The ongoing dominance of the FIA World Endurance Championship by Toyota GAZOO Racing continued in the overnight hours Saturday morning (Oct. 5). Teammates Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima turned in a two-lap average at 120.052 mph to win the pole for the 6 Hours of Fuji, a very important race not only because it’s in Toyota’s home country, but because they own Fuji Speedway as well.
Nakajima’s lap of 120.323 mph was the fastest lap of the whole weekend to date. Hartley’s best lap was nearly four-tenths of a second off Nakajima, but it was more than enough for the pair to put the No. 8 Toyota on pole.
Nakajima and Hartley’s average lap was nearly eight-tenths of a second faster than teammates Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez. Rebellion Racing’s Norman Nato and Gustavo Menezes qualified the No. 1 Rebellion R13 in third, followed by Team LNT’s No. 5 Ginetta with Egor Orudzhev and Ben Hanley driving.
There will be five cars in the LMP1 class, but the No. 6 Ginetta did not set a representative time. Charlie Robertson spun and brought out a red flag late in the session, resulting in his times being erased. Without two drivers setting representative times, the No. 6 Ginetta will have to start from the pit lane.
In LMP2, Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Gabriel Aubry and Ho-Pin Tung won the pole with an average lap at 114.286 mph in their ORECA 07-Gibson. The average lap was nearly a half-second faster than United Autosports’ Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson. JOTA Sport’s Anthony Davidson and Roberto Gonzalez qualified, followed by High Class Racing’s Anders Fjordbach and Kenta Yamashita.
GTE-Pro saw the combination of Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz put the new Porsche 911 RSR-19 on the class pole with an average lap of 104.832 mph, good for 13th overall. That lap was a mere four-hundredths of a second faster than AF Corse’s James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi in a Ferrari. Aston Martin Racing’s Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim were third, just over a tenth of a second back. Miguel Molina and Davide Rigon were fourth.
While the No. 91 Porsche will start from the class pole, the No. 92 found trouble. Michael Christensen spun the Porsche at the Coca-Cola Turn and backed into the tire barrier during the session. The car will be repaired, but Christensen and teammate Kevin Estre will start from the back of the class.
Finally, TF Sport’s Jonny Adam and Salih Yoluc put their No. 90 Aston Martin on the GTE-Am pole with an average lap at 103.278 mph. The lap was three-hundredths of a second faster than AF Corse’s No. 83 Ferrari for Nicklas Nielsen and Francois Perrodo. Aston Martin Racing’s Paul Dalla Lana and Ross Gunn (who turned in the fastest individual lap in the class) qualified third, followed by Team Project 1’s Matteo Cairoli and Egidio Perfetti. Dempsey-Proton Racing’s Satoshi Hoshino and Thomas Preining were fifth in their Porsche.
28 cars set official times in the session. The No. 57 Team Project 1 Porsche of IMSA regular Ben Keating and Felipe Fraga originally claimed the GTE-Am pole. However, they were excluded from the session due to a technical infringement involving the driver’s door. They will start at the rear of the field.
Given that Fuji Speedway is in Japan, the start times for the race are not ideal for American viewers. The green flag is scheduled to fly at 10 p.m. ET Saturday night. Live coverage of the race will start at 9:58 p.m. on Motor Trend (formerly Velocity) and stay there through 11 p.m. At 11 p.m., the race will become an exclusive to Motor Trend OnDemand, a subscription service. At 3 a.m. Sunday morning, the race will return to Motor Trend for the final hour and for post-race coverage.
Also of note, there is a chance of rain. Rain at Fuji Speedway causes problems, not just with precipitation, but with fog as well. Two previous races at Fuji have been hampered by rain. The 2013 race was cut to only 16 laps run behind the safety car due to torrential rains. The 2017 race was called complete after four hours and 24 minutes due to heavy rains after a couple of red flags.