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Ginetta believes engine change cost it front row at Fuji WEC

Ginetta believes it could have challenged for a front-row grid position at this weekend's Fuji World Endurance Championship round but for a late engine change ahead of qualifying

Mike Simpson revealed that his lap aboard the #6 Team LNT Ginetta-AER G60-LT-P1, which stood as the fastest privateer time in qualifying, was comprised after the rush to change the turbo powerplant.

The quick engine swap resulted in a number of electrical glitches, including failing power steering that resulted in Charlie Robertson spinning.

He was unable to restart the car and did not complete a flying lap.

"I think we had the pace to challenge the second Toyota for a place on the front row," Simpson told Autosport.

"Considering that we had a series of issues, I think we showed good performance.

"We've unlocked a bit more in the car, and if Charlie had managed a lap, there was a chance that we could have got ahead of the #7 Toyota."

Because Robertson did not complete a lap, the #6 Ginetta would have started from the back of the five-car LMP1 field.

But the car, which Guy Smith shares with Simpson and Robertson, was excluded from qualifying for two technical infringements uncovered in scrutineering.

The external marshals' switch that puts the car into neutral and the quick release system on both doors was not operational.

The #6 Ginetta will have to start from the pitlane after the rest of the field has completed one racing lap.

Simpson posted a 1m25.889s lap, which was only two tenths slower than Jose Maria Lopez managed in the #7 Toyota TS050 HYBRID that took second on the grid behind its sister car.

The #6 Ginetta, which is unpenalised at Fuji under the new system of success handicaps in LMP1, was just under a tenth quicker than the fastest lap for the solo Rebellion-Gibson R-13 set by Norman Nato.

Simpson explained that he had initially heading into the pits as he began what turned out to be his fastest lap.

"There was an issue that turned out to be just a sensor, so the team told me to abort the pitstop because were running out of time," said Simpson.

"I'd probably slowed down to 150km/h [93mph] as I began the lap, which certainly didn't help."

Simpson revealed that the Ginetta's traction control was not working and that the power steering issue that caused Robertson to spin was already manifesting itself during his lap.

He paid tribute to the LNT squad for completing the engine change in approximately one hour after data revealed higher water consumption during final free practice.

"It was an impressive effort from the team to get the car out there even if there were a few electrical glitches," he said.

"The guys have never had to change an engine in such a short time before."

Toyota surprised by lack of Rebellion challenge

By Jamie Klein

Toyota drivers Brendon Hartley and Jose Maria Lopez expressed surprise at Rebellion Racing's lack of pace in qualifying.

The Rebellion R-13 shared by Gustavo Menezes and Norman Nato only managed an average time of 1m26.163s during Saturday afternoon's pole shootout, leaving them 1.150s down on the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima.

It was also almost two seconds slower than the 1m24.359s average time set by the quickest Rebellion during qualifying for last year's Fuji round.

Ex-Formula 1 driver Hartley admitted that based on Rebellion's 2018 times he was heading into qualifying unsure whether either of the Toyotas would take pole.

"We still had quite a decent margin, which was a surprise," said Hartley.

"We thought particularly the Rebellion would be a lot closer with the new success ballast, considering the lap times they did last year.

"It was a surprise that today was not more of a fight. Our car is 50kg heavier than last year, we are definitely a lot slower.

"Honestly, we weren't sure if they were hiding performance, particularly when you look at last year."

Lopez echoed Hartley's comments, highlighting that the Rebellion was not significantly penalised under the new championship points-based LMP1 handicap system that is being implemented for the first time this weekend.

By contrast, the Silverstone-winning #7 Toyota and the sister #8 car have been slowed to the tune of 1.4s and 1s per lap respectively at Fuji.

"What is strange is we keep getting slower every race, but somehow the Rebellion is two seconds slower than last year, with a better car," Lopez told Autosport.

"Our car is much heavier, it is 1.4s slower than Silverstone. If you look at the lap times, the LMP2 are the same or even faster this year, and the Rebellion is two seconds slower than last year.

"It's difficult to know what they are doing."

Asked to explain why Rebellion was so much slower this year, Menezes pointed to the cooler temperatures of 2018 and the R-13 suffering from a general lack of grip.

