WEC heads to Fuji for penultimate championship round

WEC heads to Fuji for penultimate championship round

The 6 Hours of Fuji which is the penultimate WEC race of the 2023 season, is taking place this week at the Fuji International Speedway in Shizuoka, Japan.

Toyota Gazoo Racing currently holds the top rank in the Hypercar World Endurance Championship standings with 152 points and a lead of 26 points over Ferrari who run second.

However, the championship is far from decided because there are still 65 points available (25 for Fuji, 38 for Bahrain, plus an additional point for each race’s pole position).

The Fuji International Speedway which is the shortest circuit on the WEC calendar at 4.563 kilometers, will see 36 cars battle for the endurance title. The circuit It is located about 100 kilometers west of Tokyo.

Fuji is renowned for its lightning-quick 1.5 km start/finish straight where Hypercars are capable of reaching speeds of over 320 km/h and where over 41% of the lap gets done with the throttle open to the maximum. Hypercar drivers will change gear 36 times during each lap around the circuit.

At its home track, Toyota has a strong history of success, having won the previous five races. Only once did it lose at Fuji, and that was in 2015, when Porsche won.

Another home triumph for Toyota won’t be straightforward, though, as Ferrari has established itself as a threat to be reckoned with this season, capped by a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In addition, there is even more rivalry from brands like Cadillac, Porsche, and Peugeot.

Six teams battle out in the Hypercar class

The WEC’s major battle will feature a total of 12 Hypercars at Fuji. Home fans are expected to be present to support Toyota Gazoo Racing, which has two local drivers in its ranks: Ryo Hirakawa in the sister #8 vehicle and Kamui Kobayashi in the #7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid.

Actually, the Fuji Speedway serves as more than simply a home event for the team because the GR010 HYBRID’s hybrid powertrain was created, developed, and assembled just a few miles from the circuit.

With a 23-point lead in the drivers’ standings, the trio of drivers running the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid (Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, and Ry Hirakawa) are in the lead for the championship.

All eyes will be on the fiercely contested race for the runner-up spot, where the #51 Ferrari team that comprises of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi, and Antonio Giovinazzi, who won the Le Mans, are tied on points with the #7 Toyota squad featuring José Mara López, Mike Conway, and Kamui Kobayashi.

The #99 Proton Competition entry will join the two factory-run Porsche Penske Motorsport entries (#5 and #6) and the Hertz Team JOTA-driven car, bringing the total number of Porsche 963s competing in Japan to four cars

Cadillac has established itself as the third contender in the Hypercar category, behind Toyota and Ferrari. The V-Series.R’s reliability, which is one of its key advantages, has already been instrumental in helping the US manufacturer win two WEC podiums this season.

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The team’s single naturally aspirated Cadillac V-Series.R will make its Hypercar debut in Fuji.

Peugeot will make a comeback to Fuji for the second time with its pair of Peugeot 9X8 Hypercars after claiming its first WEC podium at Monza in July. Nico Mueller, who will be unable to make an appearance at the Japanese WEC event due to injury, will be replaced by Stoffel Vandoorne, the team’s designated backup driver.

Loc Duval and Gustavo Menezes will also be at the wheel of the Peugeot 9X8, along with Vandoorne. The team is currently ranking fifth, 16 points behind Porsche, who are in fourth place.

Floyd Vanwall Racing will round out the field for the Hypercar battle with drivers Esteban Guerrieri, Tristan Vautier, and Joao Paulo de Oliveira. The Japanese fans will treat the Brazilian, who has been competing regularly in Japan since 2004, like one of their own.

Two LMP2 teams battle out for the title

Team WRT leads Inter Europol Competition in second place, with only ten points separating the two LMP2 front-runners heading into Fuji.

United Autosports is in third place, 28 points back of category leader Team WRT. Felipe Albuquerque, who skipped the previous round owing to other commitments, will rejoin the United Autosports team.

Andrea Caldarelli’s return to the Oreca 07 Gibson with Doriane Pin and Daniil Kvyat in the #63 Prema Racing car is another notable driver switch.

In the meantime, Corvette Racing won the LMGTE Am championship in Monza last time out after accruing an incredible 145 points with two races to go in the season.

Iron Dames, who are in second place, ORT by TF, who are in third place, and Dempsey-Proton Racing, who are in fourth, are only separated by seven points in the race for second and third.

The #98 Northwest AMR team, consisting of Alex Riberas, Daniel Mancinelli, and Ian James, will make a return at Fuji after missing the previous round.

In LMGTE Am, two Japanese drivers have been added to the #21 AF Corse car alongside Simon Mann. The two are Horoschi Koizumi and Kei Cozzolini. Earlier in the season, Cozzolino was a Kessel Racing driver, but for this race, Scott Huffaker, Takeshi Kimura, and Daniel Serra will all be back with the team.

The Aston Martin Vantage AMR driven by Satoshi Hoshino, Tomonobu Fujii, and Casper Stevenson for the Japanese-based team D’Station Racing will be a fan favorite at Fuji.

On-track action is scheduled to begin on Friday, September 8, and qualifying will take place on Saturday. On Sunday at 11:00, the flag will be lifted for the six-hour race.

2023 FIA WEC 6 Hours of Fuji schedule:

Friday 8 September
11:00 – 12:30: Free Practice 1
15:30 – 17:00: Free Practice 2

Saturday 9 September
10:20 – 11:20: Free Practice 3
14:40 – 15:45: Qualifying

Sunday 10 September
11:00 – 17:00: 6 Hours of Fuji

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