It was only fitting that on a warm, beautiful late summer day at Fuji Speedway, that Toyota Gazoo Racing would celebrate the return of the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Fuji with a 1-2 finish at its home circuit.
Toyota picked up right where it left off when the race was last held three years ago, taking the victory courtesy of the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid of Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, and Ryo Hirakawa.
It’s the second win of the season for the Le Mans-winning trio. They combined to give Toyota their eighth overall win in the last nine runnings of the 6 Hours of Fuji, dating back to its revival as a six hour event in 2012.
Early on, it was the pole-sitting No. 7 Toyota of Mike Conway, José Maria López, and Kamui Kobayashi that led the race. Kobayashi held a slim advantage over Buemi in the first hour.
But midway into the second hour, with the No. 8’s pace becoming significantly quicker, Toyota swapped the positions of their two cars to put Buemi in front.
Hartley inherited a lead of just over six seconds when it was his turn at the wheel, and over the course of his middle stint he pulled the margin out to over thirty seconds by the time he was ready to hand off to Hirakawa, who continued to stretch the margin — and took the car home to the chequered flag after 232 laps.
A set-up issue hampered the No. 7 Toyota’s pace, but López and Conway were able to consolidate second overall, 68 seconds behind the sister car.
Third-place overall was the No. 36 Alpine Elf Team A480-Gibson (André Negrão, Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxivière), running a lonely but largely trouble-free penultimate race to score valuable championship points.
In its second race, the Peugeot TotalEnergies team avoided any catastrophic failures, but its pair of Peugeot 9X8s still encountered disruptions during their race.
Both cars suffered from a low pressure oil leak and had to go to the garage for repairs — first the No. 94 (Loïc Duval, Gustavo Menezes, James Rossiter), which lost over 20 minutes in the garage after running third overall early on, and then the No. 93 (Paul di Resta, Mikkel Jensen, Jean-Eric Vergne), which needed only five minutes to diagnose the issue.
The No. 93 recovered to finish fourth overall, while a late 60-second penalty stop for over-consumption of energy relegated the No. 94 to a 20th overall result.
Heading into the season-ending 8 Hours of Bahrain, it’s a dead heat in the Hypercar World Endurance drivers’ championship. The drivers of the No.8 Toyota and the No.36 Alpine are tied on 121 points each, followed by the trio of Conway, López, and Kobayashi on 95 points. Toyota leads the Manufacturers’ Championship by 26 points over Alpine.
LMP2 went all the way to the final minutes with fuel mileage playing a factor. Ultimately, the No. 31 WRT ORECA 07-Gibson of Sean Gelael, Robin Frijns, and super-sub Dries Vanthoor held on for their second win of the season.
Few could have expected the No. 28 JOTA ORECA (Oliver Rasmussen, Ed Jones, Jonathan Aberdein) to lead early on after being hit in the side on the first lap, but Aberdein and Jones would eventually drive to the front of the field. WRT took the lead after the third round of pit stops, with Frijns and Vanthoor carrying them to what seemed like a comfortable lead.
Then, the No. 38 JOTA ORECA (Roberto Gonzalez, Antonio Felix da Costa, Will Stevens) entered the picture in similar fashion, and by stretching out one more lap on every stint, had a fair chance to win the race on a fuel mileage blinder. Its last tank of fuel didn’t quite have enough to get all the way to the end, however, as Stevens had to pit with less than five minutes left.
Frijns cycled back to the lead and took the win, followed by the two JOTA cars, No. 38 ahead of No. 28.
The No. 41 RealTeam by WRT ORECA (Rui Andrade, Ferdinand Habsburg, Norman Nato) narrowly missed out on the class podium in fourth, just half a second behind the No. 28 JOTA car.
In fifth was the No. 23 United Autosports USA ORECA (Alex Lynn, Oliver Jarvis, Josh Pierson), followed by the No. 9 Prema Orlen Team ORECA (Robert Kubica, Louis Deletraz, Lorenzo Colombo) in sixth.
Gonzalez, Da Costa and Stevens leave Fuji with a commanding 28-point lead in the LMP2 drivers’ trophy. The top four teams are still mathematically eligible, but the No. 23 United Autosports team and the two WRT-run cars know that they no longer control their own championship fates.
LMP2 Pro-Am class honors went to the No.83 AF Corse ORECA (François Perrodo, Nicklas Nielsen, Alessio Rovera), and with the No. 45 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA (Steven Thomas, James Allen, Rene Binder) having its race compromised due to Thomas locking up into Dunlop Corner and hitting the No. 28 JOTA car on the opening lap, AF Corse now lead the P2 Pro-Am standings by eight points over APR.
Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado led an AF Corse/Ferrari 1-2 finish in the GTE Pro class’ Fuji farewell, and moved one step closer to becoming the category’s final champions with their second win of the season.
Pier Guidi and Calado drove the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo to the head of the class after Calado wrestled top spot from the No. 92 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR-19 of Kevin Estre in the first hour of the race. With the Porsche at a disadvantage on the straights, Calado opened up his advantage, and soon the No. 52 Ferrari of Miguel Molina made its way into second with a hearty pass down the front stretch.
Molina and Antonio Fuoco were able to catch their sister car, but while the two Ferraris ran tail to nose for most of the race, the win went to Pier Guidi and Calado, who head to Bahrain leading Estre and Michael Christensen by 11 points after the No. 92 Porsche finished third in class.
Penalties plagued the No. 91 Porsche of Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz. Bruni was one of a handful of drivers given a drive-through penalty for repeated track limits violations, while Lietz was parked for five seconds for avoidable contact with the GTE Am class No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche (Fred Poordad, Patrick Lindsey, Jan Heylen).
Nick Tandy also fell afoul of track limits infringements, but he and Tommy Milner really lost out when their No.64 Corvette Racing C8.R ran out of fuel towards the end of a stint early in the second hour, and they could manage no better than fifth.
The GT manufacturers’ championship is virtually level, with Porsche leading Ferrari, 216-215.
Two months after its race ended with Henrique Chaves’ car launching violently skyward off a sausage curb in Monza, the No. 33 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR extracted a measure of revenge with a comprehensive win in the GTE Am class.
Keating cleared his compulsory drive time early on, allowing Chaves to grab the class lead, with he and Sørensen closing out their second win of the season.
A strong performance for the female-fronted Iron Dames squad saw their No. 85 Ferrari driven by Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting, and Sarah Bovy match their season-best result in second.
And after leading in the first two hours, the No. 777 D’station Racing Vantage (Satoshi Hoshino, Tomonobu Fujii, Charles Fagg), held on to complete the podium — making it two TF Sport-run cars on the podium, and, of course, a well-deserved first podium of the season.
The No.54 AF Corse Ferrari (Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellacci, Davide Rigon) finished a close fourth, followed by the No. 98 Northwest AMR Vantage (Paul Dalla Lana, David Pittard, Nicki Thiim) in fifth, overcoming a track limits drive-through penalty to do so.
TF Sport now has a 20-point lead in the GTE Am drivers’ and teams’ trophies over the No. 98 Northwest AMR team, and Aston Martin are assured of a championship either way.
Out of 36 starters, the No.77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche (Christian Ried, Sebastien Priaulx, Harry Tincknell) was the only retirement. They suffered a terminal driveshaft failure after 128 laps.