"We know this track doesn't suit our car and that already makes it difficult," Menezes told Autosport.

"Obviously the EoT did slow [Toyota] down, you can see in comparison with the lap times from last year.

"But it's hard to compare because last year it was 20 degrees colder. On this track the tyres were well over the edge of the window, especially for a rear-wheel drive car.

"For sure we hoped to be closer, but there's nothing we can do. And with Toyota, it's hard to know where they are until qualifying. They are the king of playing games.

"It doesn't mean they don't deserve to be where they are, but it's hard to judge."

Fuji starting grid

Pos Class Driver Team Car Time Gap
1 LMP1 S.Buemi, K.Nakajima, B.Hartley Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota 1m25.013s -
2 LMP1 M.Conway, K.Kobayashi, J.M.Lopez Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota 1m25.803s 0.790s
3 LMP1 B.Senna, G.Menezes, N.Nato Rebellion Racing Rebellion/Gibson 1m26.163s 1.150s
4 LMP1 L.Ghiotto, B.Hanley, E.Orudzhev Team LNT Ginetta/AER 1m26.820s 1.807s
5 LMP2 H-Pin Tung, G.Aubry, W.Stevens Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA/Gibson 1m29.302s 4.289s
6 LMP2 P.Hanson, F.Albuquerque, O.Jarvis United Autosports ORECA/Gibson 1m29.787s 4.774s
7 LMP2 R.Gonzalez, A.F.da Costa, A.Davidson JOTA ORECA/Gibson 1m29.792s 4.779s
8 LMP2 M.Patterson, K.Yamashita, A.Fjordbach High Class Racing ORECA/Gibson 1m30.073s 5.060s
9 LMP2 N.Lapierre, A.Borga, A.Coigny COOL Racing ORECA/Gibson 1m30.087s 5.074s
10 LMP2 T.Laurent, A.Negrao, P.Ragues Signatech Alpine Elf Alpine/Gibson 1m30.858s 5.845s
11 LMP2 F.van Eerd, G.van der Garde, Vries Racing Team Nederland ORECA/Gibson 1m30.935s 5.922s
12 LMP2 R.Lacorte, A.Belicchi, G.Sernagiotto Cetilar Racing Dallara/Gibson 1m31.342s 6.329s
13 GTE Pro G.Bruni, R.Lietz Porsche GT Team Porsche 1m37.356s -
14 GTE Pro J.Calado, A.P.Guidi AF Corse Ferrari 1m37.397s -
15 GTE Pro M.Sorensen, N.Thiim Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 1m37.466s -
16 GTE Pro D.Rigon, M.Molina AF Corse Ferrari 1m37.792s -
17 GTE Pro A.Lynn, M.Martin Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 1m37.820s -
18 GTE Pro M.Christensen, K.Estre Porsche GT Team Porsche 1m37.935s -
19 GTE Am S.Yoluc, C.Eastwood, J.Adam TF Sport Aston Martin 1m38.821s -
20 GTE Am F.Perrodo, E.Collard, N.Nielsen AF Corse Ferrari 1m38.850s -
21 GTE Am P.D.Lana, D.Turner, R.Gunn Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 1m38.917s -
22 GTE Am E.Perfetti, D.H.Hansson, M.Cairoli Team Project 1 Porsche 1m39.022s -
23 GTE Am S.Hoshino, A.De Leener, T.Preining Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 1m39.025s -
24 GTE Am T.Flohr, F.Castellacci, G.Fisichella AF Corse Ferrari 1m39.291s -
25 GTE Am C.Ried, R.Pera, M.Campbell Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 1m39.549s -
26 GTE Am M.Wainwright, A.Watson, B.Barker Gulf Racing Porsche 1m39.610s -
27 GTE Am M.Ishikawa, O.Beretta, K.Cozzolino MR Racing Ferrari 1m39.628s -
28 GTE Am B.Grimes, J.Mowlem, C.Hollings Red River Sport Ferrari 1m39.889s -
29 LMP1 C.Robertson, M.Simpson, G.Smith Team LNT Ginetta/AER - -
30 GTE Am B.Keating, F.Fraga, J.Bleekemolen Team Project 1 Porsche - -

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