The #8 Race Performance Oreca 03R Judd has won the 4 Hours of Fuji, the second round of the Asian Le Mans Series. The #35 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 03R Nissan came second, with pole sitters #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP2 Nissan third. The #26 Tockwith Motorsports Ligier JSP3 won the LMP3 class and the #5 DH Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 won the GT Class, the first ever wins for both teams. The #96 TKS Porsche 911 GT3Cup, the sole GTCup entry, finshed 22nd overall and were very happy with their performance.
The weather was perfect for the race on Sunday, with Mount Fuji’s white top shining above the circuit. The cars lined up on the grid, and at 12:15 took the green flag, only to then be stuck behind a safety car for 20 minutes after the #48 PS Racing ADESS 03 hit the wall hard at T6 which needed to be cleaned up. When the race got going again, the #35 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca kept the lead it claimed at the start and started to draw a gap away from the rest of the pack. The race was shortly interrupted once more, after the #38 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3, GT class winners back in Zhuhai, stopped on track and brought out the safety car to pull them to safety. The rest of the race went by smoothly, with a lot of action seen in the LMP3 and GT classes, who were racing at a similar pace here at Fuji. It was very hard to tell who would come out on top in each class.
Pole sitters, the #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP2 Nissan with Michael Munemann, Andrea Roda and Andrea Pizzitola, had a slow start, losing a few places on the first lap and then getting held up in the safety car periods. They still managed to finish 3rd overall, even after receiving a few penalties for pit stop infringements. The #24 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP2 Judd, shared between Tacksung Kim, Jonathan Hirschi, and Mark Patterson, also fell back a few places at the start, but managed a consistent race and finished 4th.
Despite having not done many laps throughout the weekend and having to start from the back of the grid, the #85 G-Print by Triple 1 Racing Ligier JSP3 also had a strong performance in the category, leading the LMP3 class for a time. Unfortunately, they finished the race in the pits after losing a wheel on track in the final hour.
For our third LMP3 manufacturer, it was a sad end to a tough weekend for the crew of the #48 PS Racing ADESS 03, who ended their race in the wall at T6.
The GT class saw a lot of action in the fight for the class lead as well, with the #5 DH Racing Ferrari 488 GT3, driven by Stephane Lemeret, Michele Rugolo and Matthieu Vaxiviere, coming out on top at the end and finishing 5th overall. Team BBT with the #37 Ferrari 488 GT3, driven by Anthony Liu, Davide Rizzo, Alessandro Pier Guidi came 2nd, with the #91 Team AAI BMW M6 GT3 of Jun San Chen, Ollie Millroy, and Philipp Eng chasing them down to take 3rd place, overtaking the #6 VS Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Kei Cozzolino, Yuhi Sekiguchi, and Corey Lewis in the last few laps of the race.
The fight for the GT class win was fought between #61, #6, #5 and #37 who were all very close to each other for most of the race. For a moment, it looked like the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 might take the win, but they suffered a small collision with the #3 DH Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 which cost both of them places, meaning that the #3 DH Racing team finished 5th and the Clearwater crew finished 7th in class, with Asian Le Mans Series newcomers Team Audi Korea with the #31 Audi R8 LMS GT3 between them in 6th.
The #90 Team AAI BMW M6 GT3 did not take the start of the race after discovering a hole in the fuel tank just before heading to the grid.
1st place overall
#8 Race Performance Oreca 03R Judd
Giorgio Maggi: “It was quite good. I struggled a bit with the front tyres to keep them warm behind the safety car, but the rest was just driving.”
Fabian Schiller: “I did the second stint. It was quite ok. We did good lap times and the car was really good. I managed to pull a gap. Giorgio did a good first stint. He had a lot of safety cars, so it wasn’t that interesting, but for me I had two proper stints and it was really fun out there. We set really good laptimes. I think everyone did a really good job. The car worked perfectly and Struan just finished it off with really good laptimes. I think it’s fully deserved.”
Struan Moore: “Exactly what Fabian just said, I just finished it off. These guys did everything they needed to do. Giorgio made a good start, did a good move in the first corner, first lap. He pretty much controlled his stint. Fabian overtook when he needed to and pulled a gap. Then it was relatively straightforward for me. Just keep driving on the track.”
