Toyota Racing thrilled their home fans by finishing 1-2 in the 6 Hours of Fuji, the fifth round of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship.
As a result of today's success Toyota has completed a hat-trick of FIA WEC victories at the Fuji Speedway since 2012.
The #8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid of Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi led home the sister car, crewed by Alex Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and local hero Kazuki Nakajima by 25.627s. It was the third victory for the #8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid this season after previous successes at Silverstone and Spa.
The win for Davidson and Buemi means that they have now extended their World Endurance Drivers’ Championship lead to 27 points to their nearest adversaries – the #2 Audi Sport Team Joest trio of Marcel Fassler, Benoit Treluyer and Andre Lotterer.
Toyota has also now overtaken Audi at the head of the World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship and leads it by eight points.
Toyota controlled the entire race despite Mark Webber’s #20 Porsche 919 Hybrid leading briefly after some highly entertaining first lap action. Tyre strategy was crucial at Fuji and the Toyota team chose early on to single stint their Michelin tyres, as opposed to Porsche who initially tried to double stint their rubber. It was a bold move but one which ultimately cost them precious time later in the second stint.
Webber, along with team mates Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard, rounded out the podium to score their second podium after holding off the #14 Porsche in the final stages. It was the second podium for Webber, Hartley and Bernhard after their third placed finish at Silverstone in April. Webber also set the fastest lap - 1m27.759 - on lap 12. Webber had earlier been keeping in touch with Buemi but a slow puncture meant an early stop on lap 8, putting the Porsche 919 Hybrid out of sequence to the rest of the field.
Even a brief full course caution period for debris on the track could not halt Toyota’s warrior like march to victory today. Their current nearest title rivals – the #2 Audi trio of Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer - could only finish sixth at Fuji today. The #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Tom Kristensen, Lucas Di Grassi and Loic Duval finished just ahead of the sister Audi in fifth place in what was a tough day for the Ingolstadt-based manufacturer.
Rebellion Racing took another win in the LMP1-L class but this time it was the #13 Rebellion R-One-Toyota of Andrea Belicchi, Dominik Kraihamer and Fabio Leimer who took maximum points.
Securing their first win of the year, Belicchi, Kraihamer and Leimer took the chequered flag despite a damper issue that cost the car time.
The Lotus entered CLM P1/01 was running well in second place until the final hour when a major fire stopped Christophe Bouchut at the entry to the pit lane. The Frenchman was able to extricate himself from the blaze but the car was badly damaged in the incident, despite the quick response of the pit lane marshals and both the Lotus and nearby Rebellion Racing mechanics. Bouchut escaped with no significant injuries from the incident.
Despite a last hour slow puncture the G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan took maximum points in the LMP2 class. Olivier Pla overtook the KCMG Oreca-Nissan in the final stages of the race after a superb race long duel. In what was perhaps the overtaking move of the season, Pla used a slower GT car to make an audacious pass on Alexander Imperatori’s Oreca-Nissan. It was the third race victory of the season for G-Drive after previous wins at Silverstone and Spa. Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal had impressive stints at the wheel and were both delighted to renew their title charge ahead of Shanghai.
Earlier in the race Imperatori had held the charging Pla impressively at bay and despite solid stints by his British team mates – Richard Bradley and Matt Howson - it was eventually not enough to stop the G-Drive Racing entry. However, with the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers title leader, Sergey Zlobin, finishing in fourth position, both the G-Drive and KCMG crews reduced the points deficit at Fuji today. As it stands the G-Drive drivers are now just 16pts behind the Russian with three races remaining.
Completing the LMP2 podium was the OAK Racing Morgan-Judd of Keiko Ihara, Gustavo Yacaman and Alex Brundle. It was an especially impressive result after they were forced to start from the rear of the grid after being penalised for a technical infringement in qualifying. It was a result that ensured both of the Japanese entered racers at Fuji were able to celebrate on the podium at their home track today.
SMP Racing had a tough day with the #27 Oreca-Nissan of Sergey Zlobin, Maurizio Mediani and Nicolas Minassian finishing a delayed fourth after two separate penalties, one for going over their allocation of engine units used and the other for speeding in the pit lane. An incident which resulted in contact with Yacaman’s OAK Morgan-Judd, while fighting for third place, further delayed them.
The #37 entry of Anton Ladygin, Kiril Ladygin and Viktor Shaitar also lost time due to necessary repairs after a collision with the LMP1-L Lotus, driven by James Rossiter at the time.
After a fantastic weekend of racing, where 51,000 race fans enjoyed multiple battles throughout the classes, the FIA World Endurance Championship now moves on to Shanghai with more close and exciting racing set for Sunday 2nd November.