Toyota once again went unchallenged as it secured a 1-2 finish at its home race, the FIA World Endurance Championship’s 6 Hours of Fuji, with the #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez claiming their first win of the season ahead of the sister #8 car.
Starting from seventh on the grid – after a penalty meant its qualifying times were deleted – the trio went on to dominate the race and claim the win by just over 11 seconds as the #8 TS050 crew of Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso had to settle for second to finish four laps ahead of Toyota’s nearest rivals.
That final podium spot went to the non-hybrid #1 Rebellion R13 car driven by Andre Lotterer, Neel Jani and Bruno Senna.
Wet weather hit the Fuji circuit for the start of the race and that aided Kobayashi’s opening laps as the local driver carved his way through the field to quickly move into second by the second lap, slotting in behind the sister Toyota car.
A Safety Car, caused by a puncture for the MR Racing Ferrari entry, saw the lead change hands as Nakajima pitted the #8 car just before the pitlane closed to come out behind Kobayashi, who had pitted several laps earlier.
The two cars remained in that order until their second stops when the need for dry tyres saw both come in, with the lead car taking priority, which allowed the #7 car to open up a five-second lead over the #8 car.
With Buemi now behind the wheel, the Frenchman began to catch Kobayashi but wasn’t close enough to pass before the #7 car dived into the pits for its first driver swap, with Conway taking over.
During Alonso’s stint, the Spaniard appeared to struggle for balance and that forced the mechanics into action as the rear deck was replaced in the hope of curing the problem, whilst Nakajima took over the wheel for the penultimate hour, but that allowed the #7 car to pull away further.
A final driver swap for the #7 closed that gap down to 12 seconds in the final hour as Kobayashi took over for the final stint, but took the chequered flag unchallenged to claim their first win of the 2018/19 Super Season.
With the second Toyota coming home second it was Rebellion that won out the privateer battle ahead of the SMP Racing, with Jenson Button, Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin finishing fourth, despite briefly leading the LMP1 class under Button at the start.
The #11 car finished seven laps down on the #1 R13, its podium challenge ruined by a late mechanical issue which took 12 minutes in the garage to fix.
Both the #3 Rebellion and #17 SMP entries retired from the race, with Gustavo Menezes crashing out under the Safety Car and the latter coming to a stop on the circuit late in the race.
In the LMP2 class it was the Jackie Chan DC Racing teams that dominated, taking a 1-2 finish in the second category. The all-Malaysian #37 crew of Jazeman Jaafar, Weiron Tan and Nabil Jeffri took the victory, leading home the sister #38 car of Ho-Pin Tung, Stephane Richelmi and Gabriel Aubry by 26 seconds.
The #36 Signatech Alpine recovered from an earlier spin to claim the final LMP2 podium spot.