6 sunny hours in Fuji

It was a very different 6-hour race at Fuji International Speedway, than the one the FIA World Endurance Championship often has seen at the Japanese track.

The sun was shining, which was an unlikely view at the historic circuit, where rain and interruptions happen more often than in any other place on the FIA WEC calendar.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway started from Pole Position in their home country, ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 with Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa, and with championship leader Alpine Elf Team #36 with Matthieu Vaxiviere, Nicolas Lapierre and Andre Negrao in third.

Peugeot TotalEnergies #93 with Jean-Eric Vergne, Mikkel Jensen and Paul Di Resta started fourth in the Hypercar category.

Championship leader Antonio Felix da Costa, Roberto Gonzalez and Will Stevens started from LMP2 Pole, ahead of AF Corse #83 with Nicklas Nielsen, Alessio Rovera and Francois Perrodo, who at the same time was also the LMP2 Pro/Am Pole, and WRT #31 with Robin Frijns, Dries Vanthoor and Sean Gelael in P3.

Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre in Porsche #92 had taken GTE Pro Pole Position, ahead of championship leader AF Corse Ferrari #51 with James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi, while Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz would start third in Porsche #91.

In GTE Am, championship leader TF Sport Aston Martin #33 with Ben Keating, Marco Sørensen and Henrique Chaves had taken Pole, ahead of Iron Dames Ferrari #85 with Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting, while Spirit of Race Ferrari #71 with Franck Dezoteux, Pierre Ragues and Gabriel Aubry was third.

6 Hours of Fuji 2022 start
Photo: FIA WEC

The start went very late, and the team had to wait for a long time before they got the green flag. It made some drivers in the field feel a bit impatient, which was something the stewards would look at.

There was contact between Algarve Pro Racing #45 and JOTA #28 on the first lap. Steven Thomas in #45 locked the brakes and crashed straight into the side of poor Jonathan Aberdein. Both cars could drive again, but #45 had to undergo a repair in the garage.

WRT #31 had taken the lead in LMP2, while AF Corse Ferrari #51 was first in GTE Pro, and Iron Dames Ferrari #85 had taken the lead in GTE Am.

Northwest AMR #98 had put David Pittard in the car in the first stint, and it went to take second place in GTE Am after just ten minutes – and after having started from the back of the field. D’Station Racing Aston Martin #777 with local hero Tomonobu Fujii had moved up the field and was up in P4, soon P3.

Realteam by WRT #41
Photo: FIA WEC

Porsche #92 took the lead in GTE Pro, with a nice slipstream and braking on AF Corse #51 on the way into Turn 1.

Iron Lynx Ferrari #60 had a solo spin, with Claudio Schiavoni behind the wheel, but could quickly continue.

Northwest AMR #98 took the lead in GTE Am, with silver-ranked driver Pittard an uneven match for bronze-Bovy in Iron Dames Ferrari #85.

The lead changed in LMP2 Pro/Am when AF Corse #83 fell back behind Ultimate #35.

D’Station Racing Aston Martin #777 was the new GTE Am leader, after a little driving mistake from Northwest AMR #98.

The was contact between Vector Sport #10 and AF Corse #54, which cost Ryan Cullen in #10 a lot of positions.

Corvette Racing #64 got a Drive-through for constant abuse of track limits – and it was only after half an hour of racing.

AF Corse Ferrari #51 retook the GTE Pro lead after a braking duel with Porsche #92, where the Italian car came out on top.

D’Station Racing #777, Inter Europol Competition #34, JOTA #28, Algarve Pro Racing #45
Photo: FIA WEC

Algarve Pro Racing #45 got a 1-minute Stop & Go penalty for the contact on the first lap. The team had to repair the car for half an hour for a broken front suspension.

Porsche #91 got a Drive-through for Track limits abuse.

Spirit of Race Ferrari #71 had a solo spin but could quickly continue.

JOTA #28 had gotten back up to second place in LMP2, after their earlier spin, just five seconds behind the leading WRT #31.

Spirit of Race Ferrari #71 got a Drive-through for Track Limits abuse.

Vector Sport #10 got a 5-second pitstop penalty, for the contact with AF Corse Ferrari #54 earlier in the race.

AF Corse Ferrari #52 took second place in GTE Pro as they got close to Porsche #92, and could sneak themselves past in Turn 1.

