JOTA Continues Japanese Podium run in FIA WEC 6 Hours of Fuji
10th October 2019
- Both JOTA-prepared LMP2 Oreca-Gibsons show class-leading pace in tricky conditions in Japan continuing a streak of podium finishes every year in Fuji since 2016.
- Ho-Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry and Will Stevens come away with second place in car No.37 despite suffering a late technical problem.
- Anthony Davidson, Roberto Gonzalez and Antonio Felix da Costa unlucky to lose hard-earned podium in car No.38 due to disqualification for a minor infringement.
Both of the JOTA-run, Goodyear-shod Orecas showed well in qualifying on Saturday in warm conditions, as Ho-Pin Tung and Gabriel Aubry’s combined efforts in the No.37 machine were enough to grab pole position. Anthony Davidson and Roberto Gonzalez meanwhile qualified third in the ultra-competitive, eight-car LMP2 field.
Cooler conditions prevailed on Sunday, and while a sprinkling of rain did arrive midway through the race it was not enough to dramatically alter how the race unfolded. This came as good news for car No.37, which had put itself into a strong position to take victory with French rising star Aubry at the wheel for the opening two stints.
The early battle for supremacy was with the High Class Racing squad, likewise running on Goodyear tyres. Ex-Formula 1 driver Will Stevens had taken over the reins for the middle portion of the race and moved into the lead when Anders Fjordbach suffered a half-spin in the High Class car when the conditions were at their trickiest.
With two-and-a-half hours to go, Tung took over the No.37 car and appeared to be well-placed to bring the car home for victory. But in the final stages of the race, a technical problem robbed the car of top speed and left the Chinese driver powerless to defend from either the sister No.38 machine or the Racing Team Nederland entry.
In the end, Tung, Stevens and Aubry had to be content with third place, which became second following the exclusion of the sister No.38 car. It means the trio sit third in the LMP2 drivers’ standings on 31 points, within 10 points of the leaders.
The No.38 squad battled in the lead LMP2 pack for the duration of the race following a strong start from Gonzalez and a hard charging second phase from Da Costa. Davidson took over the Goodyear-liveried car from Antonio Felix da Costa for the final two-and-a-half hours and began rapidly closing the gap to Tung ahead.
Davidson passed Tung in the late stages of the race and set about reducing the gap to de Vries who had a final splash of fuel to take onboard. Ultimately de Vries exited pit lane just ahead of de Vries to take the win a few laps later.
Sadly, Davidson, Gonzalez and Felix da Costa lost their hard-earned second place in post-race scrutineering, where the No.38 car failed a neutral switch check.
This was due to a component failure, something beyond the team’s direct control, but nevertheless accepts the seriousness of safety-related matters and was unable to contest the stewards’ decision to exclude the car.
Tomoki Takahashi, JOTA Chief Engineer, said: “We are very disappointed about the disqualification of the 38 car We did everything we could have done and it shouldn’t take away from the fact that the pace of both cars has dramatically improved since Silverstone. We are proud of how far we have come in such a short space of time. We have taken a positive step and it gives us a much better platform going into the rest of the season. We are confident that we’ll be strong again in Shanghai and for the rest of the season.”
The next round of the WEC season in Shanghai takes place on November 8-10.