Fuji WEC: Toyota scores first WEC win since 2014 on home soil

Toyota secured its first victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship for almost two years in the 6 Hours of Fuji, as a late strategic gamble allowed Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin to take the win.

Fuji WEC: Toyota scores first WEC win since 2014 on home soil

The race was controlled virtually throughout by the polesitting #8 Audi of Lucas di Grassi, Oliver Jarvis and Loic Duval, but the #6 Toyota crew was able to stay close enough in the closing stages to grab the lead in the final hour by virtue of not equipping fresh tyres at the final pitstop.

That allowed Kobayashi to turn a seven-second deficit to Duval into a 13-second advantage that he had to nurse on worn tyres through the final 45 minutes of the race.

At first, the gap came down rapidly, but stabilised at four to six seconds until the final 10 minutes, when a renewed charge from Duval saw the Audi man reduce Kobayashi's lead to under two seconds.

But the Frenchman ran out of time to get close enough to attempt a pass, Kobayashi crossing the finish line with 1.439s in hand to take Toyota's first WEC win since Bahrain in 2014 - and his own first win since joining the team this year.

Third place went to the #1 Porsche of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard, whose winning streak came to an end on a day when the Weissach marque seemed to lack ultimate pace.

Bernhard passed Sarrazin for second place after the fourth round of pitstops, only for the #1 car to fall back behind the #6 Toyota after the next round of stops. Webber brought home the car 17.3s off the lead.

The #5 Toyota of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima was never a major factor for the win, settling into fourth place early on and ending up 53s behind its victorious sister car at the finish.

Points leaders Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb had to settle for fifth in the #2 Porsche, which had suffered a problem in qualifying that seemed to translate into a subdued race pace. The trio lost further time with a front bodywork change at the halfway point.

Worse luck was to befall the #7 Audi car of Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer, which suffered a hybrid system failure early on and was forced to retire after a long spell in the garage to remove the front driveshaft - which rendered the R18 illegal.

The LMP1-L class was won by the #13 Rebellion, as its sole rival - the #4 ByKolles - caught fire at the start of the third hour and retired.

G-Drive wins LMP2 epic

The battle for honours in the LMP2 class was equally thrilling, with the #26 G-Drive Oreca car of Will Stevens, Roman Rusinov and Alex Brundle beating #43 RGR Sport by Morand car of Filipe Albuquerque, Ricardo Gonzalez and Bruno Senna to finally take its first win of the year.

G-Drive led the majority of the race, but couldn't quite stretch its stints as long as the RGR Sport Ligier - and when Stevens brought in the #26 for the final time, he came out just behind Senna in the #43.

Stevens went on to slipstream his way past Senna along the main straight, but in doing so he crossed the white line demarcating the edge of the track on the right-hand side, as he positioned his Oreca right by the pitwall.

The Briton was therefore instructed to give back the position to Senna, which he did before finally getting back ahead legally to grab the win with five minutes to go.

Third place went to the LMP2 points-leading #36 Signatech Alpine of Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Stephane Richelmi, followed by the #30 ESM Ligier of WEC debutant Antonio Giovinazzi, Sean Gelael and Giedo van der Garde.

The #44 Manor of Roberto Merhi, Richard Bradley and Matt Rao had been in the mix in the first part of the race before its chances were ruined by a drive-through penalty for pitlane speeding and then a further unscheduled stop to repair a number panel.

Manor's other car, the #45 of Alex Lynn, Tor Graves and Shinji Nakano, had a lengthy spell in the garage to fix a starter motor early on that removed it from contention.

Ford takes first regular WEC win

In the GTE-Pro class, the two Ford GTs were in a class of their own, as Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx secured the American marque its first WEC win since its famous Le Mans 24 Hours triumph.

The #67 pair swapped positions with the sister car of Olivier Pla and Stefan Mucke several times in the early running, but the battle was effectively ended when Pla suffered a spin at the end of the penultimate hour.

Third place went to the #51 Ferrari of James Calado and Gianmaria Bruni, with the #71 AF Corse-run machine of Sam Bird and Davide Rigon taking fourth ahead of the two Aston Martins.

While the British manufacturer couldn't keep up with its GTE-Pro class rivals, its #98 car was unstoppable in the GTE-Am division, as Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana sauntered to victory by a lap over the #83 AF Corse Ferrari of Rui Aguas, Francois Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard.

