WEC Fuji: Toyota #8 crew boost title hopes with victory

Toyota romped to a dominant 1-2 finish in Sunday’s penultimate round of the 2022 World Endurance Championship at Fuji, as Sebastien Buemi, Ryo Hirakawa and Brendon Hartley claimed victory.

The two Toyota GR010 HYBRIDs were in a class of their own on the Japanese marque’s home turf, and it was the #8 crew of Buemi, Hirakawa and Hartley that held a decisive edge in race trim over the #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez to set up a final round showdown with Alpine.

The result puts Buemi, Hirakawa and Hartley level on points with Alpine trio Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Andre Negrao, who finished a distant third behind the two Toyotas.

Kobayashi maintained the lead from pole at the start, initially building a small buffer over team-mate Buemi, but in the second hour Buemi closed the gap and at the 1h38 mark Toyota made the call to swap its two cars, putting the faster #8 ahead.

Looking after its tyres over a stint much better than the #7 car, the #8 was never threatened for the rest of a race that was devoid of any safety car or full course yellow periods.

Hirakawa finally took the chequered flag 1m08s clear for he and his team-mates’ second win of the year following their success in the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.

Alpine’s grandfathered LMP1 was never a factor for the lead fight, dropping off the lead lap in the fourth hour and ending up two laps down in the final reckoning.

Peugeot looked like it had the pace to challenge for a podium finish with the quicker of its two 9X8s, only for both of its entries to suffer reliability issues.

The #94 Peugeot had run third, ahead of the Alpine, in the second hour in the hands of James Rossiter. But in the third hour, after Loic Duval had taken over, the car was seen trailing smoke which prompted a 20-minute trip to the garage to fix an oil leak.

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Paul Di Resta, Mikkel Jensen, Jean-Eric Vergne

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Paul Di Resta, Mikkel Jensen, Jean-Eric Vergne

Photo by: Masahide Kamio

That promoted the #93 car, which had struggled for pace early on in Jean-Eric Vergne’s hands, to a fourth place  it held to the flag. Vergne, Paul di Resta and Mikkel Jensen finished seven laps down following a seven-minute garage trip in the fourth hour.

Rossiter, Duval and Gustavo Menezes were classified fifth and last in Hypercar, 15 laps down, also receiving a one-minute stop-and-go penalty for a technical infringement.

LMP2: WRT beats Jota to victory

In the LMP2 class, WRT’s #31 entry of Robin Frijns, Sean Gelael and Dries Vanthoor - standing in for Rene Rast with the German on DTM duty at Spa - scored a second victory of the season.

From fourth on the grid, Gelael charged to the front of the order at the wheel of the #31 WRT ORECA on the opening lap ahead of Roberto Gonzalez in the #38 Jota ORECA.

It was Jota that proved WRT’s closest challenger with both of its cars in the lead fight, despite the #28 car driven by Jonathan Aberdein losing time on the first lap after being hit by the Algarve Pro Racing car of Steven Thomas at Turn 10.

Frijns led the #38 Jota car of Will Stevens by around 16 seconds heading into the closing stages, making his final splash-and-dash with 15 minutes to go.

Stevens had to bail out of his stint with four minutes left on the clock, allowing Frijns to take the chequered flag by a lap in the final classification.

Jota’s second car shared by Aberdein, Ed Jones and Oliver Rasmussen hung on to the final podium spot against the Monza-winning Realteam by WRT ORECA of Ferdinand Habsburg, Rui Andrade and Norman Nato.

#31 WRT Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2: Sean Gelael, Robin Frijns, Dries Vanthoor

#31 WRT Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2: Sean Gelael, Robin Frijns, Dries Vanthoor

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

United Autosports didn’t have the pace to threaten the class frontrunners, with its pair of ORECA finishing fifth and seventh either side of Prema’s solo entry.

LMP2 Pro/Am honours went to AF Corse trio Francois Perrodo, Nicklas Nielsen and Alessio Rovera for the third time this season.

