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 14
Romain Dumas (36, France): ”After we have been so close to taking the first win for the Porsche 919 Hybrid in the States, I can’t wait to go and try again. I raced in Fuji a long time ago. This was in 2001 when I was doing the Japanese GT500 series, so it was obviously the old circuit. To learn the new track I will go to our simulator once I’m back from the Rallye Alsace. I am very much looking forward to racing in Japan again. Everything is so different to what we are used to.”
Neel Jani (30, Switzerland): ”I raced the Rebellion in Fuji in 2012 and I do remember well that this was the most difficult circuit for me with this car. Due to the low positioning of the driver’s seat, I could hardly see the apexes of the corners in sector three. Therefore, I’m very keen to learn how much this has changed since the rules now require that we sit higher. Fuji is a modern track with huge run-off areas and it has great scenery with the volcano. The long straight is significant. Following this, the circuit has a good flow, and for the tight corners in the final sector downforce is required. If we manage to find a good compromise for the aerodynamics, we should be competitive.”
Marc Lieb (34, Germany): ”I love racing in Japan, the enthusiasm of the fans creates a very special atmosphere. In Fuji I raced the Porsche GT3 RSR in 2012 and the 911 RSR in 2013. The circuit, with the view of Mount Fuji, is beautifully embedded into the landscape and offers a great variety of corners. It has its long straight and fast, but also slow, corners. Last year we started behind the safety car in the rain. Without ever having been green flagged, the race had to be cancelled. The weather can play a crucial role at this time of the year in Fuji.”
Drivers car number 20
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.”
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.”
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.”
Facts and figures:
– A lap on Fuji Speedway is 4.563 kilometres and with 16 turns – ten right handers and 6 left handers.
– On the 1,500 metre long straight the Porsche 919 Hybrids should reach a top speed of around 300 km/h.
– In accordance with the regulations, the Porsche 919 Hybrid can produce and use 3.11 mega joule of electrical energy per lap. At the same time fuel consumption is limited to 1.8 litres of fuel per lap. In normal race conditions (with no safety car being deployed) and with a restricted fuel load of 68.3 litres, the Porsche 919 Hybrid is expected to stop for refuelling after every 38 laps.
– According to simulations, the race distance covered during the six hours might be up to 248 laps (1,132 kilometres).
– Mount Fuji is an active stratovolcano that last erupted in 1707. It is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776.24 metres and is regarded as a holy mountain.
– The circuit is located about 100 kilometres southwest of the capital of Tokyo on the Japanese main island of Honshu.
– In 2005 the circuit was rebuilt for safety reasons and became, once again, the venue for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix in 2007 and 2008.
– The weather in the Japanese Alps can be very changeable in October. In 2013 heavy rain made it impossible to run the WEC race.