A look back at three of the best Fuji WEC races
Photo: Toyota Motorsport
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11.10.2017 - 04h08

A look back at three of the best Fuji WEC races

As anticipation builds for the 6 Hours of Fuji, we look back on three of the most memorable races at the 4.563 km Fuji Speedway since the FIA World Endurance Championship’s first visit in 2012.

As anticipation builds for the 6 Hours of Fuji, we look back on three of the most memorable races at the 4.563 km Fuji Speedway since the FIA World Endurance Championship’s first visit in 2012. 

2012 – Toyota’s home triumph 

The first 6 Hours of Fuji delivered a popular home victory for Toyota, especially after the chasing Audi of Benoit Tréluyer had to serve a drive-through penalty.

Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima started on pole courtesy of a stunning lap from home hero Nakajima, but Wurz’s early advantage was eroded by Audi’s decision to single-stint their tyres. Tréluyer had capitalised on an error from Lapierre at the final corner to take the lead shortly before the third round of pitstops and was chasing the Toyota down again when he made contact with Stefan Mücke’s Aston Martin at the chicane. The penalty allowed Toyota to score its second WEC victory, with Tréluyer, André Lotterer and Marcel Fässler just 11 seconds behind at the finish.

Each of the three different manufacturers in LMGTE Pro were represented on the podium, as Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz took their second win of the year in the privateer Felbermayr-Proton Porsche. Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella were second in the AF Corse Ferrari, while Mücke and Darren Turner recovered to third. 

The 2012 LMP1 privateer and LMP2 titles were also decided at Fuji, with Rebellion Racing and Starworks Motorsport taking the spoils. 

2015 – Porsche breaks the stranglehold 

After a learning year in 2014, Porsche was the team to beat at Fuji in 2015, but few would have predicted that outcome based on the evidence of the first few laps under green. After the field was released from behind the safety car, pole-sitter Mark Webber was caught out by the soaking wet conditions and spun at turn two, then Romain Dumas lost ground by accidentally engaging his pitlane speed limiter and subsequently tangled with Alex Wurz’s Toyota. 

As a result, both had to play catch-up as Marcel Fässler’s Audi streaked clear out front but, as the track dried, the race gradually came to Porsche, with Neel Jani and Timo Bernhard running first and second. When Jani was called into the pits to serve a drive-through penalty for improving under yellow flags in the final hour, Porsche was able to reverse its cars and ensure the title-challenging trio of Webber, Bernhard and Brendon Hartley took a third victory of the season. 

Elsewhere, there was elation for Patrick Dempsey as the American took his first LMGTE Am class win alongside co-drivers Marco Seefried and Patrick Long in the Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911, while controversy reigned in LMP2 as championship leaders KCMG crashed out in the closing stages following a physical battle with G-Drive.

2016 – Strategy wins the day for Toyota in three-way fight 

Last year’s edition of the 6 Hours of Fuji was perhaps one of the greatest races in championship history, with less than 20 seconds separating the top three cars after a thrilling strategic battle involving all three LMP1 manufacturers. 

Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi scored Toyota’s first win since 2014 by just 1.5 seconds over the chasing Audi of Lucas di Grassi, Oliver Jarvis and Loïc Duval.  A daring strategic gamble, sending Kobayashi out on stint-old tyres to leapfrog the Audi which had led the majority of the race, undoubtedly contributed to Toyota’s victory. Porsche also remained in the mix until the end and led the Toyota until the penultimate pitstops, but Mark Webber could not match the pace of the lead pair due to a deteriorating handling problem. 

Ford secured a first 1-2 in the GTE Pro ranks and future F1 driver Antonio Giovinazzi made his WEC debut in LMP2, but it was ex-F1 racer Will Stevens who stole the headlines with his first victory for G-Drive after passing Bruno Senna – twice – in the closing stages. The Briton  was forced to allow Senna’s RGR Sport Ligier back ahead after crossing track limits, but made it stick a second time with just a few minutes to go, kick-starting a run of three successive victories for the JOTA Sport-run team in China and Bahrain.


James Newbold