6H Fuji: Toyota take 1-2 finish in heavily interrupted and red flag affected race

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Toyota Gazoo Racing has taken a 1-2 finish in a heavily red flag and Safety Car interrupted FIA WEC 6H Hours of Fuji, after relentless rain and fog affected prolonged periods of the race, causing it to finish prematurely.

LMP1:

Winner: #8 Toyota TS050 of Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima

Earl Bamber in the #2 Porsche lead away from pole position after the race started under safety car, and then went green under a slow zone for safety reasons in the wet conditions, with the cars able to race from Turn 1 onwards.

The sister #1 Porsche, which was started by Andre Lotterer, dropped back in the opening racing laps from second to fourth behind both Toyotas of Buemi (#8) and Kamui Kobayashi (#7) respectively.

Lotterer eventually regained both positions, after almost 30-minutes lagging behind in fourth, fighting back to second place.\

The first of many Safety Cars periods came when the race director decided the lack of visibility down the main straight was unsafe, deploying it before the end of the first hour.

This kicked off the first round of pit stops, with both Toyotas diving in immediately. Buemi handed the #8 car which sat in third to Nakajima, and Kobayashi made way for Jose Maria Lopez in the fourth placed #7.

The #1 Porsche came in a lap later under the Safety Car, Neel Jani taking over from Lotterer with the car needing a front nose change as a result of minor damage to one of the dive plains from contact on the first lap.

The leading #2 Porsche of Bamber however, did not stop, and still held first place when the race was red flagged due to almost zero visibility.

The race restarted under a slow zone after a 32-minute red flag period, with the #2 pitting immediately for Timo Bernhard to jump in.

It was made clear that Bernhard was struggling in the treacherous conditions, the German driver circulating 3-seconds a lap slower than Nakajima who took over the race lead, ultimately putting the #2 a lap down.

Two more Safety Car sequences punctuated the race as the pit stops cycled through, Nick Tandy in the #1 leading from the #7 and #8 Toyotas, with the #2 Porsche still tagging along a lap down, Brendon Hartley behind the wheel.

Both Toyotas got by Tandy on the fourth Safety Car Restart, Lopez the first to pounce on the exit of Turn 1 and was followed through by Nakajima in the #8, with the former two both pitting just before the end of the fourth hour under a Full Course Yellow.

Conway jumped in the #7, while Jani got back in the #1, with Nakajima staying out.

Jani immediately put Conway under pressure for second, but his chances fizzled away when the race was again put under red flag with 90-minutes remaining.

Unrelenting fog and increasing rain slashed all hopes of a dash to the flag finish, with the race director deciding to call the race off with 15-minutes still to run.

The #8 Toyota sealed the win, while the #7 car completed the Japanese brands 1-2 finish on home soil and in-front of their home crowd.

Porsche finished third and fourth, the #1 car ahead of the #2 car respectively.

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LMP2:

Winner: #31 Valliante Rebellion Oreca of Nicolas Prost, Julien Canal and Bruno Senna

A spin for the pole-sitting #13 Rebellion of Nelson Piquet Jnr at the first corner on the opening lap, meant that the #31 team car of Senna nabbed the lead.

Nicolas Lapierre was on an early charge in the #36 Signatech Alpine, filtering up through the field from fourth to second place, ahead of the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing car of Alex Brundle who sat third.

Simon Trummer was first to find the wall in the #25 Manor, damaging his front end when he skated off at Turn 15, but reversed back onto the track.

Just before the second Safety Car period, Ho-Pin Tung (#38 Jackie Chan DC Racing) took the lead away from Emmanuel Collard in the #28 TDS Racing car.

Mathias Beche (#13 Rebellion) brought out the fourth Safety Car intervention when he collected the wall at Turn 6 while squabbling with Jean-Eric Vergne (#24 Manor) for third in class.

The two drivers ran side by side down the main straight under the preceding Full Course Yellow restart, making slight contact before Beche seized the position at Turn 1.

Vergne then got back past him at Turn 3, but Beche performed an audacious move around the outside on the Manor driver, tapping the front of Vergne’s car before spinning into the barrier at high speed before Turn 6.

The sister #31 Rebellion of Prost resumed the lead through the pit stop cycle, but André Negrâo in the #36 forced his way by Ho-Pin Tung in the #38 for second with 1 Hour 45mins remaining.

Prost, Senna and Canal – who didn’t turn a single lap – took the LMP2 victory, with the race not resuming after the second red flag, while the podium was rounded out by the #36 Alpine and the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car

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GTE-PRO:

Winner: #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi

Ricard Lietz (#91 Porsche GT) lead away at the front of the GTE-Pro field at the start, opening up an early margin of 3-seconds before the first red flag, while the AF Corse Ferraris and Ford’s duked it out behind.

Lietz opted to stay out during the Safety Car period that preceded the red flag, but came in on the restart with second placed Stefan Mücke in the #66 Ford GT following him in a few laps later.

This handed the lead to Pier Guidi in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari, who was swiftly passed by a charging Michael Christensen in the #92 Porsche, taking the lead.

The #67 Ford of Andy Priaulx received a 1-minute stop and go penalty for exiting the pit lane while the red light was still on, dropping him from 6th in class to last and a lap down.

The race went from bad to worse for Priaulx at the fourth Safety Car restart when he turned around the class leading #92 Porsche of Kévin Estre at Turn 10 while being lapped.

Fred Makowiecki in the sister #91 Porsche benefitted from this incident, stealing the lead while Calado also moved up to second passing Estre down the main straight.

Priaulex then had a huge moment down at Turn 1, his Ford GT snapping away from underneath him in the braking zone, sending the car harpooning into the barrier, eventually beaching itself in the gravel and bringing out the Full Course Yellow.

Calado in the #51 Ferrari and Makowiecki in the #91 Porsche squabbled for a number of laps, before the former made his way past into the class lead just before the second red flag was thrown.

As the race was not restarted, the #51 AF Corse took the victory for Calado and Pier Guidi, while the #91 Porsche of Makowiecki and Lietz finished second.

Estre rounded out the GTE-Pro podium and a Porsche 1-3 finish in the #92 Porsche which he shares with Christensen.

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GTE-AM:

Winners: The #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE of Thomas Flohr Francesco Castellacci and Miguel Molina

Clearwater Racing lead for much of the race in GTE-AM, with Keita Sawa the star driver aboard the #61 Ferrari while they squabbled throughout with the Spirit of Race Ferrari.

The #54 Spirit of Race car had the upper hand in the final pit stop sequence and Molina held the lead under the second and ultimately race ending red flag.

Matt Griffin sustained second for Clearwater Racing and co-drivers Weng Sun Mo and Sawa, with the Proton Porsche of Christian Ried, Matteo Cairoli and Marvin Dienst rounding out the class podium.

Mike Hedlund, Ben Barker and Nick Foster took out fourth in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche, with Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana the last of the finishers after a major spin for the latter set the #98 Aston Martin back for the final half of the race.

The FIA World Endurance Championship now heads across to China for the penultimate round of the series at the Shanghai International Circuit from November 3-5.