FUJI SPEEDWAY, Japan—It only took a matter of 58 minutes from the start of the six hours of Fuji race on Sunday afternoon to have Toyota Gazoo Racing control their home event, as later in the day, Kamui Kobayashi, along with his co-drivers Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez, took advantage to overtake their sister number 8 car to give the Japanese manufacturer their eighth consecutive victory at this circuit. Third was the Penske Motorsport Porsche, who took the lead early in the race.
The hypercars were expecting Toyota to dominate early, but this was not the case, as the first turn showed most of the cars in this class went off the circuit, giving the number 6 Porsche, driven by Laurens Vandoor, the advantage in addition to the Ferraris, who overtook both Toyotas for the lead. But the Japanese giant came back with vengeance to pass both their German and Italian rivals to take the lead, with Conway at the wheel.
From there, with the occasional pit stops throughout the day, both Toyotas led, until just two hours from the end, when Kobayashi finally passed teammate and rival Brendon Hartley, who had been complaining of brake problems, to take the lead for good. The victory not only will take the drivers title in this class down to the final event two months from now in Bahrain, but the victory now seals the manufacturers title for Toyota.
In the LMP 2 division, it was a battle between the Belgian WRT team and its British counterpart, United Autosports, with both teams tangling against one another for most of the entire race. But at the end, it was the 41 entry of Rai Andrade, along with Robert Kubica and Louis Delatraz, who became the winners, with the United Autosports car with Filipe Albuquerque driving, passing the second WRT with Robin Frijins, to take second on the last lap.
In the GTE AM, many thought it would be a battle with Iron Dames and the newly crowned champion, Corvette Racing. But even though the two entries battled each other out in the early stages, The female team dropped back, and their male counterparts moved on, only to cause a penalty when midway through the race, they sideswiped the eventual winner, AF Corse number 54. That team, with Swiss Thomas Flohr, and his Italian teammates, Francesco Castellacci and Davide Rignon, took first with Kessel Racing in second. Corvette Racing ended up in third.
The Hypercars drivers’ standings, along with the LMP 2 drivers and manufacturers tiles and the GTE AM division with the same outcome, will be decided on November 4th at the Sakir circuit.
By Mark Gero