Imagine having a complete field of screaming LMP cars coming towards you at full speed. Race starts are always one of the most exciting parts of a race and Fuji Speedway, with its long straight, makes things even more dramatic. But before we check out more action from the 6-hour long WEC race…
…there is still a bit more I want to show from the pits. Much like Super GT, it’s the cars themselves that I enjoy the most. The racing is great, don’t get me wrong, but spending time admiring what are among some of the most advanced racing machines in the world, well it just something that has to be done. One of the first pits I dropped by was that of JRM Racing. If this name sounds familiar is because it’s the team that ran the Sumo Power GT1 GT-R in the FIA GT1 World Championship in 2010…
…and in 2011, the year the team grabbed the Championship win. For 2012 they have moved on to WEC joining forces with Honda Performance Development and running an HPD ARX-03a in the LMP1 class. The Sumo Power influences are obvious, the car running J’s Racing, DAMD and Do-Luck sponsorship, quite cool to see in this Japanese round of the series.
The JRM Honda is piloted by David Brabham, Peter Dumbreck and Karun Chandhok (above). Karun may look familiar if you have been watching the UK’s second most followed car show, Fifth Gear, where he often appears as a guest driver.
And what would a race in Japan be without at least one race queen for visual support!
It was hard not to like the two C6-ZR1s of Larbre Competition, despite their easy to spot livery…
…their 4.5L naturally aspirated V8s sounded incredible at full rpm and during on-the-limit downshifts. Check out the restrictors that feed the twin carbon airboxes under the hood.
No matter what GT series you watch you can bet there will always be a Porsche presence. In WEC the Porker of choice is the 4L flat-6 powered RSR that is chosen by teams like Team Felbermayr-Proton which compete in the LMGTE Am class.
The 500 HP Toyota 3.4L V8 that powers the number 12 and 13 Team Rebellion Racing Lotus Lola B12/60 is the same motor used in the Super GT GT500 Lexus SC430s. These LMP1 cars, have similar coloring to the LMP2 Lotus but are easily told apart by those triple projector headlights.
And talking of the LMP2 Lotus, here is one of the two cars showing off its carbon Lola B12/80 carbon chassis…
…under those unmistakable black and gold colors. These cars run a 3.6L V8.
Every time I passed by the Toyota Racing pit the TS030-Hybrid seemed to be sitting on special stands and half dismantled, which was good as it’s the only time that you can get a glimpse or two at some at some of the oily bits underneath. Check out the brake enclosures around the massive carbon rotors, where some of the KERS components are found. The Toyota hybrid system can kick in at any speed, different from the Audis which only activates at over 120 km/h and to the front wheels. Different systems with different benefits.
That’s better, looks awesome when wearing all its carbon body parts.
As some of the teams, like Starworks Motorsports from the US with their number 44 HPD APX 03b Honda, started to move their cars to the starting grid…
…I stopped by the Audi pits to get a quick snap of the drivers who after their autograph sessions were posing for the media. André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer are both very successful Super GT/Formula Nippon drivers so had tons of fans lining up in front of the pits.
The R18 e-tron looks like something form outer space, so far more futuristic than the other cars…
…in the series.
Now that is a rear end! I think if Nakai-san of RWB was ever asked to do a 997 it wouldn’t look too different from the RSR.
The 458 Italia of Krohn Racing sporting the American flag. These Ferraris are probably the loudest cars in WEC!
After the pit walk was over it was a sprint to the first corner ready for the race which kicked off at 11 am on the dot. The Toyota, which qualified first, managed to keep its advantage to the first corner with the Audis in second and third positions chasing closely behind. The TS030-Hybrid grabbed the inside line and maintained the lead…
…where it stayed for the duration of the race.
The virtually silent Audis spent the whole six hours attempting to catch up to the Toyota but the gap continued to grow slightly, lap by lap.
The LMP1 Rebellion Racing Lola as it shoots down the main straight at speeds well over 300 km/h…
…before braking hard for turn one, a tight right hander which opens up so drivers can get right back on the gas.
Seeing the Lotus sponsored cars out on track made me think about the upcoming Lotus Day, one of my favorite events of the year!
