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Race report
WEC Fuji

Fuji WEC: Toyota sees off Porsche challenge for victory

Toyota overcame an early challenge from Porsche to score a 1-2 finish in the Fuji 6 Hours and wrap up the 2023 World Endurance Championship manufacturers’ title.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

The #7 Toyota GR010 HYBRID of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez took the chequered flag 39 seconds clear of the sister #8 car shared by Brendon Hartley, Ryo Hirakawa and Sebastien Buemi, as the Japanese manufacturer celebrated its ninth WEC win at Fuji in 10 attempts.

Porsche's lead car, the #6 machine of Laurens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre and Andre Lotterer, led for just under four hours and eventually took the final spot on the podium, 47s behind the winning #7 Toyota.

Vanthoor seized the lead at the start of the race as he dived up the inside of the two Toyotas that locked out the front row into Turn 1 with Miguel Molina's #50 Ferrari making an equally impressive jump from seventh to grab second.

The polesitting #7 Toyota then driven by Conway dropped to third, while the #8 Toyota of Buemi slipped even further back to sixth behind the second Ferrari of James Calado and the sole Cadillac of Alex Lynn.

The safety car was deployed almost immediately afterwards, prompted by Luis Perez Companc stopping on track in the #83 Richard Mille Ferrari 488 GTE following a spin at Turn 1.

When the race resumed at the start of lap 4, Vanthoor led the way for Porsche, while Conway tried to grab second from Molina, only to run wide and allow the other Ferrari of Calado to get through.

However, Toyota duo Conway and Buemi were able to come back and repass the Ferrari duo before the end of the opening stint, assuming second and third positions behind the leading Porsche.

Vanthoor was able to gradually extend his lead to 16 seconds in the second hour and the gap had only come down to 11s by the time Estre took over the #6 car in the third hour.

Lopez was able to gradually chip away at Estre’s lead and reached the tail of the Porsche at the beginning of the fourth hour, but the Porsche driver appeared to have things under control. 

That was until the two Toyotas of Lopez and Hirakawa swapped positions shortly after a lock-up for the Argentine driver.

Now Estre's primary challenger for the lead, Hirakawa wasted little time after grabbing second and made a brilliant pass on Estre for the lead going into the Dunlop chicane just shy of the four-hour mark.

The #7 Toyota would also get ahead of the Porsche during the next pitstop cycle, with Hartley now leading from Kobayashi.

But what was a five-second gap between the pair quickly disappeared and Kobayashi made what turned out to be the race-winning move in the fifth hour, breezing past the Kiwi at Turn 1 to take the lead of the race.

Kobayashi then went on to build a massive lead out front, eventually taking the win comfortably to close the gap between the two Toyota crews in the drivers’ standings to 15 points heading into the Bahrain season finale.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

Photo by: Motorsport.com / Japan

Taking over from Estre for the final part of the race, Lotterer had no answer to the Toyotas up front, but brought home the #6 car to secure Porsche’s second podium of the season after Portimao.

Ferrari had a lacklustre outing at Fuji, with its two cars finishing more than a lap down in fourth and fifth respectively.

Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen led the team’s charge in the #50 Ferrari 499P, finishing 21s clear of the #51 entry shared by Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Antonio Giovinazzi.

The #38 JOTA Porsche crew of Antonio Felix da Costa, Will Stevens and Yifei Ye managed to finish sixth despite an early collision for da Costa with the team’s LMP2 car for which it was hit with a drive-through penalty.

Peugeot never featured near the front of the pack after a difficult qualifying session on Saturday, with Gustavo Menezes, Loic Duval and substitute driver Stoffel Vandoorne only managing seventh in the best of the two Peugeot 9X8s.

The second Peugeot of Jean-Eric Vergne, Mikkel Jensen and Paul di Resta was classified eighth after a lengthy stop in the closing stages, while Proton team finished ninth with a brand new Porsche 963 chassis after losing time in multiple pitstops due to a seatbelt issue.

Cadillac endured a torrid race at Fuji, requiring extensive repair work after the front-left wheel came loose during the fourth hour. It had already dropped out of contention before Richard Westbrook picked up a drive-through penalty for exceeding track limits. 

Westbrook, Alex Lynn and Earl Bamber eventually finished 10th among 12 Hypercar entrants, only beating the Vanwall of Esteban Guerrieri, Joao Paulo de Oliveira and Tristan Vautier and the #5 Porsche of Frederic Makowiecki, Dane Cameron and Michael Christensen.

