Porsche celebrated another 1-2 finish after an exhilarating and action-packed sixth round of the World Endurance Championship at a wet Fuji Speedway.
Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley took a third consecutive win in the No.17 Porsche 919 Hybrid after the German marque ordered the sister machine of Neel Jani aside.
Jani and his teammates Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb had led for the majority of the event after Dumas had wrested the lead from Marcel Fassler’s No. 7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro earlier in the race.
After solid stints in the drying conditions from Marc Lieb, Neel Jani took over the wheel and maintained a minute lead until receiving a drive-through penalty for improving a sector time under a yellow flag.
This reduced Jani’s lead to Timo Bernhard to just 30 seconds which made swapping the position easier in the final 10 minutes of the race.
The maximum points scored by Webber, Bernhard and Hartley mean that they are now one point ahead of Audi trio Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler with two races remaining at Shanghai and Bahrain.
The No. 7 Audi ultimately lost out on a crack at challenging the Porsches when a mid-race gamble to try slick tyres on a slowly drying circuit failed to pay off. The extra pit stop ensured that they fell back behind the sister No. 8 Audi.
Like Porsche, Audi made the call to switch the No. 8 and No. 7 Audi. Despite a final hour collision between Treluyer and an LMGTE Am Porsche, the No. 7 was still able to take advantage of the deliberately slowing Loic Duval.
It was a replica of the team order call that they made at the Nurburgring in August in an attempt to the No. 7 trio’s title hopes.
The race was punctuated by several wheel to wheel fights, the most exciting of which featured Webber and Fassler as they battled for second place in the second hour, swapping places six times.
Toyota had another frustrating race after the No. 2 TS 040 driven by Alex Wurz, Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin was delayed with a cooling issue.
Earlier in the race, which started behind the Safety Car, Wurz was involved in a collision with Dumas and both cars spun, but were able to rejoin without losing much time.
The No. 2 eventually finished sixth behind the Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima-crewed No.1 machine, which lost time after serving a penalty for when Davidson cut the pit lane entry line in the second hour.
G-Drive wins bruising LMP2 encounter
G-Drive Racing won the LMP2 class for the second race running, but only after a contentious and bruising battle with the Le Mans class-winning KCMG ORECA-Nissan.
Julien Canal, Sam Bird and Roman Rusinov took the win after a collision with their title rivals KCMG in the last 30 minutes of the race.
KCMG driver Richard Bradley overtook Roman Rusinov to claim the class lead, but the Russian fought back. The two clashed several times and eventually the KCMG ORECA was damaged.
Bradley, who shared the KCMG entry with Nick Tandy and Matt Howson, was forced to pit, but when he returned to the track was embroiled in a battle with the other G-Drive Ligier-Nissan driven by Gustavo Yacaman.
The battle for what was the final place on the podium ended with several contacts and Bradley being pitched in to the wall and retirement. The race director and stewards summoned both parties for a discussion after the race.
Second place in LMP2 was the Signatech Alpine ORECA-Nissan 03R driven by Paul-Loup Chatin, Vincent Capillaire and Nelson Panciatici. Earlier in the race Chatin had led, revelling in the clearer visibility of the open-cockpit Alpine.
AF Corse Ferrari was victorious in the LMGTE Pro class after Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni fended off the pair of Manthey Porsches.
Frederic Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet overhauled the other AF Corse-entered Ferrari 458 Italia of pole sitters Davide Rigon and James Calado to claim the runner-up position after a frenetic battle that raged until the final lap.
Patrick Dempsey took his first FIA WEC GTE Am win with the Proton Porsche team mates Patrick Long and Marco Seefried.
Driving the Porsche 911 RSR Dempsey contributed two solid stints to head home the Aston Martin Vantage GTE of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda.