Porsche leads Audi in Friday practice at Fuji

A lockup for the leading Porsche
A lockup for the leading Porsche

The Fuji Speedway in the Japanese Alps welcomed the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in bright sunshine with temperatures of over 20 degrees Celsius. The Porsche Team had two positive free practice sessions, each 90 minutes long, in preparation for the sixth of eight World Championship rounds. The two Porsche 919 Hybrids with the driver trios of Timo Bernhard (DE)/Brendon Hartley (NZ)/Mark Webber (AU) and Romain Dumas (FR)/Neel Jani (CH)/Marc Lieb (DE) were fourth and second in the morning and first and third in the afternoon.

Intense work on the aerodynamic set-up of the Le Mans Prototypes meant more bodywork parts than usual had to be ready in the garage. Featuring a very long 1,500 meter straight, but also many tight corners, the circuit, that is only 4.549 kilometers long, places contradicting challenges regarding the car’s downforce level. The team used both components with which it won on the high-speed circuit of Le Mans as well as those that were fitted to the winning car at the rather windy Nürburgring and Circuit of The Americas tracks. In the end the team tended to go for a relatively high downforce level and paid the price for this with lower top speeds on the straight. Another aspect is a change of weather conditions that is forecast: When the six-hour race is held on Sunday (start time is 11:00 hrs. local time) Mount Fuji might well be covered in rain clouds.

In Japan Porsche wants to extend its lead in the manufacturers’ championship and catch up to the leading Audi trio in the drivers’ standings. Not an easy task: the prototype from Ingolstadt showed a strong performance on the first day of practice.

Quotes after free practice:
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “We enjoyed a very productive first day with the track dry all the time. Both cars ran smoothly all day. In the morning session we did an aero comparison on car number 17, which gave us a clear result. In the second session we were focusing on tire testing on long runs. It is remarkable that, while doing this, Brendon Hartley’s fastest lap of 1:24.460 minutes was more than two seconds faster than last year’s pole position. The weather forecast for Sunday predicts rain, which will certainly add extra excitement to the race."

Webber watches intently
Webber watches intently

Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 17
Timo Bernhard (34, Germany): “We have done lots of basic set-up work, made sure we got the hybrid settings right, and worked out which aero package would be best for this varied circuit. It didn’t take us long to decide to go for a higher downforce configuration. This certainly costs top speed, but makes the car much better to drive."

Brendon Hartley (25, New Zealand): “It looks quite close here between us and the Audi from what I saw on the average lap times. We still have a bit of work to do for the long runs, but the single lap pace seems to be quite good. In the last sector, with its corners that come one after another, it is tricky to get by the traffic, but that is part of the game."

Mark Webber (39, Australia): “We have had a good first day here. Fuji’s very long straight, combined with the tight corners in the last sector, obviously requires a good compromise for the aero set-up. We are still chasing the track a little bit, but gathered lots of good data and had zero problems."

Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 18
Romain Dumas (37, France): “We have been good in both sessions, but the competition is good as well. For a long time it wasn’t that close with Audi. In the morning session we split the job between the cars to find out the best possible aero configuration. We will go for a rather high downforce level."

Neel Jani (31, Switzerland): “I did a race stint in the second session to check how the car and the tires perform on the long run and to get a feeling for it. When the car is understeery, the tires are under pressure. We try to help the tires the best way we can with the set-up. We are not completely where we want to be and will keep working on improvements."

Marc Lieb (35, Germany): “The grip level at the front axle is relatively low here. The car was instantly good in fast corners, but the slow corners at the very end of the lap were tricky for us. We made some changes and they worked well in the afternoon. The car was less understeery, and, also with a full fuel tank, the balance improved."

PRACTICE ONE TIMES:

Pos Class Driver Team Car Time Behind Laps
1 LMP1 M. Fassler, A.Lotterer, B.Treluyer Audi Sport Team Joest Audi 1m24.497s 0.000s 36
2 LMP1 R.Dumas, N.Jani, M.Lieb Porsche Team Porsche 1m25.230s 0.733s 37
3 LMP1 L.di Grassi, L.Duval, O.Jarvis Audi Sport Team Joest Audi 1m25.830s 1.333s 33
4 LMP1 T.Bernhard, M.Webber, B.Hartley Porsche Team Porsche 1m26.045s 1.548s 30
5 LMP1 A.Davidson, S.Buemi, K.Nakajima Toyota Racing Toyota 1m26.633s 2.136s 32
6 LMP1 A.Wurz, S.Sarrazin, M.Conway Toyota Racing Toyota 1m26.724s 2.227s 38
7 LMP1 N.Prost, M.Beche Rebellion Racing Rebellion/AER 1m30.867s 6.370s 32
8 LMP1 A.Imperatori, D.Kraihamer, D.Abt Rebellion Racing Rebellion/AER 1m31.357s 6.860s 14
9 LMP1 S.Trummer, P.Kaffer Team ByKolles CLM/AER 1m31.810s 7.313s 31
10 LMP2 N.Panciatici, P-L.Chatin, V.Capillaire Signatech Alpine Alpine/Nissan 1m32.701s 8.204s 49
11 LMP2 G.Yacaman, L.Derani, R.Gonzalez G-Drive Racing Ligier/Nissan 1m32.778s 8.281s 43
12 LMP2 M.Howson, R.Bradley, N.Tandy KCMG ORECA/Nissan 1m32.872s 8.375s 46
13 LMP2 P.Ragues, O.Webb, C.Cumming Team SARD Morand Morgan/SARD 1m32.999s 8.502s 43
14 LMP2 N.Leventis, D.Watts, J.Kane Strakka Racing Gibson/Nissan 1m33.407s 8.910s 26
15 LMP2 R.Rusinov, J.Canal, S.Bird G-Drive Racing Ligier/Nissan 1m33.828s 9.331s 35
16 LMP2 S.Sharp, R.Dalziel, D.Hansson Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier/HPD 1m34.242s 9.745s 39
17 LMP2 E.Brown, J.van Overbeek, J.Fogarty Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier/HPD 1m34.638s 10.141s 41
18 GTE Pro P.Pilet, F.Makowiecki Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 1m39.931s 15.434s 33
19 GTE Pro D.Rigon, J.Calado AF Corse Ferrari 1m39.958s 15.461s 44
20 GTE Pro G.Bruni, T.Vilander AF Corse Ferrari 1m39.963s 15.466s 44
21 GTE Pro C.Nygaard, M.Sorensen Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 1m40.193s 15.696s 41
22 GTE Pro R.Lietz, M.Christensen Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 1m40.201s 15.704s 31
23 GTE Pro A.MacDowall, F.Rees, S.Mucke Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 1m40.269s 15.772s 42
24 GTE Pro D.Turner, J.Adam Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 1m40.546s 16.049s 41
25 GTE Am G.Roda, P.Ruberti, N.Sylvest Larbre Competition Chevrolet 1m40.659s 16.162s 37
26 GTE Am V.Shaitar, A.Bertolini, A.Basov SMP Racing Ferrari 1m40.691s 16.194s 30
27 GTE Am P.D.Lana, P.Lamy, M.Lauda Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 1m40.830s 16.333s 43
28 GTE Am F.Perrodo, E.Collard, R.Aguas AF Corse Ferrari 1m41.105s 16.608s 37
29 GTE Am F.Castellacci, L.Griffin, S.Hall Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 1m41.354s 16.857s 40
30 GTE Am P.Dempsey, P.Long, M.Seefried Dempsey Racing – Proton Porsche 1m41.580s 17.083s 36
31 GTE Am C.Ried, K.Al Qubaisi, E.Bamber Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche 1m42.137s 17.640s 38

PRACTICE TWO TIMES:

