TOYOTA Racing on the Pace at Fuji Speedway

TOYOTA Racing made an encouraging start to the Six Hours of Fuji, the seventh round of the FIA World Endurance Championship at the team’s home circuit of Fuji Speedway.

Kazuki Nakajima returns to the #7 TS030 HYBRID this week for the first time since helping TOYOTA Racing score its maiden podium finish, at Silverstone in August.

He joins the race-winning line-up of Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre, bringing extensive knowledge of Fuji Speedway on which he has raced twice already this year in Super GT.

The trio set the fastest time in first practice before narrowly missing out on that honour in the afternoon session, finishing 0.004secs down in second place.

This week’s event marks a homecoming for the TOYOTA HYBRID System – Racing, which was developed just a few kilometres away from Fuji Speedway, at the Higashi-Fuji Technical Centre.

After the seven designated hybrid braking zones in Bahrain, there are four at Fuji Speedway for the 300hp TOYOTA HYBRID System – Racing, including the final corner which leads on to an epic 1.475km start-finish straight.

Kazuki spent most of the morning practice behind the wheel, setting the fastest lap before handing over to Nicolas, who concluded a trouble-free session.

Nicolas continued in the TS030 HYBRID at the beginning of the 90-minute afternoon practice, concentrating on long stints as dark clouds began to gather.

But the rain held off as Alex took over with half an hour remaining; he completed a successful stint despite minor contact in traffic at the very end of the session which caused no significant damage.

A final one-hour practice session at Fuji Speedway begins on Saturday at 09.25, before qualifying from 14.00 to 14.20. Following warm-up on Sunday morning (07.55-08.15) the six-hour race begins at 11.00 with a rolling start.

TS030 HYBRID #7 (Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre, Kazuki Nakajima)

Free practice 1: 1st (1min 28.809secs), 32 laps

Free practice 2: 2nd (1min 28.466secs), 51 laps

Alex Wurz: “I only drove two short stints at the end of the day; most of the work today was done by Nico and Kazuki. I was just staying in the groove. I usually work on the race set-up so I did that today and it went well. We still have to optimise a little bit but we are not looking too bad. This track is always very technical, very difficult. It’s always a compromise because the car is never prefect. It’s a chasing game but as long as we stay calm we will be in decent shape for the race.”

Nicolas Lapierre: “It was good day and we had two positive practice sessions. I had my first long stint here so it was good to experience
the tyre degradation and feel the difference between full fuel and low fuel. At some point I was running together with an Audi so we could see we are very closely matched; it is very competitive here. Fuji seems to be a track where the gap between cars is smaller than usual so it is going to be a very tight race. We also saw in the last sector that you can make up a lot of time in traffic but it very twisty and tight so you can also have contact. Overall I am happy and we’re looking quite okay right now.”

Kazuki Nakajima: “It was a good morning; the car looks competitive and we tried different set-ups. We worked on maximising the car performance and had no issues, everything is going well. It’s good to drive at Fuji Speedway again and even on a Friday there are quite a lot of fans here so there’s a really nice atmosphere. I think our speed today is pretty good compared to Wednesday and the lap time is a bit quicker. We have not changed too much on the car so I think the track is improving as well. We need to continue our preparations and think about the race, so still for this we need some more set-up improvements.”