Race results:

Cla#DriversCarClassLapsTime/Gap
1 6  Stéphane Sarrazin 
 Kamui Kobayashi 
 Mike Conway 
Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 244 6:00'37.284
2 8  Lucas di Grassi 
 Loic Duval 
 Oliver Jarvis 
Audi R18 LMP1 244 1.439
3 1  Mark Webber 
 Timo Bernhard 
 Brendon Hartley 
Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 244 17.339
4 5  Anthony Davidson 
 Kazuki Nakajima 
 Sébastien Buemi 
Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 244 53.779
5 2  Romain Dumas 
 Neel Jani 
 Marc Lieb 
Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 243 1 lap
6 13  Alexandre Imperatori 
 Dominik Kraihamer 
 Matheo Tuscher 
Rebellion R-One LMP1 229 15 laps
7 26  Will Stevens 
 Roman Rusinov 
 Alex Brundle 
Oreca 05 LMP2 223 21 laps
8 43  Bruno Senna 
 Ricardo Gonzalez 
 Filipe Albuquerque 
Ligier JS P2 LMP2 223 21 laps
9 36  Nicolas Lapierre 
 Gustavo Menezes 
 Stéphane Richelmi 
Alpine A460 LMP2 223 21 laps
10 30  Giedo van der Garde 
 Sean Gelael 
 Antonio Giovinazzi 
Ligier JS P2 LMP2 223 21 laps
11 31  Pipo Derani 
 Ryan Dalziel 
 Chris Cumming 
Ligier JS P2 LMP2 222 22 laps
12 42  Jonny Kane 
 Lewis Williamson 
Gibson 015S LMP2 222 22 laps
13 44  Roberto Merhi 
 Richard Bradley 
 Matthew Rao 
Oreca 05 LMP2 222 22 laps
14 27  Maurizio Mediani 
 Nicolas Minassian 
 Mikhail Aleshin 
BR01 LMP2 222 22 laps
15 35  Paul-Loup Chatin 
 Ho-Pin Tung 
 David Cheng 
Alpine A460 LMP2 221 23 laps
16 37  Vitaly Petrov 
 Viktor Shaytar 
 Kirill Ladygin 
BR01 LMP2 220 24 laps
17 67  Harry Tincknell 
 Andy Priaulx 
Ford GT LMGTE PRO 212 32 laps
18 66  Stefan Mücke 
 Olivier Pla 
Ford GT LMGTE PRO 212 32 laps
19 51  Gianmaria Bruni 
 James Calado 
Ferrari 488 GTE LMGTE PRO 212 32 laps
20 71  Sam Bird 
 Davide Rigon 
Ferrari 488 GTE LMGTE PRO 212 32 laps
21 95  Marco Sorensen 
 Nicki Thiim 
Aston Martin Vantage V8 LMGTE PRO 211 33 laps
22 97  Darren Turner 
 Richie Stanaway 
Aston Martin Vantage V8 LMGTE PRO 211 33 laps
23 77  Richard Lietz 
 Michael Christensen 
Porsche 911 RSR (2016) LMGTE PRO 210 34 laps
24 98  Pedro Lamy 
 Paul Dalla Lana 
 Mathias Lauda 
Aston Martin Vantage V8 LMGTE AM 208 36 laps
25 83  François Perrodo 
 Emmanuel Collard 
 Rui Aguas 
Ferrari F458 Italia LMGTE AM 207 37 laps
26 78  Christian Ried 
 Wolf Henzler 
 Joel Camathias 
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 206 38 laps
27 86  Michael Wainwright 
 Adam Carroll 
 Ben Barker 
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 205 39 laps
28 88  David Heinemeier Hansson 
 Patrick Long 
 Khaled Al Qubaisi 
Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE AM 200 44 laps
29 45  Shinji Nakano 
 Tor Graves 
 Alex Lynn 
Oreca 05 LMP2 190 54 laps
30 50  Pierre Ragues 
 Ricky Taylor 
 Yutaka Yamagishi 
Chevrolet Corvette C7-Z06 LMGTE AM 172 72 laps
Ret 4  Simon Trummer 
 Oliver Webb 
 Pierre Kaffer 
CLM P1/01 LMP1 79 165 laps
Ret 7  Andre Lotterer 
 Marcel Fassler 
 Benoit Tréluyer 
Audi R18 LMP1 36 208 laps
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