JOTA #28 took the lead in LMP2, after a braking duel with WRT #31 in Turn 1, where both cars went off the track. Shortly after that, the lead changed back to #31. And one lap later #28 went back in front.

Vector Sport #10
Photo: FIA WEC

Peugeot TotalEnergies #94 went up to third overall, after James Rossiter had used all of his driving experience in Japan. On the other hand, Jean-Eric Vergne in #93 had some problems with the car, which seemed unstable on the straight.

Corvette Racing #64 ran out of fuel, a few metres before they could reach their garage, which meant the mechanics had to push the car to the fuelling rig before they could fill it up.

AF Corse #83 was back in the lead in LMP2 Pro/Am, after Nicklas Nielsen had overtaken the car from Francois Perrodo. The Frenchman would be back later in the race.

The two Toyotas swapped positions when #8 had caught up with #7, and it was faster.

Northwest AMR #98 got a Drive-through for abusing Track Limits.

There was contact between Porsche #91 and Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88, where Richard Lietz did a very late dive on Patrick Lindsey. But both cars came nearly unscathed.

Spirit of Race Ferrari #71 had a spin in the last corner but could continue by itself.

Corvette Racing #64 and Porsche #92
Photo: FIA WEC

Porsche #91 got a 5-second pitstop penalty for the contact with #88.

WRT #31 claimed the lead in the LMP2 category with a faster pitstop than JOTA #28.

TF Sport Aston Martin #33 led GTE Am after Ben Keating finished his stints.

There were problems for Peugeot TotalEnergies #94, who began to drift off the track. Loic Duval got the car back to the pits where the mechanics went to replace the turbo.

Ultimate #35 got a 5-second pitstop penalty for overtaking AF Corse #83 outside the track limits. AF Corse #83 got a 10-second pitstop penalty for pushing #35 towards the pit wall, which was the same incident involving both cars.

Vector Sport #10 had a solo spin. When he came back to the track, he was right in front of Iron Dames Ferrari #85, who had to avoid it, and it cost them some seconds.

After spending twenty minutes in the pits, Peugeot TotalEnergies #94 was ready to come back out.

Peugeot TotalEnergies #93
Photo: FIA WEC

There was a hard battle in GTE Am, where Iron Dames Ferrari #85 had caught up with D’Station Racing Aston Martin #777, while Northwest AMR #98 with Nicki Thiim came up fast behind them. Rahel Frey did a late dive on Satoshi Hoshino, where she took the local driver by surprise, which was why Thiim also sneaked past him.

Halfway into the race, Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 was leading in Hypercar, WRT #31 in LMP2, AF Corse #83 with Nicklas Nielsen in LMP2 Pro/Am, AF Corse Ferrari #51 in GTE Pro, and TF Sport Aston Martin #33 with Marco Sørensen in GTE Am.

There was drama for GR Racing Porsche #86, which stopped on the last corner. It took nearly three minutes before Michael Wainwright could restart the car and drove it back to the pits. It got pushed into the garage immediately, and the mechanics stuck their heads into the engine bay, and found out that there was a problem with the gearbox.

Spirit of Race Ferrari #71
Photo: FIA WEC

AF Corse Ferrari #52 was right behind their teammates in #51, but they remained behind to start with.

Iron Dames Ferrari #85 was second in GTE Am, after Michelle Gatting had overtaken the car. The team had a fantastic fuel economy, and could drive much longer than the majority of their competitors. Which meant they could pit faster when we got to the second half of the race. They had twenty-four seconds gap up to the leading TF Sport Aston Martin #33.

Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 had to pit with a broken drive shaft, which sadly the team couldn’t fix. If Northwest AMR #98 and/or TF Sport Aston Martin #33 won the GTE Am category, it would mean that the German team no longer had a chance in the championship.

Spirit of Race Ferrari #71 came from behind, where Pierre Ragues slowly but surely caught up with Gatting and put the Dane under pressure. After a few laps of battle, the Frenchman found a gap and squeezed himself past.

JOTA #38
Photo: FIA WEC

Suddenly, there was smoke coming from Peugeot TotalEnergies #93, which resembled the smoke we saw from #94. This was why Paul Di Resta got pushed into the garage, where the mechanics immediately repaired the car. After only seven and a half minutes, they were back out on the track.

There was contact between AF Corse Ferrari #54 and Spirit of Race Ferrari #71, but both cars could continue without any problem.

