Toyota GAZOO Racing dominated the 6 Hours of Fuji Sunday (Sept. 11) at the Toyota-owned Fuji Speedway. It was the No. 8 Toyota of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa that claimed an easy win.
Kamui Kobayashi led from the pole in the No. 7 Toyota with Buemi giving chase. The teammates ran nose-to-tail early in the event, but Buemi made no real attempt to snatch the advantage away.
Kobayashi held onto the advantage through the first round of stops without too much of an issue. However, the decision was made to swap positions on lap 64, 100 minutes into the race. This ended up being the one and only lead change in the entire race.
Buemi took the advantage and slowly began to pull away from Kobayashi. Hartley and Hirakawa continued to do the same as Toyota GAZOO Racing is trying to win the championship for the No. 8 team. Ultimately, the team managed to get through the six-hour with minimal issues on the way to victory.
The margin of victory was 68.382 seconds over the No. 7 Toyota of Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez. Signatech Alpine’s Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Matthieu Vaxiviere ended up two laps down in third. Both of the Peugeots were competitive during the race, but had near identical oil leaks that resulted in short garage stays.
The victory for the No. 8 Toyota means that there is a tie at the top of the points between the Signatech Alpine team and Toyota GAZOO Racing’s No. 8 with one race to go.
In LMP2, JOTA Sport’s Roberto Gonzalez started from the pole, but lost the advantage on the first lap to Team WRT’s Sean Galael. Gonzalez was ultimately able to hang with the former Formula 2 racer early on. Meanwhile, Gonzalez’s teammate Jonathan Aberdein was hit by the sliding Algarve Pro Racing Pro-Am entry driven by Steven Thomas and spun on the first lap. That dropped Aberdein to the rear of the field.
From there, Aberdein had to charge up the order. By the time he made his first stop, Aberdein was already back up to fourth in class and ninth overall. In his second stint, Aberdein got all the way to the class lead. For much of the race from there, the JOTA Sport No. 28 and Team WRT traded the class lead.
The class victory ultimately came down to pit strategy. JOTA Sport’s Will Stevens made his final pit stop with 49 minutes remaining for tires and fuel. Such a run to the finish for an LMP2 car was considered to be questionable at best.
The move gave Stevens a lead of over 30 seconds in the final minutes of the race, enough so that he could back off to conserve fuel. Unfortunately, the fuel light came on with four minutes to go, forcing Stevens to pit.
Team WRT’s Robin Frijns was able to sweep past for the lead while Stevens was getting a splash of fuel. With Stevens going from nearly 30 seconds ahead to 11 behind due to the stop, Frijns was easily able to hold on for the win.
On the final lap, Hirakawa was able to get past Stevens. As a result, the trio of Frijns, Galael and Dries Vanthoor (driving in place of Rene Rast, who had DTM commitments) won by a full lap over Gonzalez, Stevens and Antonio Felix da Costa. Aberdein, Ed Jones and Oliver Rasmussen in the No. 28 JOTA entry finished third, just beating out the Realteam by WRT No. 41 of Rui Andrade, Ferdinand Habsburg and Norman Nato. United Autosports’ No. 23 for Oliver Jarvis, Alex Lynn and Josh Pierson were fifth.
The second-place finish clinched the LMP2 championship for da Costa, Gonzalez and Stevens. They have a 28-point lead in the standings with a maximum of 25 available in the final race.
In GTE-Pro, Porsche GT Team’s Kevin Estre started from the pole in his Porsche 911 GT3 RSR-19. However, AF Corse’s Ferraris ended up dominating the race. The No. 51 of James Calado took the lead on the first lap from Estre to set the tone. Estre was eventually able to get the lead, but Calado didn’t let him keep it long. A penalty for Gianmaria Bruni for multiple violations of track limits set up an all-Ferrari show at the front.
Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi led the vast majority of the race, but teammates Antonio Fuoco and Miguel Molina were rarely very far behind. In fact, the majority of the race saw the two cars nearly glued to each other, as if the race were a chain race as part of an Eve of Destruction.
Fuoco was actually able to take the lead from Pier Guidi prior to the last round of stops, but a slower pit stop resulted in Calado (who replaced Pier Guidi during the final stop) jumping back into the lead. From there, Calado and Fuoco ran line astern to the finish, giving Calado and Pier Guidi their second win of the year.
The margin of victory was .284 seconds over Fuoco and Molina. Porsche’s Estre and Michael Christensen were third, then Bruni and Richard Lietz in the second Porsche. Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy were fifth.
In GTE-Am, the stint planning came into play. TF Sport’s Ben Keating started from the pole and did battle early on with Sarah Bovy in the Iron Dames Ferrari. The two traded the class lead early on. Meanwhile, Northwest AMR’s David Pittard and D’Station Racing’s Tomonobu Fujii were both able to lead laps early.
At the first stop, Fujii got out of the car and gave way to Satoshi Hoshino. However, this stop came 10 minutes shy of the minimum drive-time of 75 minutes that had to be done for each driver. Meanwhile, both Bovy and Keating did double-stints of more than two hours each to start the race. As you can see here, it was rather taxing for Keating.
— Ben (@keatingcarguy) September 11, 2022
Hoshino was able to keep himself at the front of the field in one of his best drives in the WEC. Unfortunately, TF Sport’s Henrique Chaves was able to jump over Hoshino for the class lead during the second round of stops. An additional driver change to get Fujii back in the car in addition to Charlie Fagg dropped the team down the order.
Ultimately, the race came down to a battle between TF Sport and the Iron Dames. Marco Sorensen was able to pull away late to take an easy victory for himself, Chaves and Keating, their second of the year.
Due to the position of the overall leaders, TF Sport ended up a full lap ahead of Bovy, Michelle Gatting and Rahel Frey in the Iron Dames Ferrari. Fagg, Fujii and Hoshino were third, then the AF Corse No. 54 Ferrari for Francesco Castellacci, Thomas Flohr and Davide Rigon. Northwest AMR’s Pittard, Paul Dalla Lana and Nicki Thiim were fifth.
There is one more WEC race remaining in 2022. That is the 8 Hours of Bahrain, scheduled to be held on Nov. 12 at the Bahrain International Circuit. The race is scheduled to go green at 6 a.m. ET. Race coverage will begin at 5:30 a.m. ET and be split between Motor Trend and MotorTrend+. The race will be the final event for the GTE-Pro class as GTE will become a Pro-Am only class for the final year of the GTE formula.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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