Pos Class Driver Team Car Time Behind Laps
1 LMP1 T.Bernhard, M.Webber, B.Hartley Porsche Team Porsche 1m24.460s 0.000s 55
2 LMP1 M.Fassler, A.Lotterer, B.Treluyer Audi Sport Team Joest Audi 1m24.843s 0.383s 55
3 LMP1 R.Dumas, N.Jani, M.Lieb Porsche Team Porsche 1m24.876s 0.416s 53
4 LMP1 L.di Grassi, L.Duval, O.Jarvis Audi Sport Team Joest Audi 1m25.142s 0.682s 47
5 LMP1 A.Davidson, S.Buemi, K.Nakajima Toyota Racing Toyota 1m26.242s 1.782s 45
6 LMP1 A.Wurz, S.Sarrazin, M.Conway Toyota Racing Toyota 1m27.149s 2.689s 53
7 LMP1 N.Prost, M.Beche Rebellion Racing Rebellion/AER 1m29.941s 5.481s 31
8 LMP1 S.Trummer, P.Kaffer Team ByKolles CLM/AER 1m30.727s 6.267s 16
9 LMP1 A.Imperatori, D.Kraihamer, D.Abt Rebellion Racing Rebellion/AER 1m31.094s 6.634s 28
10 LMP2 R.Rusinov, J.Canal, S.Bird G-Drive Racing Ligier/Nissan 1m32.131s 7.671s 36
11 LMP2 M.Howson, R.Bradley, N.Tandy KCMG ORECA/Nissan 1m32.951s 8.491s 50
12 LMP2 G.Yacaman, L.Derani, R.Gonzalez G-Drive Racing Ligier/Nissan 1m32.990s 8.530s 41
13 LMP2 P.Ragues, O.Webb, C.Cumming Team SARD Morand Morgan/SARD 1m33.526s 9.066s 42
14 LMP2 N.Leventis, D.Watts, J.Kane Strakka Racing Gibson/Nissan 1m33.545s 9.085s 50
15 LMP2 N.Panciatici, P-L.Chatin, V.Capillaire Signatech Alpine Alpine/Nissan 1m33.619s 9.159s 47
16 LMP2 S.Sharp, R.Dalziel, D.Hansson Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier/HPD 1m34.664s 10.204s 30
17 LMP2 E.Brown, J.van Overbeek, J.Fogarty Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier/HPD 1m35.497s 11.037s 41
18 GTE Pro G.Bruni, T.Vilander AF Corse Ferrari 1m39.922s 15.462s 48
19 GTE Pro D.Rigon, J.Calado AF Corse Ferrari 1m40.021s 15.561s 40
20 GTE Pro C.Nygaard, M.Sorensen Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 1m40.092s 15.632s 43
21 GTE Pro R.Lietz, M.Christensen Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 1m40.104s 15.644s 36
22 GTE Pro P.Pilet, F.Makowiecki Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 1m40.414s 15.954s 40
23 GTE Pro A.MacDowall, F.Rees, S.Mucke Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 1m40.684s 16.224s 45
24 GTE Am F.Castellacci, L.Griffin, S.Hall Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 1m40.706s 16.246s 44
25 GTE Pro D.Turner, J.Adam Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 1m40.720s 16.260s 48
26 GTE Am G.Roda, P.Ruberti, N.Sylvest Larbre Competition Chevrolet 1m40.734s 16.274s 43
27 GTE Am P.Dempsey, P.Long, M.Seefried Dempsey Racing – Proton Porsche 1m40.958s 16.498s 38
28 GTE Am P.D.Lana, P.Lamy, M.Lauda Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin 1m41.006s 16.546s 40
29 GTE Am V.Shaitar, A.Bertolini, A.Basov SMP Racing Ferrari 1m41.599s 17.139s 42
30 GTE Am F.Perrodo, E.Collard, R.Aguas AF Corse Ferrari 1m41.963s 17.503s 46
31 GTE Am C.Ried, K.Al Qubaisi, E.Bamber Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche 1m42.396s 17.936s 39

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