2nd place overall
#35 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 03R Nissan
Ho-Pin Tung: “I got a good start. It was a bit messy first phase of the race, with a very lengthy safety car. I struggled with the electronics in the car, which caused an engine cut throughout the entire race, starting in the very first lap of the race. It was very difficult. Pace wise I think we could have been up there. The goal was to make it to the end. Thomas and Gustavo did a good job.”
Thomas Laurent: “It was my first stint in a LMP2. I did a few laps under safety car for my first few laps, and after that I got the same problems as Ho-Pin. So there’s not much to say about my stint.”
Gustavo Menezes: “It was a difficult race. Very mentally exhausting. Just dealing with a lot of technical issues. But I have to say, the team did a fantastic job this weekend, the car’s been spot-on with the balance. We already had a few electronic issues in qualifying already, and for the race, Ho-Pin did a great job from the beginning to manage to make a gap considering the car’s situation. For Thomas’ first time in an LMP2 car he did a fantastic job in dealing with issues. He kept patient and did a great job. Unfortunately, the problems started to deteriorate a bit by the end of the race. I got in just past halfway, and it was a long battle to the finish. The team guided me home and the important thing was to finish. We have a good lead in the championship and we just have to continue to put in results, problems or not. Thankful for everyone there and we’ll keep working.”
3rd place overall
#25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP2 Nissan
Michael Munemann: “I lost a couple of places at the start as usual. Our pace was decent, we lost a lap under yellow which was bad luck but it happens. Then we made some unforgivable mistakes in the pits and got two penalties and lost another lap, and that was our race.”
Andrea Roda: “More or less the same. We were confident after the pole position that Andrea took yesterday. But we did the pit stop before the safety car, so we lost the chance to compete with the leaders after 50 minutes.”
Andrea Pizzitola: “As they said, we pitted just before the safety car, so we lost a lap. A lot of mistakes were made today, so we have to look at that for the next meeting. I was doing my best in the car as always, just pushing throughout the stint, and got the best lap.”
LMP3 class winners
#26 Tockwith Motorsports Ligier JSP3
Nigel Moore: It was a really good race for me and Phil. We didn’t get off to a great start, when the Ginetta took us off at T16, but we had a good fight back and we got the place we wanted in the end. It was a really good race. It was our first time at Fuji circuit. I’m happy.”
Phil Hanson: “The stint was alright. We got to the lead at one point and I came in second, which set up Nigel nicely for the last stint, changed the tyres and got the win at the end. I think some of the teams had a few problems but I think we were good on pace so I think we would have managed it anyway.”
GT Class winners
#5 DH Racing Ferarri 488 GT3
Stephane Lemeret: “The start was strange because I stopped at the end of the first lap for the safety car, so it was a strange start to the race. A lot of people thought we might be in a bad situation for the end, but finally this might have been the perfect strategy. Indeed the team was really fantastic and it was a real team victory.”
Michele Rugolo: “For me it was pretty good. It was a pretty smooth stint, especially the last part, because I was on the restart of the safety car, so I was a bit stuck in traffic. Besides that it was a clean run. I think, as Stephane said, our team had the perfect strategy. I think that was the key of our race because maybe in terms of performance, we were not the top car today. There were cars much quicker than us, but thanks to DH Racing, we did a very good job on the pit stop and that’s the result.”
Matthieu Vaxiviere: “I’m really happy for the team. We had a really good strategy from DH Racing. From my side, I just kept managing the lead and finished the race in a good point. About the strategy, for sure it was really good because I think we nearly caught the LMP3. It was a really good race for us and we’re focused on the championship.”
GTCup Class winners
#96 TKS Porsche 911 GT3Cup
Takuma Aoki: “I am very happy to be here. I am paraplegic, and have to use my wheelchair. Thank you to TKS, Sano-san and Nagashima-san. They’re great drivers. I’m so happy to have taken part in the Asian Le Mans Series. It is my dream come true. I want to race here again. Thank you.”
Shigeto Nagashima: “Thanks for the two drivers. Our class might just have one car, but I’m with two great drivers in the team. They had a good pace. Thank you to the team and drivers.”
Shinyo Sano: “This is my first time in this race. We completed our goal. This race is my dream. I’m very happy. Thank you to my team mates, my team staff and my family. Thank you!”
Credits : Photos and content courtesy of Dorna WSBK Organization Srl