Image Credit: Toyota Motorsport GmbH
We’ve taken a little time to let the dust settle after an incredible FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) round in Japan at the legendary Fuji Motor Speedway. Fuji hosted the 16th and final round of the Formula One season in 1976, a season that for many proved to be their personal hook into the world of motor sport. Thankfully on Sunday it was not the rains of ’76 or 2014 that would make headlines, but stable conditions and top-class driving standards that gave us a Green lights to flag race that will be remembered by many for years to come.
Qualifying had set the scene nicely with Audi and Porsche on the front row, but it was the second row that showed so much promise with both Toyota cars 2-tenths from the lead #8 Audi, indeed the #6 Toyota in the hands of Kamui Kobayashi set the individual fastest lap of 1:23.239 yet on averages was starting 4th on the grid.
It was in the Prototype categories that we were to see the most action, with places being trade throughout the field both on-track and at most each and every pit stop. We have take our customary dive into the data to help understand some of the factors at play. Find a reminder of the finishing order at the foot of the article.
On-Track Race Pace
Whilst the #6 Toyota won the race, the on track pace of the #8 Audi is notable quicker at an average of almost 0.5km/hour…
Time at Rest in the Pits –
The #6 Toyota whilst making the same number of stops (6) spent 48-seconds less in the Pits than the #8 Audi, hence the on-track pace advantage was swallowed up. The reasons for some of this is of course the Equivalence of Technology (EoT) that does not favour the Audi’s diesel choice, both in terms of capacity allowed, but more notably in the flow restriction placed on the team. However when we compare and contrast #1 Porsche & #6 Toyota we see the difference that team work & strategy has brought to the picture.
The #6Toyota made fewer stops involving a driver change, and most notably the final full fuel, tyres & driver change in the #1Porsche to Mark Webber costs 12-seconds over the comparable stop for Kobayashi. Curiously the stop was also later (lap221 v 215), requiring less fuel to the flag, had Porsche gone aggressive could we have seen 3-cars from 3-manufacturers nose-to-tail on the final lap ??
Further Notes –
#2 Porsche – Struggled throughout the weekend with unresolved balance issues. Whilst at times this looked like a team in the lead of the championship taking a reserved approach clearly that was not the case. Tyre pick-up collecting in the front bodywork caused a mid-race (lap110) bodywork change and albeit showing some improvement, the pace was not sufficient to recover positions, finishing in 5th
#5 Toyota – 4th overall, best result of their season to-date. Traffic early on delayed their pace, and then given the battle ahead it was a difficult pace to exceed. Great team result on home soil to come home 1st & 4th in a difficult season & the heartbreak of Le Mans 2016.
#7 Audi – Benoit Teluyer suffered an early front Hybrid system issue on Lap 15. After a 1h20m stop the car returned to the track with Marcel Fassler at the wheel and a disconnected Hybrid system. This was deemed an un-homologated design by the organisers and the car was parked. For info the difference between hybrid and non-hybrid was some 14.5kph through the speed trap and a little over 10kph for the lap speed.
#13 Rebellion Racing – 6th Overall sufficient to secure a 5th Championship-winning year in the Privateer LMP1 category with 2-rounds remaining.
#4 ByKolles – Lasted 2-hours & 6minutes completing 79 laps before limping into retirement. Will struggle to run ahead of the enhanced LMP2 2017 spec cars.
Brief Race Highlights available Here
Below the Final Standings & Gaps –