911 in Motorsport: FIA WEC Fuji report

Racing at Fuji was limited to a handful of laps behind the safety car, with the number 91 911 RSR coming home third.
Racing at Fuji was limited to a handful of laps behind the safety car, with the #91 911 RSR coming home third.

In 2012, Porsche dominated proceedings at Fuji Speedway, topping every session. However, in this year’s running of the 6-hour event at the Japanese circuit, just 16 laps of racing were completed, all of them behind the safety car.

This was because of the torrential rain that often blights race meetings at the Fuji circuit at this time of year. It took just eight laps behind the safety car before the race director stopped the race for the first time.

A second stoppage followed after another eight laps behind the safety car and, three hours and 46 minutes after the race started, the third red flag of the day signalled the end of the race as conditions failed to improve.

Marc Lieb was the only driver to get behind the wheel of the #92 Porsche, but even he was forced to wait in the pits during the red flags.
Only Marc Lieb got behind the wheel of the #92 Porsche, but even he was forced to wait in the pits during the red flags.

The weather on race day was in stark contrast to the dry track conditions that greeted the FIA WEC competitors the previous afternoon for qualifying.

In the dry session, the number 91 Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Pilet and Jörg Bergmeister led the charge for Stuttgart with a four-lap average of 1m39.736s. While Pilet enjoyed himself on fresh slicks, Bergmeister had to battle a mildly recalcitrant car.

“On fresh slicks our car is running well this weekend, but it gets difficult after the first couple of laps”, the German driver explained. Despite this, the time was good enough for fourth in the GTE-Pro class.

Porsche 911 RSR, Porsche AG Team Manthey: Marc Lieb, Richard Lietz
A rare dry moment at Fuji. This is qualifying, where the #92 car would wind up fifth in the GTE-Pro class.

The number 92 entry, leading the charge for Porsche in the drivers’ championship, was one place further back on row three after setting an average time of 1m39.778s.

Despite being slightly further back than hoped, both Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz were confident that their 911 RSRs consistency would aid them during the six-hour race, especially as the expected wet weather would play into the hands of the Porsche’s superior traction.

Unfortunately, the wet weather turned out to curtail the action, preventing any green flag racing. Despite this, both Porsche AG Team Manthey cars were able to climb up the order to finish third and fourth.

The torrential rain prevented Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz from closing up in the drivers' standings.
The torrential rain prevented Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz from closing up in the drivers’ standings.

This was due to Richie Stanaway aquaplaning off the circuit in the second-placed Aston Martin during a siting lap before the race had even begun. If there was a warning about the conditions, this was it.

Although Porsche was understandably disappointed that they were unable to exploit their wet weather advantage – especially after a lot of tyre development in conjunction with Michelin – safety had to come first.

With half points being awarded because of the race’s brevity, the result leaves Porsche AG Team Manthey three points behind AF Corse’s Ferrari entry in the GTE-Pro teams classification.

Proton Competition took their first podium since the start of September.
Proton Competition took their first podium since the start of September.

The battle for the drivers’ title is similarly tight, as Lietz and Lieb now lie six points behind leaders, Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella.

In the GTE-Am class, Raymond Narac and Jean-Karl Vernay, in the IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, have fallen further behind in the championship race after finishing fifth in class. They still lie second, eight points behind in the drivers’ standings, and 12 points in the teams’ battle.

The Felbmayer-sponsored Proton Competition finished third in the GTE-Am class after a strong qualifying. This was the team’s first podium since the Sao Paulo round at the start of September.

The FIA WEC now has a three-week hiatus before continuing its Asian tour with the penultimate round of the championship at the Shanghai circuit in China on 9 November.

A poor qualifying left the IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 911 further back in the GTE-Am championship.
A poor qualifying left the IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 911 further back in the GTE-Am championship.

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