Fuji Saturday Notebook – Sportscar365

Photo: Jose Bispo

*** A ‘circuit safari’ was held on Saturday morning, shortly before Free Practice 3. Five buses arrived at Fuji Speedway in an unofficial live session alongside the WEC cars.

***Buses completed two laps on the left side allowing cars to pass on the right side. A change midway down the main straight ensured everyone on board had a close-up view.

***While teams were only required to send one car for the safari, both the Toyota GR010 Hybrid and the Peugeot 9X8 entered. Surprisingly, Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Kamui Kobayashi used the 12-minute gap on the track to complete a qualifying simulation race in the No. 7 car that went on to take pole position.

*** Explaining how that happened, Toyota’s WEC technical director Pascal Vasselon said: “Only because he had the opportunity and things went well. Was not [on] objective. It just happened… we tried to take every opportunity to race.”

***The No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 returned to the pits from safari in a nest, its left rear body scraping against the tarmac and the wheel. The car is understood to have encountered a suspension problem during the session.

***Robin Frijns was demoted from third to fourth on the LMP2 grid after his best qualifying lap time was erased. The elimination, which was not shown on the live timing feed and only became apparent after the session, was caused by Frijns hitting the inside curb at Turn 13 which took him off the track on the exit.

***Realteam by WRT has subsequently moved up to third place on the provisional grid. Meanwhile, Frijns will start fourth in the No. 31 WRT car after posting a solid backup time.

***The NorthWest AMR Aston Martin Vantage GTE was sent to the back of the grid due to Paul Dalla Lana breaking the speed limit in pit lane during qualifying. The Canadian registered a speed of 62.8 km/h against a maximum of 60 km/h. He was fined €300 ($304 USD) and had all of his lap times erased. The fastest driver in the car this weekend, David Pittard, must take the start.

***Michael Christensen became the first two-time polesitter in GTE-Pro this season. The driver of the No. 92 Porsche previously led qualifying for the Sebring 1000 Miles.

***James Calado said he was “compromised” by traffic on his qualifying lap, causing his No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo to lose maximum tire temperature. The British driver finished second in qualifying but missed out on pole to Christensen.

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***Calado suggested that the hot and sunny conditions forecast for race day will emphasize the importance of effective tire management. “Under the expected conditions, the tires, especially the rear ones, would be severely tested,” he said.

*** There was a close two-car situation in GTE qualifying when Satoshi Hoshino marginally avoided hitting Franck Dezoteux’s Ferrari 488 GTE Evo as the Frenchman recovered from a spin at Turn 15. Hoshino had all his times wiped for not slowing down under yellow flags. His D’station Racing Aston Martin will start alongside NorthWest AMR on row 18.

***A minute of silence has been added to the pre-race activities, as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 96.

*** Starting Saturday morning, the UK-based United Autosports team’s two Oreca 07 Gibsons will race with a black nose band in honor of the Queen.

*** Toyota technical chief Vasselon described the 18kg weight reduction overall for LMH cars as “a given” based on Balance of Performance principles for Hypercar. The BoP system requires data from two races to assess whether a correction is needed.

“There has been an adjustment after Le Mans,” said Vasselon. “There is no adjustment after Monza. The relative gap between the LMH cars had to stay the same. Peugeot, Glickenhaus and Toyota are not adjusted for Fuji. The next adjustment should come in Bahrain.”

***James Rossiter says he is “not thinking” about whether he will remain part of Peugeot’s Hypercar line-up next season. The Briton was previously a reserve driver for Peugeot but was promoted to a racing seat when Kevin Magnussen left the Formula 1 programme.

“It’s been an opportunity I didn’t expect to get,” Rossiter told Sportscar365. “But I’m taking it with both hands, maximizing it and it’s up to other people to make decisions for the future.

***Peugeot is working to recruit a seventh driver for its Hypercar roster, but it’s unclear if it will be in a race seat or as a reserve. “The decision will be made to choose this pilot and then have the crew [that] it will be the best for the team, but I still don’t know where they will fit in,” said Jean-Marc Finot, director of Stellantis Motorsport.

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***Finot indicated that Peugeot would like to see the WEC add a South American race in the future. The WEC last visited Brazil in 2014 for the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo. “We like South America and it is a good market for Peugeot,” said Finot.

***Porsche Motorsport Factory Director for the WEC, Alexander Stehlig, will leave racing at the end of the season to take up a new role within Porsche’s road car division. The experienced former racing engineer, who guided former Audi driver Mattias Ekstrom to the DTM title, has been involved in the Porsche GTE-Pro project since 2014. GTE-Pro will end after the current WEC season.

***Former WEC driver Roberto Merhi is in the paddock this weekend supporting young Formula One Japanese Regional Championship competitor Yoshiaki Katayama. Merhi, who now competes in FIA Formula 2 and Super GT, drove for Manor in 2016 and subsequently represented Eurasia Motorsport and G-Drive Racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***Another former WEC competitor, Kei Cozzolino, is on site assisting his driving partner Takeshi Kimura, who races for Team Project 1. Currently, Cozzolino and Kimura are the first together in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia powered by AWS ratings

***Toyota hosted WEC CEO Frederic Lequien and ACO President Pierre Fillon for a demonstration of the hydrogen-powered Toyota Corolla Cross H2 Concept on Saturday. Accompanied by Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe Vice President and three-time Le Mans winner Kazuki Nakajima, they lapped around the Fuji Handling Track, which is located on the main circuit complex.

***For its home race, Toyota brought a GR010 Hybrid LMH and a TS050 Hybrid LMP1 to display at the track, with powertrain components also on display.

*** The WEC 2023 schedule will not be released this weekend, with the championship continuing to work together with the FIA ​​before setting a release date. An additional seventh round in Europe is expected to be added to next season’s schedule.

***The 6 Hours of Fuji will start at 11am local time on Sunday (10pm ET on Saturday, 4am CEST).

daniel lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, which covers the FIA ​​World Endurance Championship, AWS-powered Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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