GTE Pro: Ferrari 1-2 as Porsche, Corvette struggle

Ferrari put on a clinic in the GTE Pro class as Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado extended their points advantage with their second win of 2022.

Despite a fierce battle in the early stages between both Ferraris and the two factory Porsches, the Italian marque gained the upper hand towards the end of the first hour when the two AF Corse-run 488 GTE Evos moved ahead.

Over the course of the second hour the best of the Porsche 911 RSR-19s, the #92 car of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen that had started on pole, slipped 15s off the two Ferraris as they ran in tandem for the bulk of the race.

The #52 Ferrari shared by Miguel Molina and Antonio Fuoco got ahead in the penultimate hour and led after the final pitstops, but 50 minutes to go Fuoco dropped back behind Calado and dutifully completed a 1-2 for the Italian brand.

Estre and Christensen were 31s off in the best of the Porsches, but comfortably clear of the sister #91 car driven by Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz, who were handed a drive-through penalty early on for track limits abuse.

#51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO GTE-PRO: Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado

#51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO GTE-PRO: Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Corvette Racing's solo entry of Nick Tandy and Tommy Milner finished fifth, two laps down, after likewise being pinged for track limits and then running out of fuel on its way into the pits just after the one-hour mark.

The TF Sport Aston Martin squad bounced back from Henrique Chaves’ monster crash last time out at Monza to dominate the GTE Am division.

Chaves, Ben Keating and Marco Sorensen crushed the opposition despite Keating briefly losing the advantage in the early stages as fellow Aston squads D’station Racing and NorthWest AMR started with their silver drivers instead of their bronzes.

Iron Dames took a second runner-up finish in a row with its all-female Ferrari crew of Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting and Rahel Frey, while D’station managed to take a podium finish in its home race with Satoshi Hoshino, Tomonobu Fujii and Charlie Fagg.

