Image credit: FIAWEC.
Andre Lotterer’s time of 1m24.497s, set early in the 90-minute session, was good enough to top the times as track action got underway for Round 6 of the FIA World Endurance Championship at a warm and sunny Fuji today.
Driving the No.7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, Lotterer, who has intimate knowledge of the 2.835-mile Fuji circuit, took 1.8s off his own fastest lap seen at the track. This was set in qualifying for the 2012 6 Hours of Fuji, when the German set a best tour of 1m26.235s.
Porsche spent the first Free Practice session evaluating two different aero set-ups on its brace of 919 Hybrids. The German manufacturer was trying a back-to-back test with a variation on a low-drag set-up and one with slightly more downforce.
The No.18 Porsche 919 Hybrid claimed second place 0.733s adrift of Lotterer. The second of the Audi R18 e-tron quattros ended the session third, while the No.17 Porsche, which is looking for a hat-trick of WEC wins this weekend, was fourth.
Toyota, racing at its home track, placed fifth and sixth with the reigning champion No.1 Toyota TS040 HYBRID driven by Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and local hero Kazuki Nakajima leading the way.
The Toyota Racing team already has one eye on the weather for raceday which early forecasts suggest could start in wet conditions. This is likely to be the Toyota TS040’s best chance of mounting a challenge to the Audi and Porsche entries.
The LMP2 class was led early on in the 90-minute session by the Signatech Alpine, as Nelson Panciatici set an initial pace of 1m32.701s. This time was still a second off the outright fastest ever LMP2 lap of Fuji which was set by Mike Conway in 2013. Panciatici’s team mate Paul-Loup Chatin escaped from a spin at Turn 16 as he continued to discover the Fuji track.
Panciatici’s time was never headed and Signatech remained at the top of the times until the chequered flag. In second place was the G-Drive racing Ligier-Nissan crewed by Gustavo Yacaman, Pipo Derani and Ricardo Gonzalez.
The session was relatively uneventful until the final twenty minutes when a Full Course Yellow was deployed after contact between Loic Duval’s Audi and Nick Leventis’ Strakka Gibson left debris on the track at Turn 6. Both cars made it back to the pits.
In the privateer LMP1 class, Rebellion enjoyed a 1-2, with the No12 R-One just outpacing the No.13 sister car. The Anglo/Swiss entered LMP1 cars headed the ByKolles CLM P1/01-AER, which took the class win last time out at COTA.