Toyota Gazoo Racing swept to a decisive 1-2 finish at the 6 Hours of Fuji with the No.8 crew of Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa taking their second victory of the 2022 FIA WEC season.
It was the eighth win from nine starts for Toyota at the Fuji Speedway and ensured that their legion of fans left happy as the WEC returned to Japan for the first time in almost three years.
The 25 points for Hartley, Buemi and Hirakawa means that they head to the season finale at the BAPCO 8 Hours of Bahrain in November level on points with the Alpine ELF Team trio of Andre Negrao, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Nicolas Lapierre.
The first few of the race were crucial for the No.8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid as Buemi was able to vault polesitter Kamui Kobayashi in the No.7 sister car.
Despite a brief struggle as his fresh set of left-side tyres came up to temperature at the first scheduled pit-stop, Buemi made his move on Kobayashi after showing better pace as the tyres came in.
The No.8 Toyota was then never headed as first Brendon Hartley and then hometown hero Ryo Hirakawa completed flawless stints at the wheel to ensure a comfortable victory margin of 1m08s.
Toyota’s win at Fuji today ensured that it has claimed eight of the nine WEC races held at its home circuit of Fuji Speedway since 2012.
Third place for the Alpine ELF Team was earned after an initial battle with the No.94 Peugeot TotalEnergies 9X8 Hypercar driven by Loic Duval, Gustavo Menezes and James Rossiter.
Rossiter was able to vault the Alpine after the first scheduled stop but despite showing well in the first half of the race the Peugeot was forced into a lengthy pit-stop to fix an oil leak.
This meant it lost 14 laps as the Peugeot TotalEnergies crew rectified the issue and it returned to pick up fifth place points in Hypercar.
The sister No.93 Peugeot 9X8 of Jean-Eric Vergne, Mikkel Jensen and Paul di Resta took fourth position after also recovering from a long pit stop in the fifth hour.
The LMP2 points were scooped by the No.31 crew of Robin Frijns, Sean Gelael and Dries Vanthoor after a typically close and fascinating duel.
Several cars led the class throughout the six hours but the victory ultimately came down to a fight between the WRT Oreca-Gibson and the No.38 points leading JOTA entry of Antonio Felix da Costa, Will Stevens and Roberto Gonzalez.
At one stage it looked like Stevens might be able make it to the flag without a final ‘splash and dash’ fuel stop but he was forced to head pit wards with just four minutes of the race remaining.
This made sure that Frijns was able to cruise to the flag, although he had to contend with not being able to hear his team on the radio for the majority of the final stint.
The win was Dries Vanthoor’s debut 6 Hours win in the WEC after he substituted for regular WRT racer Rene Rast who was competing in the DTM race at Spa-Francorchamps.
The No.38 JOTA’s second place means that they hold a significant championship advantage heading into the final race in Bahrain and lead the way by 28 points.
Completing the podium was the No.38 JOTA entry of Ed Jones, Jonathan Aberdein and Oliver Rasmussen. They fought back from a first lap spin after being hit by the Algarve Pro Racing car which locked-up on cold tyres at Turn 6.
Jonathan Aberdein turned that frustration in to a superb comeback drive and was able to take the class lead in the second hour. Jones and Rasmussen completed impressive stints with Rasmussen able to just hold off a charging Norman Nato in the Realteam by WRT car at the chequered flag by 0.5s.
AF Corse’s Francois Perrodo, Nicklas Nielsen and Alessio Rovera took the Pro/Am division win to re-gain the points lead over the Algrave Pro squad. It was the trio’s third such victory of the season and they achieved it after an initial battle with the Ultimate run Oreca-Gibson entry.
AF Corse Seal 1-2 Finish for Ferrari in LMGTE Pro
AF Corse completed a 1-2 finish to make it a fruitful day for Ferrari in one of the tightest ever WEC LMGTE Pro title battles.
James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi executed a superb win in the No.51 AF Corse run Ferrari 488 GTE EVO to register the legendary Italian manufacturers’ 30th win in the LMGTE Pro category.
Calado engaged in an entertaining battle with Kevin Estre in the pole sitting No.92 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR-19 in the opening stints as the pair swapped positions several times.
But it was the Ferrari that came out on top and was able to open up an increasing gap as the battle went into the mid-race phase.
Despite some attentions of the sister No.52 AF Corse Ferrari driven by Miguel Molina and Antonio Fuoco, Calado was able to conduct the pace at the end to head home a formation finish across the line and extend their points lead to 11 points.
Porsche took third and fourth with No.92’s Estre and teammate Michael Christensen heading home the Gianmarria Bruni and Richard Lietz crewed No.91 car, which was delayed after receiving penalties for track limits violations and an incident with the No.88 Dempsey Proton LMGTE Am Porsche.
Corvette Racing took fifth placed points after a difficult race that saw Nick Tandy run out of fuel heading to pit-lane and both he and Tommy Milner struggling with grip levels.
TF Sport took a second victory of the season in Fuji to put further distance between themselves and the Northwest AMR team in the LMGTE Am title fight.
Ben Keating, Henrique Chaves and Marco Sorensen took maximum points from the weekend to banish the memory of the significant accident suffered by Chaves at Monza in July.
Despite close battles for most of the race the No.33 TF Sport Aston Martin claimed an ultimately comfortable win by a lap from the Iron Dames squad of Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bouvy and Rahel Frey.
They enjoyed their best ever WEC victory after another impressive display that saw them lead in the first hour and then defend second place stoutly from both the No.98 Northwest AMR Aston Martin and then the No.54 AF Corse Ferrari.
Completing the podium in LMGTE Am was the D’Station Aston Martin squad. They celebrated a second ever podium position in the WEC after a momentous race that saw them come from the rear of the field to the front.
Tomonobu Fujii scythed his way to the front in an inspired first stint before Satoshi Hoshino and Charlie Fagg ensured the local favourites were able to celebrate with their fans and partners from the podium.