Fuji WEC previews
OAK Racing returns to LM P1 and targets LM P2 success at Fuji
This weekend (October 14) the FIA World Endurance Championship visits Fuji Speedway in Japan for its seventh and penultimate round of the season. It will be a seminal moment for French squad OAK Racing who, as well as entering its #24 Morgan 2012 LM P2, welcomes back the OAK-HPD LM P1 prototype that has missed the last three events.
As well as now being powered by the proven Honda Performance Development engine, #15 returns with a new driver in the form of Japan’s favorite son, Takuma Sato.
Sato turned his first laps aboard the LM P1 during a shakedown at Magny-Cours circuit in France on September 27 before fully evaluating the package throughout the following day. He has a further opportunity to test and prepare the car on October 10 at Fuji where he will work with team-mates Bertrand Baguette and Dominik Kraihamer for the first time.
The team is hopeful that its new package of OAK chassis, HPD engine and Dunlop tires – for whom it is the exclusive LM P1 development partner – can run amongst the other privateers in the premier prototype class.
Meanwhile the team’s sole #24 Morgan 2012 LM P2 retains its usual WEC crew of ‘silver’ grade driver and team owner Jacques Nicolet, Matthieu Lahaye and Olivier Pla. With a pair of Championship podiums to its name since the start of the year, the crew is eager to again demonstrate the potential of its Onroak Automotive designed and built LM P2.
Sebastien Philippe, Team Principal: “The 6 Hours of Fuji sees the return of our OAK-HPD LM P1 to the World Endurance Championship and also marks the sports-prototype debut for Taku who we are extremely proud to be welcoming.
“The team will also discover a circuit I know very well and have much experience of from my own racing career. I have no doubt that its characteristics, especially the long 1.5-kilometre straight, will favor our Morgan-Nissan 2012 LM P2, which has good top-end speed.
“Naturally we are all anxious to see how the OAK-HPD LM P1 stacks up against Strakka, JRM and Rebellion who are tackling their final two races of the year while we essentially enter our first two. However, testing at Magny-Cours went well and allowed us to address some issues. While that hasn’t fully put my mind at ease, it does at least ensure there shouldn’t be too much stress!”
Takuma Sato, #15 OAK-HPD LM P1: “After the successful shakedown and test day at Magny-Cours, I am now even more excited to be competing in Japan with OAK Racing. I believe the team has made the best possible preparations in the limited time available and feel very positive and comfortable about the whole team's operation. The car demonstrated good performance at the test according to the engineers and they were satisfied with that, so I am confident we will be competitive at Fuji Speedway.
“It will be a very exciting and interesting weekend for both fans and the WEC series. The track has unique characteristics with one of the longest straights at a permanent circuit in the world, but also has quite a complex technical section so the set-up needs to be a good compromise. Hopefully the aero package we tested at Magny-Cours will give us good speed. I am ready to take on a new challenge and really looking forward to be working with the team, as well as to see all the enthusiastic fans in Japan.”
Matthieu Lahaye, #24 Morgan-Nissan 2012 LM P2: “I have fond memories of my Japanese experience with OAK Racing from Okayama in 2009 where we won! In addition, it is difficult for Europeans to imagine just how passionate the Japanese public is about motorsport, the Le Mans 24 Hours and endurance racing in general. I take a lot of enjoyment from the special atmosphere and enthusiasm of so many fans.
“Also, it is always interesting to discover a new circuit. I have practiced a little bit on a computer game and simulator and the track seems more suited to the qualities of our car than either Bahrain or Sao Paulo. We will have a day of running to familiarize ourselves with the layout before first free practice. Several times this year we have missed out on the sort of results that the car’s performance has warranted, so we will be doing our best to challenge for victory.”
6 Hours of Fuji schedule (local time):
Friday 12 October:
11:00 – 12:30: Free Practice 1
15:30 – 17:00: Free Practice 2
Saturday 13 October:
09:25 – 10:25: Free Practice 3
14:00 – 14:20: LMP Qualifying
Sunday 14 October:
07:55 – 08:15: Warm-up
11:00 – 17:00: Race
Lotus LMP2 Preview to the 6 Hours of Fuji
After the great result in the desert of Bahrain, Lotus is looking ahead to the 6 Hours of Fuji.
In the events before, the team has proved that it is able to fight for the podium. Lotus wants to build on the success and is coming with high hopes to the land of the rising sun. Once again the target will be to finish the race on the podium.