The #5 Porsche was involved in a first-lap tangle as Christensen was hit by Calado's Ferrari at the first corner, giving the Danish driver a right-rear puncture that forced him to pit at the end of the opening lap.

Further time was lost with a drive-through penalty for completing a full pitstop under the safety car and not pitting when the race went back to green, and two later trips to the garage for technical problems.

LMP2: WRT overcomes United to win

WRT trio Robert Kubica, Louis Deletraz and Rui Andrade inched closer to winning the 2023 LMP2 title with their second class win of the season at Fuji in the team's #41 car.

 

The #41 WRT entry ran sixth at the beginning after Andrade was hit by the #23 United Autosports ORECA of Josh Pierson, an incident for which Pierson was hit with a 10s time penalty.

But the points-leading WRT crew was able to make up for the time loss, with Deletraz taking the lead in the fourth hour after passing the #22 United machine of Phil Hanson.

Robin Frijns made it a 1-2 for WRT when he cleared Hanson’s team-mate Albuquerque late in the race, but the two cars swapped positions with two laps to go, reinstating Albuquerque and Frederick Lubin to second.

The second United Autosports car of Pierson, Ben Hanley and Oliver Jarvis finished fourth behind the WRT of Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg and Sean Gelael.

GTE Am: Ferrari 1-2 as #54 crew ends drought

In GTE Am, Davide Rigon, Francesco Castellacci and Thomas Flohr took the class win in the #54 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE, Flohr and Castellacci ending a six-year win drought in the process.

 

That was despite Flohr going off-track in the second hour after being hit by the Corvette of Ben Keating, who was hit with a 30-second stop/go penalty by the stewards for causing the contact.

Second place went to the #57 Kessel Racing Ferrari following a charging late stint by Toyota junior and WEC debutant Ritomo Miyata, who was called in at the last-minute to replace an absent Daniel Serra.

Miyata, Takeshi Kimura and Scott Huffaker finished three seconds clear of the Corvette of Keating, Nicky Catsburg and Nicolas Varrone.

UPDATE: Kessel was handed a 10-second penalty for Miyata speeding during a late full-course yellow period, dropping the #57 Ferrari crew to third in GTE Am behind Corvette.

Fuji WEC - race results:

 
 
       
Driver Info
 
 
 