After a few hours of being in their teammates’ slipstream, finally, AF Corse Ferrari #52 managed to take the lead in GTE Pro.

There was a bit of drama in LMP2, when Richard Mille Racing Team #1 and United Autosports USA #22 had contact, in the duel for P7. Filipe Albuquerque was on the way to go around the outside of Paul-Loup Chatin, where the Frenchman ended up with a spin.

Paul Di Resta in Peugeot TotalEnergies #93 had a spin but luckily managed to keep the car away from the armco.

Peugeot TotalEnergies #94 got a 1-minute Stop & Go penalty, due to high energy consumption over a stint.

Team Project 1 Porsche #46
Photo: FIA WEC

The last hour of the race started with Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 in front of Hypercar, JOTA #38 in front of LMP2, AF Corse #83 with Nicklas Nielsen in LMP2 Pro/Am, AF Corse Ferrari #52 in GTE Pro, and TF Sport Aston Martin #33 with Marco Sørensen in GTE Am.

When AF Corse Ferrari #52 had led GTE Pro for an hour, it was time to swap the two red cars again, since #51 was ahead in the championship.

It was a close battle for P3 in GTE Am, where D’Station Racing Aston Martin #777 just came out of the pits, ahead of AF Corse Ferrari #54. Charlie Fagg pulled away from Davide Rigon, on a day when all the AMR cars looked super fast.

Iron Lynx Ferrari #60 got a Drive-through for Track Limits abuse.

JOTA #28 was in third place with a few minutes left, but Norman Nato in Realteam by WRT #41 was right behind them, putting pressure on Dane Rasmussen.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 with Ryo Hirawaka, Sebastien Buemi, and Brendon Hartley won the race, ahead of their teammates in #7 with Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway, while Alpine Elf Team #36 with Matthieu Vaxiviere, Nicolas Lapierre and Andre Negrao finished third.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #8
Photo: FIA WEC

WRT #31 with Sean Gelael, Robin Frijns and Dries Vanthoor won the LMP2 category, ahead of JOTA #38 with Roberto Gonzalez, Antonio Felix da Costa, and Will Stevens, and JOTA #28 with Oliver Rasmussen, Ed Jones, and Jonathan Aberdein in P3.

WRT #31
Photo: FIA WEC

The LMP2 Pro/Am category was won by AF Corse #83 with Francois Perrodo, Alessio Rovera, and Nicklas Nielsen, ahead of Ultimate #35 with Jean-Baptiste and Mathieu Lahaye plus Francois Heriau, and with Algarve Pro Racing #45 with Rene Binder, Steven Thomas and James Allen in P3.

AF Corse #83
Photo: FIA WEC

In GTE Pro, AF Corse Ferrari #51 with James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi won the race, ahead of their sister car #52 with Miguel Molina and Antonio Fuoco, while Porsche #92 with Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre was third.

AF Corse Ferrari #51
Photo: Ferrari

TF Sport Aston Martin #33 with Ben Keating, Henrique Chaves, and Marco Sørensen won GTE Am, ahead of Iron Dames Ferrari #85 with Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey, and Michelle Gatting, while D’Station Racing Aston Martin #777 with Satoshi Hoshino, Charlie Fagg and Tomonobu Fujii finished in P3.

TF Sport Aston Martin #33
Photo: TF Sport

Alpine Elf Team #36 has the same amount of points as Toyota Gazoo Racing #8, while Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 is third in the Hypercar championship.

JOTA #38 has extended their lead in the LMP2 championship to twenty-seven points, with United Autosports USA #23 in second place, while Realteam by WRT #41, WRT #31 and Prema Orlen #9 have an intense battle for P3 – or potentially a first place, if something happened to #38 in the finale.

AF Corse #83 had taken the lead in the LMP2 Pro/Am championship, ahead of Algarve Pro Racing #45, while Ultimate #35 can only win the championship if they won the finale, and both #83 and #45 had to retire.

AF Corse Ferrari #51 had extended their lead in GTE Pro, so they are now eleven points ahead of Porsche #92, while Porsche #91 falls back to P3, three points behind #92.

GTE Am is still led by TF Sport Aston Martin #33, which now has nineteen points down to Northwest AMR #98, and with Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 in third. With these results, we need to find a champion between the two

The finale will be run on 11 November in Bahrain, where they will drive an 8-hour race from daylight to evening.

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