For the fifth of its eight rounds the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) heads to Japan, where the race takes place at the foot of Mount Fuji on October 12. The traditional Fuji Speedway has been fundamentally modernised in the past decade and is famous for its long main straight. It stretches a good 1,500 metres and should allow the Porsche 919 Hybrids to reach top speeds of around 300 km/h. But as desirable as low drag might appear for this long straight, a high price would be paid for it on the remainder of the lap. The fast corners in the middle sector require high downforce, while the last sector is narrow and winding. The race car has to be an all-rounder. In year one especially of Porsche’s return this is not an easy task for the Porsche Team, which enters the most innovative and complex prototype in the WEC field, and in which every circuit means a journey of discovery into unknown territory.
Quotes before the race:
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “We are looking forward to the challenges Fuji provides. Recently in Austin we have been strong in qualifying by being second and third and thanks to the right tyre choice we were leading the race for 43 laps, but could not benefit in the end. With the number 20 car we lost a lap in the chaotic rainy conditions before the restart, and with the leading number 14 car we suffered with a technical problem. A tear in the pipe for the charge air cooling led to a loss of power. The analysis in Weissach has disclosed a manufacturing defect in the part we had bought.”
Drivers Car Number 20:
Brendon Hartley (24, New Zealand): “It will be my first time in Fuji and also my first time in Japan. I am very much looking forward to it, as I have heard so many positive things about both the Fuji Speedway and the country. The result in Austin was slightly disappointing but, nevertheless, the car had a good pace when the track became cooler. So in terms of performance I’m quite confident for Fuji. I will learn the track on the simulator. We have just experienced in Austin that practice time can easily become limited due to weather conditions, so it is always good to be prepared as well as possible.”
Timo Bernhard (33, Germany): ”Although I haven’t been racing in Fuji yet, I was able to learn the track in 2006 when I was there for the introduction of the Porsche 911 Type 997 for the Japanese Carrera Cup. The circuit had just been renewed and I was an instructor for Porsche. We offered taxi rides and literally everyone wanted to go on a lap with me. It was a hell of a lot of fun to serve the long queue. I think the layout of the Fuji Speedway may suit us better than Austin did. In 2006 I only saw Fuji in the rain.”
Mark Webber (38, Australia): “I’m looking forward to going back to Fuji. As I have raced there twice in my Formula One career, I know it is a challenging circuit with a long straight, and in the last sector it’s quite difficult to get everything together. There are combined corners where the car’s balance is important and the technique on braking is quite tricky. In one race there I had food poisoning, which is not the best memory, but I always enjoyed driving at Fuji and I love Mount Fuji in the background, as it is such a nice setting. Japanese fans are passionate and very emotional and the sports car race in Fuji is a very famous one. I hear there are many Porsche fans in Japan and I look forward to seeing a lot of them cheering us on when we return.”