During the six hour race I walked the track twice, once on the inside, once on the outside. It was great revisiting shooting locations that I never have time to reach during the fast paced events I usually cover at Fuji. I had to stop at the 100R for a while and just observe the cars use their aerodynamics to the fullest like the JRM Honda above. This is one of Fuji’s trickiest corners, it requires different techniques depending on the speed, grip and aerodynamic loads of your car but it seemed the prototypes were just ploughing around it flat out! I even saw the Toyota and Audi overtake a 911 RSR like it was standing still. Talk about physics-defying!
The 100R leads into the hairpin where D1 Grand Prix events are held and much like turn 1 it requires a slow entrance but then…
…you can get on the gas very early as the corner widens out.
Here is a shot of the Strakka Racing Honda, a true British team with an all-British driver line up made up of Team Founder Nick Leventis, Danny Watts and Jonny Kane.
Here is Ex-F1 Ferrari driver Giancarlo Fisichella on board his AF Corse 458 Italia; the team finished the race in second position in their class behind the number 77 911 RSR of Team Felbermayr-Proton.
The number 50 C6-ZR1 finished in 5th position, 21st overall.
One car we haven’t seen yet is the Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 driven by Stefan Mucke and Darren Turner. The 4.5L v8 powered brute grabbed third place in the LMGTE class, 19th overall.
Another contender in the LMP2 class was this Zytek Z11SN-Nissan of Greaves Motorsport which finished in 7th position in its class, 14th overall.
Yes it was hard not to just concentrate on shooting the Audis. I ended up with tons of pictures of both cars; here is car number 2 driven by Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish as it enters the 100R.
Racing was very close in the LMGTE class, like this little battle between the C6 and the number 55 RSR.
As I made my way towards the end of the track…
The sun began to set over the mountains surrounding Fuji-san. The number 1 Audi continued its fight till the end, hoping that the final pitstop the…
…Toyota TS030-Hybrid driven by Kazuki Nakajima was going to make, would allow them to pass into first position. However Toyota’s strategy and planning was spot on, the car came in, pitted and shot right back into the race still ahead of the Audi. It was a great win for Toyota on its home track and in front of the Japanese fans. A great return to Japan for the WEC series.
-Dino Dalle Carbonare
A few errors are fine, thanks for the expanded coverage!!! That JRM Honda is photogenic as long as we don't see the hideous headlight buckets ;) Wish they were more like the high DF setup on the ARX01/03b
Fogelhund Well in that case take it up with the people at FIA who made the WEC booklet where I got my info from.
speedhunters_dino Instead of being snarky, why not look for the correct information for accuracy sake? If the FIA made an error, shame on them, but there is no reason to perpetuate that error because someone else did. The specs are http://www.corvetteracing.com/2012-specifications.shtml
The engine specs have not changed since the cars introduction.
Otherwise Thank You for the ongoing good work.
I don't like criticising but there were quite a few inaccuracies that a bit of research would have prevented. The Corvettes have a 5.5 V8, not a 4.5. Felbermayr have a car in GTE-Pro (the widebody RSR) as well as GTE-Am (the narrow car). The LMP1 V8's produce between 550 and 570 bhp, not 500, and they didn't do 300km/h on the home straight. The fastest car through the gun was the No.1 R18 at 295km/h. There are many visual differences between the LMP1 and LMP2 Lolas - on the LMP1 the fin attatches to the rear wing, it has wide front tyres, the wing end-plates are bigger, and not only the headlights but the whole pontoon, the diveplanes and the feet on the end of the splitter are different. There are no hybrid components in the front of the Toyota And the 50 Larbre Corvette did come fifth but that was out of all the GTE cars; it won it's class (GTE-Am).
speedhunters_dino They're the very cars that Pratt and Miller ran last year. Chevrolet and P&M wanted to use the 6.2 from the road going ZR-1 but the maximum displacement in GTE is 5.5 litres so they used as big an engine as they were allowed. And I know that both cars are in GTE-Am, I was pointing out that you undersold their achievement by saying that they came fifth when they won their class which is more important.