship is Signatech Alpine Matmut who scored their first victory of the season in Austin and always have been strong in Fuji. The #37 DC Racing Oreca leads the rest of the field in fourth place, but already 33 points behind the Signatech Alpine.

In the drivers championship it's the #38 crew on top of the leaderboard with Ho-Pin Tung, Oliver Jarvis and Thomas Laurent at 130 points. Bruno Senna and Julien Canal share second place with 110 points, ahead of Gustavo Menezes in third with 102 points. Nicolas Prost -who missed out the race in Germany – is fourth with 92 points so far.

One driver change is to be noted compared to Austin last month: James Rossiter replaces Alex Lynn in the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca.  Rossiter raced with ByKolles earlier in the season in the 6 Hours of Silverstone and Spa. It's unsure if we will see Lynn back at the wheel of the G-Drive after the Fuji round.



Ferrari has been the most succesful team so far in the GTE Pro class with 3 wins out of six races and a 1-2 finish in Texas last month. They lead the manufacturer championship with a total of 203 points, 40 points ahead of Ford in second place.  Finishing first and second in Austin last month has certainly boosted their confidence, opening the road to the 2017 championship for Ferrari.

Ford looked strong in the beginning of the season, but struggled for pace since the 6 hours of the Nürburgring. Fuji might be a turning point for Porsche though, since they dominated the race last year, taking the two top spots of the podium.  With 163 points, the American team is just one point ahead of Aston Martin that won at Le Mans and Mexico and has been closing the gap with Ford in the past races. Porsche has collected podium places in almost every race since Le Mans, and is now fourth in the championship, just 4 points shy of Aston (157 points).





Ford might have lost touch with Ferrari in the manufacturers championship, in the drivers championship, they still hold the lead with Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford GT. The Brits have collected 102 point so far and are leading Fréd Makowiecki and Richard Lietz in the #91 Porsche with 6 points (92).  Davide Rigon is third in the championship with 95,5 points, half a point ahead of his co-driver Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 Ferrari.  The drivers of the second Ferrari (#71) James Calado and Sam Bird are tied with Pier Guidi in fourth place with 95 points. Rounding out the top five are defending champions Marco Sorensen & Nicki Thiim in the #95 Aston Martin, both with 81 points.

Daniel Serra won't be racing with Aston Martin anymore this season. The #97 Vantage now also features a two driver line-up with Darren Turner and Jonny Adam for the remainder of the year.

The fight for the championship in the GTE Am class has been very close all season long so far and will be a 3 car battle for the remaining races of the season.  Championship leaders Dalla Lana, Lamy and Lauda dominated the race in Suzuka last season, putting evey other car in class a lap behind after 6 hours. Winning again this weekend could give them a bit of breathing space in a so far thrilling championship.



FIA WEC debutants Clearwater Racing had the best start of the season with an unexpected win at Silverstone.  After Le Mans, in which non of the full season entrants managed to finish on the podium, Aston Martin and Porsche have been in a close battle for the lead in the 2017 championship, both winning 2 races so far.

Winning in Austin last month gave the #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda the lead again in the championship with a total of 136 points. Out of the 6 races which have been run so far in the 2017 championship, the trio scored 5 pole positions, only missing the top spot of the grid in Mexico. Despite an unlucky race in Austin, the #77 Dempsey – Proton Racing Porsche still holds on to second place with a combined total of 132 points, just 4 points behind the Aston.  A very close third is the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari with 130 points after being able to score points in each race.

The #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari (77 points) and #66 Gulf Racing UK Porsche (61 points) complete the leaderboard in the GTE Am class, but too far behind for a top spot by the end of the season.

In the drivers championship Dalla Lana, Lamy and Lauda are leading with 130 points, 4 points ahead of Christian Ried, Marvin Dienst and Matteo Cairoli. Keita Sawa, Matt Griffin and Weng Sun Mok are third with 116 points.



The #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche of Christian Ried, Matteo Cairoli and Marvin Dienst will race in a distinctive pink livery in Fuji this weekend, in support of the Pink Ribbon foundation for breast cancer awareness. In the other Porsche in the AM class, the #96 Gulf Racing UK, Mike Hedlund replaces Mike Wainwright. Hedlund has race with one of the Dempsey-Proton Porsches at Le Mans this year, finishing ninth in the Am class.

Track action starts in Japan on Thursday morning at 11.00h with the first 90 minute practice session for the World Endurance Championship.

Useful links: 
Timetable
Provisional Entry list
Spotter Guide


Kristof Vermeulen.