Preview, World Endurance Championship WEC, round 4 at Fuji/Japan
The Porsche GT Team is keen to extend its lead in the GTE-Pro category of the FIA World Sports Car Championship WEC. After scoring a double victory at Le Mans, as well as podium finishes at the season-opener in Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) and Silverstone, Great Britain, Porsche now leads the manufacturers’ and drivers’ classifications. Round four of the 2018 season is contested on the Fuji Speedway in Japan on 14 October. On the tradition-steeped 4.563-kilometre racetrack at the foot of Mount Fuji, the Porsche GT Team fields two ca. 510 hp 911 RSR race cars. Four identical vehicles will be campaigned by customer teams in the GTE-Am category at the fourth race of the 2018/2019 WEC Super Season.
At last year’s race in Fuji, both of the latest generation Porsche 911 RSR secured podium spots with second and third at the maiden outing at Fuji. Since the foundation of the FIA WEC in 2012, teams and drivers have travelled to Japan in autumn to take on the special challenges. In 2013, the race had to be stopped after 16 laps due to torrential rain. Changeable weather conditions are also expected this year. For engineers, the Fuji Raceway is particularly demanding. The long 1.475-kilometre start-finish straight leads into a twisty section, which requires a great deal of downforce and good traction. Finding a suitable vehicle setup in the practice sessions is equally as tricky.
The Porsche GT Team drivers
Richard Lietz from Austria and his works driver teammate Gianmaria Bruni from Italy share the cockpit of the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR car. The Italian has notched up two race victories on the Fuji Speedway, with Lietz winning the debut WEC race in Japan. The cockpit of the No. 92 vehicle is shared by Frenchman Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen (Denmark). The duo leads the drivers’ classification of the 2018 WEC after winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans and claiming podium places in Belgium and Great Britain. In the manufacturers’ classification, Porsche heads to round four of the season ranking a clear first in the hotly contested GTE-Pro category.
The customer teams
Four more Porsche 911 RSR will contest the GTE-Am class. Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer (France), Christian Ried from Germany and Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell (Australia) compete in the #77 car fielded by the Dempsey Proton Racing customer squad. The trio travels to Japan leading the GTE-Am class after scoring class wins from Le Mans and Silverstone. Manning the No. 88 sister car is Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (Italy), his compatriot Giorgio Roda and the Japanese racing driver Satoshi Hoshino. Competing in the 911 RSR campaigned by the German Project 1 team are Porsche works driver Jörg Bergmeister (Germany), Patrick Lindsey from America and Norwegian Egidio Perfetti. The customer team Gulf Racing relies on Porsche Junior Thomas Preining from Austria. The newly crowned champion of the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland contests his maiden WEC race with two British racing drivers Benjamin Barker and Michael Wainwright.
The six-hour WEC race at Fuji gets underway on Sunday, October 14, 2018, at 4:00 hours CEST (11.00 hrs local time).
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser (Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars):
“Fuji is a real highlight, alone due to the Japanese fan culture and the incredible passion for motor racing. The entire Porsche GT Team benefits from the fact that the drivers really enjoy competing there. The racetrack with the extremely long straights and fast corners throws special challenges at us. The competition in the WEC is extremely exciting and tough, and the manufacturers are getting closer. We saw this recently at Silverstone. We’re well prepared and we want to extend our lead in the championship. Although the race in Japan is the penultimate round of the current year, the season is still long with three more races to tackle in 2019. There are still plenty of points to earn.”
Pascal Zurlinden (Director GT Factory Motorsport):
“Despite winning at Le Mans and climbing the podium at Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone, the WEC season is not a done deal. At the upcoming race in Japan we’ll do our best to defend or further extend our points’ lead. However, the race in Fuji at this time of the year is unpredictable. We have to be prepared for all kinds of weather scenarios. Whoever does the right thing at the right time has the best chances.”
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91):
“It’s monsoon time, which makes the chance of rain highly likely again this year. As always, the competition will be brutal in our fiercely fought GTE-Pro class. I’m confident that we’re very well prepared for the Fuji race. I love driving in Japan. I’m going to arrive a little earlier this year and stay a little longer after the race just to enjoy it.”
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91):
“I hope we have bright sunshine for our race in Japan. But it’s autumn in Fuji, so you have to be prepared for everything. No matter what the weather does, we’ll enjoy the entire six hours of the race. It’s always a lot of fun driving in front of the very special Japanese fans. And the circuit layout is unique. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92):
“I raced here for the first time last year and it rained heavily the entire time. I don’t know this track at all in dry conditions. With this in mind, I don’t quite know what to expect. I was impressed last year by how all the fans stayed upbeat despite the persistent rain. For the spectators and for everyone involved, I hope we have nice weather.”
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92):
“The racetrack is spectacular. The very special layout always provides a lot of thrills and spills – even more so in the rain. Porsche looked good last year and I see no reason why it shouldn’t be the same this year. We aim to show the Japanese fans some gripping race action in Fuji. I always enjoy coming to Japan. The atmosphere is very special and the culture is impressive.”
Jörg Bergmeister (Porsche 911 RSR #56):
“We want to continue our upward trend. Our third place recently at Silverstone was a good step in the right direction, but of course everyone in the team wants to celebrate a victory. We’re continuing to work hard on improvements, and we’re making great progress as a new team. We’ll have to wait and see if our dream comes true in Fuji. You have to be prepared for anything in Fuji. The weather there is totally unpredictable.”
Julien Andlauer (Porsche 911 RSR #77):
“I’m really excited about this race, because it’s my first time competing in Japan. So far I’ve only managed to familiarise myself with this famous circuit on videos and TV, and now I’m finally getting the chance to drive on it myself – in the Porsche 911 RSR, the best GT car in the world. We’re leading the championship, so everything is going well so far. I assume we’ll perform well in Fuji as well. We’re keen to notch up the next success, we’d like to bring home a couple of trophies and as many points as possible.”
Thomas Preining (Porsche 911 RSR #86):
“I’m delighted to celebrate my debut in the WEC. I got to know the 911 RSR at a test in Great Britain – it’s a wonderful car. I’m competing for a very strong team. The Fuji racetrack is new turf for me, and so is the series. But I’ll try my very best not to make any mistakes. My focus this season hasn’t changed in spite of my great opportunity in the FIA WEC. There are still two races on the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup calendar in Mexico and I’ll be fighting for the title to the last corner.”
Matteo Cairoli (Porsche 911 RSR #88):
“The Fuji racetrack is really beautiful, but often the rain puts a damper on things. Last year, for instance, I didn’t get to drive a single race lap because the event was stopped early due to the torrential downpour. I very much hope we experience Japan in good weather conditions. In dry conditions you can have a lot of fun on this great circuit. Hopefully we’ll experience it this year.”