The weather was typically Fuji weather with low hanging clouds and a light drizzle. That made the organisers move the FIA WEC qualifying half an hour forward, since the weather forecast expected worse weather later on in the afternoon.
The Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK cars were the first two on track, and the first to set a time. Michael Christensen was the first driver in the Porsche #92 and on his first flying lap, he went very wide in Turn 1, after outbraking himself.
Porsche #91 showed that the greasy surface still is something that the German cars love, even though the position of the Engine has changed in the latest version. Michael Christensen was on his way to an exceptional lap on his season lap, but only three corners from the finishing line, he went wide and lost time once again.
In GTE AM we saw the Asian local heroes in Clearwater Racing Ferrari #61 being quickest ahead of Aston Martin Racing #98 and Gulf Racing UK Porsche #86.
But like always in FIA WEC, you need to change the driver halfway though qualifying, and that gave a few changes on the timing screens.
AF Corse Ferrari #71 was in big troubles regarding traction. When Sam Bird got the car, the team tried to put intermediates on. But that simply didn’t work, and he was quickly in for a change to full wets again.
Porsche #91 ended up taking Pole Position in GTE Pro ahead of the two Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67 and #66 cars. AF Corse #71 eventually made it into fourth place, after their tire worries.
Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre in Porsche #92 managed to get into P5, ahead of the best of the Aston Martin Racing cars with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen in #95.
Clearwater Racing Ferrari #61 took Pole Position in GTE Am with some fantastic laps from Matt Griffin and Weng Sun Mok and beat Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 and Aston Martin Racing #98.
Just like in Mexico, the Race Control decided to end the LMP cars onto the track right after the finish of the GTE qualifying.
Porsche #1 with Nick Tandy was quickest LMP1, ahead of Earl Bamber in Porsche #2, Toyota #8 with Kazuki Nakajima and Toyota #7 with Jose Maria Lopez. All these cars decided only to do one flying lap, before changing driver.
In the LMP2 category we had Vaillante Rebellion in a 1-2 with #13 and #31 switching the top position between them all the time.
Andre Lotterer took the second run in the Porsche #1 while newly announced Formula 1 driver Brendon Hartley was in Porsche #2, Kamui Kobayashi in Toyota 7 and Sebastien Buemi in #8. Andre Lotterer wasn’t able to beat the Hartley/Bamber combo in the #2, even though he has a lot of knowledge of the track from his Super Formula driving and plenty of Japanese wet weather running.
So the line-up would be #2 ahead of #1, #8 and #7. There was only 0,071 between #2 and #1, while #8 was just 0,195 from Pole Position on the average. Toyota #7 didn’t get up to speed at all, and was lacking almost one and a half seconds up to Pole Position.
In LMP2 we saw an amazing qualifying by Nelson Piquet Jr and David Heinemeier Hansson in Vaillante Rebellion #13, setting their times on intermediates. They took Pole Position ahead of their teammates in #31 with a massive 0,7 of a second difference between the two cars, while Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 will start the race from third.
So now the 26 cars are ready for the 6 hours race tomorrow, with the green flag being shown at 04.00 CET.