The third last race of the FIA World Endurance Championship 2017 season takes place this weekend at Fuji. Ferrari is battling for the constructors’ title in the GTE-Pro class and the two crews made by the official drivers are back in the fight for the championship after their important results in recent races. Two 488 GTE cars will compete in the GTE-Am class, one in the colours of Clearwater Racing, with Weng Sun Mok, Matt Griffin and local hero Keita Sawa, and the other for Spirit Of Race with Francesco Castellacci, Thomas Flohr and official Ferrari driver, Miguel Molina.
The situation. After the first and the third places secured in the last race at the Circuit of the Americas, AF Corse’s two 488s will be crewed as usual this season by Davide Rigon and Sam Bird in car no. 71, and Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado in no. 51. Ferrari has a 40-point lead over Ford and 41 over Aston Martin in the Constructors’ standings and in Japan this weekend will be seeking another heavy haul of points to help secure its main goal of the season. The situation is less clear among the drivers. Davide Rigon is best placed in the standings, 6.5 points off the leaders Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell (Ford), but Sam Bird and the crew of car no. 51 are just half a point behind. Britain’s James Calado will also have the extra motivation of the birth this week of Aurelia, his first child. Pier Guidi, however, is back from third place in the Petit Le Mans last weekend, the final race of the IMSA championship, where he competed in the GT-Le Mans class behind the wheel of the 488 GTE of Risi Competizione.
Rain a complicating factor. It seems that the weather will further complicate a situation already full of unknowns. Heavy and almost constant rain is expected to fall on the Japanese track from Friday night, making for wet conditions in both qualifying and the race itself. The Ferrari 458 Italia of AF Corse was the last to win in the wet at Fuji, in 2015, when Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni practically waded to victory. However, the Prancing Horse last won at Fuji just a few weeks ago, in September, when the 488 GT3 of ARN Racing triumphed in the Super Taikyu championship.Qualifying is at 2:50 pm local time (7:50 am CET) while the race will start at 11 am (4 pm CET) and finish six hours later.