The fourth race of the Super Season of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) will be held at the foot of Mount Fuji, while the final round of 2018 is at Shanghai on 18 November. However the championship will conclude in 2019 with the races at Sebring (16 March), Spa-Francorchamps (4 May) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (15 June).
A year ago. Last year Ferrari triumphed at Fuji in one of the most chaotic races of recent years, marred by interruptions with the red flag due to bad weather, endless minutes spent behind the Safety Car and very few opportunities to drive under the green flag. Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and the AF Corse team pit made the difference both in terms of pace on the track and strategies, which were simply perfect. The Fuji race, which ended well before the 6 hours envisaged, thrust Calado and Pier Guidi right back into the fight for the title, which they secured at the last round in Bahrain.
The situation. Ferrari, with five cars, two in the GTE-Pro class and three in the GTE-Am category, arrives in Japan on a high after victory in the last race at Silverstone in August. On that occasion too, the difference lay in the strategies, the determination of the drivers and the quality of the 488 GTE. Despite the limitations due to Balance of Performance, the car’s crowning jewel is still its driveability and, as a direct consequence, its ability to go easy on components, including the tyres. Pier Guidi and Calado as usual will be in car no. 51, the world champion, while Davide Rigon and Sam Bird in car no. 71 will seek some payback after the ridiculous collision with a prototype resulting puncture that cost them a sure-fire podium finish.
GTE-Am. Fuji is the home race for MR Racing, which will deploy Motoaki Ishikawa, Olivier Beretta and Eddie Cheever III in the GTE-Am class. However, Keita Sawa will also be there, teaming up with Weng Sun Mok and Matt Griffin in the 488 GTE no 61 of Clearwater Racing. Last but not least, car no. 54 of Spirit of Race, with Giancarlo Fisichella, Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci, may have no Japanese drivers but did win last year on the track that stands at the foot of one of the country’s sacred mountains.
Programme. The free practices are set for Friday from 11 am to 12.30 pm local time (4 am to 5.30 am CET) and from 3.30 pm to 5 pm (8.30 am to10 am CET). On Saturday, a last chance for fine tuning ahead of the race and qualifying will be from 9.30 am to 10.30 am (2.30 am-3.30 am CET), while the battle for pole will take place at 2 pm (7 am CET). The race starts on Sunday at 11 am (4 am CET) and ends at 5 pm (10 am CET).