   
Cla Team # Drivers Car Laps Time Interval Pits Retirement Points
1
Toyota Racing HYPERCAR
7 United Kingdom M. Conway Japan K. Kobayashi Argentina J. Lopez Toyota GR010 - Hybrid 229 -   5    
2
Toyota Racing HYPERCAR
8 Switzerland S. Buemi New Zealand B. Hartley Japan R. Hirakawa Toyota GR010 - Hybrid 229 +39.119 39.119 5    
3
PORSCHE PENSKE MOTORSPORT HYPERCAR
6 France K. Estre Germany A. Lotterer Belgium L. Vanthoor Porsche 963 229 +47.768 8.649 5    
4
FERRARI AF CORSE HYPERCAR
50 Italy A. Fuoco Spain M. Molina Denmark N. Nielsen Ferrari 499P 228 +1 Lap 1 Lap 5    
5
FERRARI AF CORSE HYPERCAR
51 Italy A. Pier Guidi United Kingdom J. Calado Italy A. Giovinazzi Ferrari 499P 228 +1 Lap 21.160 5    
6
HERTZ TEAM JOTA HYPERCAR
38 Portugal A. Felix da Costa United Kingdom W. Stevens China Y. Yifei Porsche 963 228 +1 Lap 22.078 6    
7
PEUGEOT TOTALENERGIES HYPERCAR
94 France L. Duval United States G. Menezes Belgium S. Vandoorne Peugeot 9X8 228 +1 Lap 19.634 5    
8
PEUGEOT TOTALENERGIES HYPERCAR
93 United Kingdom P. di Resta Denmark M. Jensen France J. Vergne Peugeot 9X8 226 3 laps   5    
9
Proton Competition HYPERCAR
99 Switzerland N. Jani Italy G. Bruni United Kingdom H. Tincknell Porsche 963 221 8 laps   6    
10
CADILLAC RACING HYPERCAR
2 New Zealand E. Bamber United Kingdom A. Lynn United Kingdom R. Westbrook Cadillac V-Series.R 219 10 laps   8    
11
TEAM WRT LMP2
41 Portugal R. Andrade Poland R. Kubica Switzerland L. Deletraz Oreca 07 219 +10 Laps 1'27.885 7    
12
United Autosports LMP2
22 United Kingdom F. Lubin United Kingdom P. Hanson Portugal F. Albuquerque Oreca 07 218 11 laps   7    
13
TEAM WRT LMP2
31 Indonesia S. Gelael Austria F. Habsburg Netherlands R. Frijns Oreca 07 218 +11 Laps 8.472 7    
14
United Autosports LMP2
23 United States J. Pierson United Kingdom B. Hanley United Kingdom O. Jarvis Oreca 07 218 +11 Laps 14.885 7    
15
ALPINE ELF TEAM LMP2
36 France M. Vaxiviere France J. Canal France C. Milesi Oreca 07 218 +11 Laps 18.143 7    
16
Jota Sport LMP2
28 Denmark D. Heinemeier Hansson Brazil P. Fittipaldi Denmark O. Rasmussen Oreca 07 218 +11 Laps 26.211 8    
17
VECTOR SPORT LMP2
10 Ireland R. Cullen Liechtenstein M. Kaiser France G. Aubry Oreca 07 217 12 laps   7    
18
PREMA RACING LMP2
9 Romania F. Ugran Netherlands B. Viscaal United States J. Correa Oreca 07 217 +12 Laps 30.510 7    
19
INTER EUROPOL COMPETITION LMP2
34 Poland J. Smiechowski Switzerland F. Scherer Spain A. Costa Oreca 07 217 +12 Laps 5.002 8    
20
PREMA RACING LMP2
63 France D. Pin Italy A. Caldarelli Russian Federation D. Kvyat Oreca 07 216 13 laps   8    
21
ALPINE ELF TEAM LMP2
35 Brazil A. Negrao Mexico M. Rojas United Kingdom O. Caldwell Oreca 07 216 +13 Laps 1'09.524 8    
22
FLOYD VANWALL RACING TEAM HYPERCAR
4 Argentina E. Guerrieri France T. Vautier
J. De
Vanwall Vandervell 680 211 18 laps   6    
23
AF Corse LMGTE AM
54 Switzerland T. Flohr Italy F. Castellacci Italy D. Rigon Ferrari 488 GTE EVO 210 19 laps   5    
24
Kessel Racing LMGTE AM
57 Japan T. Kimura United States S. Huffaker Japan R. Miyata Ferrari 488 GTE EVO 210 +19 Laps 33.756 5    
25
Corvette Racing LMGTE AM
33 United States B. Keating
N. Varrone
Netherlands N. Catsburg
Chevrolet Corvette C8.R 210 +19 Laps 3.773 5    
26
IRON DAMES LMGTE AM
85 Belgium S. Bovy Denmark M. Gatting Switzerland R. Frey Porsche 911 RSR - 19 210 +19 Laps 14.536 5    
27
PROJECT 1 - AO LMGTE AM
56 United States P. Hyett United States G. Jeannette Italy M. Cairoli Porsche 911 RSR - 19 210 +19 Laps 25.740 6    
28
Proton Competition LMGTE AM
77 Germany C. Ried
M. Pedersen
France J. Andlauer
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 210 +19 Laps 14.002 7    
29
NORTHWEST AMR LMGTE AM
98 United Kingdom I. James Italy D. Mancinelli Spain A. Riberas Aston Martin Vantage AMR 210 +19 Laps 3.742 5    
30
GR RACING LMGTE AM
86 United Kingdom M. Wainwright Italy R. Pera United Kingdom B. Barker Porsche 911 RSR - 19 210 +19 Laps 2.524 5    
31
RICHARD MILLE AF CORSE LMGTE AM
83 Argentina L. Perez Companc France L. Wadoux Italy A. Rovera Ferrari 488 GTE EVO 209 20 laps   5    
32
D'Station Racing LMGTE AM
777 Japan S. Hoshino United Kingdom C. Stevenson Japan T. Fujii Aston Martin Vantage AMR 209 +20 Laps 43.383 5    
33
IRON LYNX LMGTE AM
60 Italy C. Schiavoni Italy M. Cressoni Belgium A. Picariello Porsche 911 RSR - 19 209 +20 Laps 49.476 7    
34
AF Corse LMGTE AM
21 Japan H. Koizumi France S. Mann Japan K. Cozzolino Ferrari 488 GTE EVO 208 21 laps   7    
35
ORT BY TF LMGTE AM
25 United Kingdom A. Al Harthy United States M. Dinan Ireland C. Eastwood Aston Martin Vantage AMR 206 23 laps   10    
36
PORSCHE PENSKE MOTORSPORT HYPERCAR
5 United States D. Cameron Denmark M. Christensen France F. Makowiecki Porsche 963 185 44 laps   6    

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