Mirco Schultis will be back in car #31 after he missed the round in Bahrain due to illness. He will drive alongside Thomas Holzer and Luca Moro. The driver’s line up for car #32 remains unchanged with Kevin Weeda, James Rossiter and Vitantonio Liuzzi at the wheel.
The race at the foot on Mount Fuji starts on Sunday, 14th October 2012, at 11:00 hours local time.
Mirco Schultis, Race Driver #31:
“I am happy that I will be back in the car in Fuji. Unfortunately, I was not able to race in Bahrain because I was ill. But I am fully recovered and I am looking forward to being back in action in Japan. I hope that we can keep on progressing and that we can show another good performance.”
Kevin Weeda, Race Driver #32:
“I am looking forward to racing in Fuji. It has got a long straight, one of the longest in motorsport, but also parts that are very slow and twisty. It is located at the bottom of Mount Fuji and it is a nice setting for the seventh round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. After the great race in Bahrain, we hope that we can tie on this success and have another good weekend. After my teammates and I had stints leading the race in Bahrain, we are now motivated more than ever to finish on the podium soon.”
Japanese homecoming for Toyota Racing
TOYOTA Racing heads home to Japan this week for the Six Hours of Mount Fuji at the spectacular Fuji Speedway, the seventh and penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Kazuki Nakajima returns to the driver line-up for the #7 TS030 HYBRID, joining Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre.
After helping the team to its first podium finish at Silverstone, Kazuki took time out from WEC duties to concentrate on his Super GT program in Japan.
In that time his team-mates scored TOYOTA Racing’s first win, in Sao Paulo in the team’s third race. The team was in a strong position to repeat that in Bahrain but a technical issue cost several minutes before an accident ended its race.
Weather conditions are expected to be significantly cooler in Japan than the 37°C race day heat experienced in Bahrain.
The 4.563km Fuji Speedway track has a rich history of endurance racing, having previously hosted the World Sportscar Championship from 1982 to 1988, as well as national sportscar events.
The TS030 HYBRID follows in its illustrious predecessors in racing at Fuji Speedway; the TS010 won an All Japan Sportscar Championship race there in 1992 while the TS020 finished second in the 1999 Le Mans Fuji 1,000km.
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: “Our home race is a very special occasion for TOYOTA Racing and the team is extremely motivated to deliver a good result, especially after the big disappointment of Bahrain. We are a hybrid team in many respects and, even though our team base is at TMG in Cologne, our TOYOTA HYBRID System - Racing was developed very close to Fuji Speedway, at Higashi-Fuji Technical Center. So this is a homecoming for our hybrid powertrain and many of our engineers. As always, we face a very tough competitor so every team member needs to focus on doing the very best job possible in order to succeed. To stand on the top step of the podium in Japan is a big dream for us, so everyone is fired up for this weekend.”
Alex Wurz: “It feels very cool to go to Japan as a TOYOTA driver. It puts a bit of extra pressure on as well and that is good for us. Fuji Speedway is an iconic track in sportscar history and it also a difficult one. You have an extremely long straight, some fast corners in the middle then the last sector is very technical and tricky. It is actually one of the most difficult tracks in my opinion to get the set-up right. I am looking forward to racing in Japan again; the Japanese fans are very special and very enthusiastic. I hope they still remember the great days of sportscar racing and come back to see these extremely good, sexy-looking race cars because the show will definitely be very good.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “I’ve only been to Japan once before, to race at Okoyama in 2009, so I am looking forward to this week. I have never driven at Fuji Speedway before but I visited Cologne last week and drove the track on the TMG simulator, and I have also watched a lot of onboard camera footage. It seems a very technical track with a massive straight so it will be interesting to see how our car reacts there. It’s a great feeling and a real privilege to go to the Six Hours of Mount Fuji as a TOYOTA Racing driver. Of course this is also an extra pressure because we really want to do well at our home race, but this is a positive pressure.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “I am really excited to be driving the TS030 HYBRID again; it seems like a long time since our podium at Silverstone! It’s been great to see the progress made by the team since then, particularly with the win in Sao Paulo. I would love to have been there for such a special moment so I am really motivated to create another great result this weekend. Fuji Speedway is one of my favorite tracks and I know it really well. Actually I raced there already twice this season in Super GT, although it will be a different challenge in an LMP1 car. I can’t wait to drive this car at Fuji Speedway in front of TOYOTA’s home fans.”