WEC 6 Hours of Fuji Race Results

Cla # Drivers Car Class Laps Time Gap Points
1 8 Switzerland Sébastien Buemi
New Zealand Brendon Hartley
Japan Ryo Hirakawa
Toyota GR010 - Hybrid HYPERCAR 232 6:01'23.341    
2 7 United Kingdom Mike Conway
Japan Kamui Kobayashi
Argentina Jose Maria Lopez
Toyota GR010 - Hybrid HYPERCAR 232 6:02:31.723 1'08.382  
3 36 Brazil Andre Negrao
France Nicolas Lapierre
France Matthieu Vaxiviere
Alpine A480 HYPERCAR 230 6:02'14.166 2 Laps  
4 93 United Kingdom Paul di Resta
Denmark Mikkel Jensen
France Jean-Eric Vergne
Peugeot 9X8 HYPERCAR 225 6:01'31.614 7 Laps  
5 31 Indonesia Sean Gelael
Netherlands Robin Frijns
Belgium Dries Vanthoor
Oreca 07 LMP2 225 6:02'40.272 7 Laps  
6 38 Mexico Roberto Gonzalez
Portugal Antonio Felix da Costa
United Kingdom Will Stevens
Oreca 07 LMP2 224 6:01'25.440 8 Laps  
7 28 Denmark Oliver Rasmussen
United Arab Emirates Ed Jones
South Africa Jonathan Aberdein
Oreca 07 LMP2 224 6:01'50.916 8 Laps  
8 41 Portugal Rui Andrade
Austria Ferdinand Habsburg
France Norman Nato
Oreca 07 LMP2 224 6:01'51.479 8 Laps  
9 23 United Kingdom Alex Lynn
United Kingdom Oliver Jarvis
United States Josh Pierson
Oreca 07 LMP2 224 6:01'58.860 8 Laps  
10 9 Poland Robert Kubica
Switzerland Louis Deletraz
Italy Lorenzo Colombo
Oreca 07 LMP2 224 6:02'04.856 8 Laps  
11 22 United Kingdom Philip Hanson
Portugal Filipe Albuquerque
United States Will Owen
Oreca 07 LMP2 224 6:02'35.370 8 Laps  
12 1 France Lilou Wadoux
France Paul-Loup Chatin
France Charles Milesi
Oreca 07 LMP2 223 6:01'55.266 9 Laps  
13 10 Netherlands Renger van der Zande
Ireland Ryan Cullen
France Sébastien Bourdais
Oreca 07 LMP2 223 6:02'17.680 9 Laps  
14 83 France François Perrodo
Denmark Nicklas Nielsen
Italy Alessio Rovera
Oreca 07 LMP2 223 6:02'18.454 9 Laps  
15 34 Poland Jakub Smiechowski
United Kingdom Alex Brundle
Mexico Esteban Gutierrez
Oreca 07 LMP2 222 6:02'26.268 10 Laps  
16 35 France Jean Baptiste Lahaye
France Matthieu Lahaye
France François Heriau
Oreca 07 LMP2 221 6:02'16.911 11 Laps  
17 51 Italy Alessandro Pier Guidi
United Kingdom James Calado
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE PRO 217 6:01'53.049 15 Laps  
18 52 Spain Miguel Molina
Italy Antonio Fuoco
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE PRO 217 6:01'53.333 15 Laps  
19 92 Denmark Michael Christensen
France Kevin Estre
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE PRO 217 6:02'24.937 15 Laps  
20 94 France Loic Duval
United States Gustavo Menezes
United Kingdom James Rossiter
Peugeot 9X8 HYPERCAR 217 6:02'52.754 15 Laps  
21 91 Italy Gianmaria Bruni
Austria Richard Lietz
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE PRO 216 6:01'34.776 16 Laps  
22 64 United States Tommy Milner
United Kingdom Nick Tandy
Chevrolet Corvette C8.R LMGTE PRO 215 6:02'44.245 17 Laps  
23 33 United States Ben Keating
Portugal Henrique Chaves Jr.
Denmark Marco Sorensen
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE AM 213 6:02'43.276 19 Laps  
24 85 Switzerland Rahel Frey
Denmark Michelle Gatting
Belgium Sarah Bovy
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 212 6:01'38.861 20 Laps  
25 777 Japan Satoshi Hoshino
Japan Tomonobu Fujii
United Kingdom Charlie Fagg
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE AM 212 6:01'55.643 20 Laps  
26 54 Switzerland Thomas Flohr
Italy Francesco Castellacci
Italy Davide Rigon
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 212 6:01'57.907 20 Laps  
27 98 Canada Paul Dalla Lana
United Kingdom David Pittard
Denmark Nicki Thiim
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE AM 212 6:02'41.874 20 Laps  
28 46 Italy Matteo Cairoli
Denmark Mikkel Pedersen
Switzerland Nicolas Leutwiler
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE AM 211 6:01'26.578 21 Laps  
29 71 France Franck Dezoteux
France Pierre Ragues
France Gabriel Aubry
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 211 6:01'37.091 21 Laps  
30 56 Japan Takeshi Kimura
United Kingdom Ollie Millroy
United Kingdom Ben Barnicoat
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE AM 211 6:02'22.538 21 Laps  
31 88 United States Fred Poordad
United States Patrick Lindsey
Belgium Jan Heylen
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE AM 211 6:02'36.573 21 Laps  
32 21 France Simon Mann
Switzerland Christoph Ulrich
Finland Toni Vilander
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 211 6:02'40.564 21 Laps  
33 60 Italy Claudio Schiavoni
Italy Matteo Cressoni
Italy Giancarlo Fisichella
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 211 6:02'53.930 21 Laps  
34 45 United States Thomas Steven
Australia James Allen
Austria Rene Binder
Oreca 07 LMP2 199 6:02'12.116 33 Laps  
35 86 United Kingdom Michael Wainwright
Italy Riccardo Pera
United Kingdom Benjamin Barker
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE AM 193 6:02'32.720 39 Laps  
  77 Germany Christian Ried
United Kingdom Sebastian Priaulx
United Kingdom Harry Tincknell
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE AM 128 3:40'42.051 104 Laps  
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