Toyota Win as Fuji Weather Destroys Race

It’s not how they would’ve wanted it to happen, but Toyota Racing took a nominal win at their home race today after downpours and rolling B-movie fog put paid to any semblance of an actual race. For just over 4 ½ hours the sodden Japanese fans stayed gamely in their seats, with little more than a static line of endurance cars and a few tentative sighter laps from the safety car to see.

Fuji Rain Audi

While the race started on time under safety car conditions the snaking train lapped the Fuji circuit just 8 times before the red flags began to wave forlornly. That handful of laps threw up a few surprises, with the pole-sitting #1 Audi coming into the pits three times with a throttle problem and some tactical changes from gentleman drivers. But the suspension of the race hamstrung all of the prospective excitement, and despite one other attempt to get the action restarted the contest was effectively over within the first 20 minutes.

When the rain wasn’t coming down the mist was descending, and despite regular puddle exploring, sideways-drifting cameos by Yannick Dalmas in the Audi RS5 safety car it never really looked like we’d get any meaningful running. Burger box boats were raced down the pit lane, Bruno Senna egged on some berzerk fan arm waving and Aston Martin hung a cardboard racing fish from their gantry, but the hours barely crept past.

With hours left on the stopped clock and a curfew fast approaching the grid was allowed to circulate once more before time was called and the running order became the final order. Due to the #1’s brief affairs with the pit box it all ended with Kazuki Nakajima’s Toyota #7 in the lead ahead of the championship heading #2 Audi, while the #12 Rebellion took another overall podium in what is becoming a relatively successful year for the Swiss team.

There was no change in LMP2 as the #35 Oak Racing Morgan-Nissan took the class win, with Mike Conway’s G- Drive Oreca and debutants Gainer International in a well-qualified third. The other two Oaks came fourth and ninth respectively with Delta-ADR, home team KCMG, Pecom and Lotus filling in the gap.

Fred Makowiecki won the GTE Pro procession in the #97 Aston Martin, which he shared this weekend with Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke. The #51 AF Corse of Bruni and Fisichella came in second in front of both factory Porsches, while poor qualifying left the sister Ferrari in fifth. The #99 Aston of Stanaway and Lamy crashed on its way to the grid and so started a lap down, ending last in class.

Aston’s luck was in for the Ams too as they took both first and second on the podium. While it had looked like the Larbre Competition Corvette might be in with a shout after qualifying between the two V8 Vantages, it had its own incident on the way to form up before the race and didn’t emerge until the safety car train had passed the pit exit twice. Third in class was taken up instead by the Proton Competition Porsche 911 with 8 Star, IMSA Performance Matmut, Krohn and the Am AF Corse rounding out the order.

At the time of writing there has been no communication as to how many points drivers will score; the short distance means half points for the teams but seeing as most cars had only one driver for the 16 total laps, this bizarre race could send shockwaves through the world championship tables.

Amid all the pomp and ceremony it’s really the local fans who should have been up on that podium, and an impromptu autograph session after the race went some way to rewarding them for their superhuman perseverance. The organisers and race officials made the best that they could of the dire situation too, so a round of applause should go to the people who made a lot of very difficult decisions in unprecedented circumstances. The penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship is just three weeks away as the circus heads off to Shanghai, and teams, drivers and fans will be eager to see the spectacle that Fuji promised but ultimately couldn’t deliver.