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Preview: 6h of Fuji

Text: Rick Kiewiet

Images: Rick Kiewiet, FIA WEC

This weekend, the World Endurance Championship continues after a two month summer break under the shadow of Mount Fuji, Japan. The Fuji Speedway hosts the sixth and penultimate round of the 2023 season. Although the LMGT championship has already been decided in favor of the Corvette C8.R of Ben Keating, Nicky Catsburg and Nicolas Varrone, the Hypercar and LMP2 title are still heavily contested. Can Toyota clinch the title in their home race?

Toyota drivers Hartley, Buemi and Hirakawa (#7) currently lead the overall championship with a 115 points. 23 points behind are both the crews of the #7 sister car; Kobayashi, Lopes and Conway, as well as the 24 hours of Le Mans winning car, the #51 Ferrari of Giovinazzi, Calado and Pier Guidi. With only 39 points up for grabs at the season finale in Bahrain, The #7 crew could clinch the title if they can manage a win and both their competitors finish off the podium.

It will be interesting to see if the other competitors can continue their upwards momentum, especially Peugeot which scored their first podium last time out in Monza. Fuji's tarmac is as smooth as a snookers' table and also has a very long straight, two characteristic that should favor the 9X8's rear wingless concept. In the #94 Nico Mueller will be replaced by reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne due to a collarbone fracture.

Challenge for Cadillac will be to keep up, or stay ahead of Peugeot and see if they can make the jump to the top-2. In the first part of the season the car was clearly "best of the rest", but Peugeot is (finally?) coming up to speed with the 9X8 and is keen on taking the title of Cadillac.

And will Porsche be able to come back after their rather disappointing outing in Monza? The 963 was clearly lacking a bit of pace compared to the other hypercars, would that be structural or due to Monza's specific layout of fast straights and slow chicanes? And also, how will the JOTA and Proton Porsche perform compared to the factory backed Penske Porsches?

As Glickenhaus skips the race in Fuji, Vanwall will be the only non-hybrid on the grid at Fuji. After Jacques Villeneuve, who was fired after Le Mans, the ways of Dillman and Vanwall also parted. He will be replaced by Joao Paulo Oliveira in Fuji.

In LMP2, only 10 points separate the championship leaders Deletraz, Kubica and Andrade (#41 WRT) from the runners up, and Le Mans winners Fabio Scherer, Albert Costa and Jakub Smiechowski in the #34 Intereuropol car. Phil Hanson and Frederick Lubin follow at respectable distance for United Autosports, with 82 points.


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