Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima led a Toyota one-two parade in Sunday's weather-shortened Fuji round of the World Endurance Championship to give the Japanese manufacturer its first victory over Porsche since Spa in May.
The Toyota TS050 Hybrid made good on the promise it had shown last time out at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin and had the edge over Porsche's 919 Hybrid in the wet conditions in which the race was run. The No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid was leading but was pitting when a second red flag of the race brought the race held entirely in wet conditions to a premature conclusion as low cloud descended on the circuit.
The clock had ticked past 70 percent duration when the stoppage came after four and half hours, which meant that full points could be awarded. Officials hoped to restart the race for the final 10 minutes of the six hours, but the call came from race control with 14 minutes left on the clock that the race would be called as visibility deteriorated again.
WEC rules state that all entered drivers score points even if, like Anthony Davidson in the No. 8 Toyota, they didn't get behind the wheel.The victory for the Toyota keeps the title race open going into the penultimate round of the series at Shanghai next month. Points leaders Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber only needed to finish ahead of Buemi and Nakajima in their Porsche 919 Hybrid to seal the drivers' crown, but they ultimately finished a lap down in fourth. Buemi and Nakajima had an edge on the opposition for much of a race that was interrupted by five full safety-car periods and one virtual safety car, in addition to the 32-minute stoppage when the clouds closed in for a first time in the second hour.
The winning Toyota moved to the front when the race resumed after the first stoppage. Nakajima was then able to pull away from teammate Jose Maria Lopez in the sister car in the early stages of the third hour as the Argentinean struggled when his windshield wiper failed.
The Japanese driver lost the lead when he pitted at the three-hour mark, but after the field was closed up by a safety car he was able to pass Nick Tandy for second in the No. 2 Porsche as the race went green. He then moved into the lead when Lopez, who shared the No. 7 Toyota with Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway, made the car's third pitstop.
Nakajima was 16 seconds up on Conway when the safety car was sent out five laps before the red flag. He had been due to come into the pits but was told to abort as the red flags were shown."
In the end we were a little bit lucky that the red flag came when it did, but I think we deserved the victory, because we had good pace especially in the heavier wet conditions," said the Japanese driver. "We said before the race that we wanted a one-two and somehow we managed it."
Toyota was insistent that the No. 8 car would have been able to complete the race if it had been restarted for the final 10 minutes.Conway was fighting off the advances of Neel Jani in the No. 1 Porsche, which Andre Lotterer had started, when the race was slowed and then stopped.Bamber had not pitted in the No. 2 Porsche when the first red flag was shown, which meant he had to stop for fuel and tires as the safety car pulled in after the restart. The time lost by stopping under green-flag conditions relegated Bernhard to fourth, just over a minute down on the No. 8 Toyota at the front of the field.
The German driver then struggled to switch his tire on and went a lap down in the third hour.
The Rebellion Racing ORECA-Gibson 07 driven by Bruno Senna and Nicolas Prost were declared LMP2 winners before teammate Julien Canal could drive. Prost was running approximately 15 seconds ahead of the Signatech Alpine ORECA driven by Nicolas Lapierre and Andre Negrao when the final safety car came out. Julien Canal and Gustavo Menezes did not get to drive the respective first and second-placed cars.
By Gary Watkins
Racing, Other Motorsports, Sports Cars
Car news, reviews, motorsports,
All information and images provided by http://autoweek.com/article/other-motorsports/toyota-grabs-top-two-spots-weather-plagued-rain-shortened-wec-6-hours-fuji