JRM RACING TAKES POLE IN PRIVATEER CLASS FOR SIX HOURS OF SHANGHAI
JRM RACING TAKES POLE IN PRIVATEER CLASS FOR SIX HOURS OF SHANGHAI
|6 HOURS OF SHANGHAI, FIA WEC FINALE…|
|Teams participating in the inaugural edition of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) have made their way to China for the deciding race of the series, the 6 Hours of Shanghai. Racing is set for this Sunday and 28 teams are expected on the start grid for the title-awarding, final endurance challenge of the season.The 2012 FIA WEC was comprised of eight races run on three continents and, inspired by its cornerstone race Les 24 Heures du Mans, this series represents the highest global level of modern endurance racing. Rolex is proud to support this groundbreaking international trial of team precision, passion and stamina.
LMP1: TOYOTA TAKES ON THE AUDI CHALLENGE
At stake in the series are multiple FIA trophies, including the coveted Endurance Champion LM P1 Manufacturer title, to be awarded following the 6-hour showdown in Shanghai. Current standings for the LM P1 Manufacturers show Audi on top with an unbeatable 191 points, followed by Japanese rival Toyota with 70 points.
Toyota has a storied past in endurance racing, with their first involvement in the FIA World Endurance Championship dating back to 1983. This marked the start of a long period of involvement in the sport that included several editions of the famed 24 Heures du Mans. This year was particularly special because, following a 12-year hiatus, the 2012 season has marked Toyota’s return to the endurance-racing scene.
Although the original plan for the team was to compete in selected races only, Toyota stepped up their game in order to fully compete on the manufacturer platform with Audi. Toyota has since given the German manufacturer a run for their money having already taken two podiums in five races, most notably at their home track during the last WEC race in Fuji, and is slated as the favourite for the race here in Shanghai. “It has been an emotional and successful first season in the FIA World Endurance Championship for TOYOTA Racing,” said Team President Yoshiaki Kinoshita. “We have achieved more than we expected [and] to be able to compete with a competitor as strong as Audi in such a short timeframe is a great credit to all involved in the project. Now we look forward to the final race of this exciting season and we want to finish with a strong performance.”
SEEKING WORLD CHAMPIONS: ENDURANCE REQUIRED
While all eyes will be on the LM P1 Audi-Toyota challenge, every team and driver participating in the 6 Hours of Shanghai will have to perform their best in order to take home a FIA World Champion title. Beyond the LM P1 Manufacturer Award, titles in each category (Private LM P1, LM P2, LM GTE Pro, LM GTE Am and LM GTE Manufacturer) will be awarded here in Shanghai following Sunday’s race.
Current standings see Rebellion Racing (CHE) leading the Private LM P1 category, with the winning title in their name all but guaranteed as Rebellion has a 47-point lead over their next closest rival, Strakka Racing (GBR). The LM P2 trophy title is in a similar situation, with Starworks Motorsports (USA) heading up their category with an unbeatable lead (159 points), while the second place position is up for grabs between Pecom Racing (ARG) and ADR-Delta (GBR), two teams currently tied with 129 points each.
In the LM GTE categories there are still some things to be decided. While the Pro category title has been determined pre-race, along with the LM GTE Manufacturers’ Cup, the LM GTE Am championship title is still up for the taking. AF Corse (ITA) leads the Pro category with a solid 186 points and their closest rivals are separated from one another by just one point, with Aston Martin Racing (GBR) at 116 and Team Felbermayr-Proton (DEU) at 115. In the LM GTE Am category, Larbre Competition (FRA) is in the top position with 154 points, separated from the current second place team, Team Felbermayr-Proton (DEU), by only 20 points, ensuring tight competition for the Am championship title. In the Manufacturer category the fight for the world endurance title will more than likely go to Ferrari, currently at the top of the standings with 310 points, while Porsche will likely take second (196 points).
A FINAL FACE-OFF FOR THE ENDURANCE CROWN
Having come full circle, the FIA WEC series now comes to a close in Shanghai, China’s economic capital, where participating teams will partake in the final showdown to determine this year’s world endurance champions. All of the action for the WEC finale will take place at Shanghai International Circuit in the Jiading District of Shanghai. Completed in 2004, this track is widely known as the main Chinese hub for Grand Prix racing, and the 6 Hours of Shanghai represents the arrival of a new kind of competition at this famed location: endurance racing.
Today saw the start of Scrutineering on-site and drivers had an opportunity to walk the track ahead of tomorrow’s Free Practice Sessions (10:35 – 12:05 and 15:30 – 17:00). Qualifying will take place on Saturday and the race start is set for Sunday at 11:00 local time.
TOYOTA WIN ON HOME GROUND, REBELLION AND STARWORKS SEAL TITLES
Dusk was starting to fall over Fuji Speedway as Toyota Racing’s Kazuki Nakajima took the chequered flag in front of a grandstand wholly given over to the Japanese manufacturer. The clouds gathered little by little over the mountain peaks which surround the track but they didn’t discourage the 32,000-strong crowd (50,000 over the three days) which came to cheer on Toyota’s triumph, plus that of Nissan in the LMP2 class. The 6 Hours of Fuji will no doubt linger in Japanese fans’ memories for some time, the event having received a very warm welcome!
While Audi has already wrapped up the Constructors’ title, Toyota could be relied on to take the fight to the Four Rings in this latter part of the season. After its first victory in the 6 Hours of São Paulo, the No.7 TS030 Hybrid shone on home ground thanks to Nicolas Lapierre, Alex Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima who were fast on each of the three days of the event. The Japanese manufacturer took its second win in only its fifth race, an enviable statistic especially as the successes were achieved against a far more experienced adversary.
The battle was close right to the end with a gap at the finish line of just 11 seconds between the winning Toyota and the No.1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of double 24 Hours of Le Mans victors André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer. This trio, having been awarded a penalty for contact with the No.97 Aston Martin, had to make one more stop than planned and lost the fuel consumption advantage it held over its Japanese rival. Their second place wasn’t enough to allow them to take the Drivers’ title as the second Audi, the No.2 of Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen, also finished on the overall podium, having not been able to maintain the same rhythm as the top two cars after the first hour.
Alex Wurz: “This is an extremely special day, not only for the TOYOTA Racing team but for the entire TOYOTA family who have supported us. Our first win in Brazil was already an incredible experience but to win here, so close to Higashi-Fuji Technical Centre where the TOYOTA Motor Sport Division is based, is something else. We have had great support all weekend, from TOYOTA members and also from the thousands of fans here at Fuji Speedway. It’s been an incredible experience. We promised to fight for the win but Audi made it very difficult. This win is the result of an enormous team effort, from Japan to Cologne. From the start of the weekend everything was targeted on race balance and strategy; we executed it and got the result we wanted so big thanks to the team.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “It is a great result for us. It was an exciting race which is good for the championship and all the fans who came to Fuji Speedway today. It was a tight fight with Audi. For my part of the race we decided to double-stint the tyres so we could make up some time. It worked well and we got to the front, then I tried to control the gap even if the tyres were a bit old. It worked because at the end I had a little margin. We knew at the end we had to take an extra pit stop so Kazuki had to push really hard, which he did very well. We are very happy to win here. Since the beginning of the year everyone has been speaking about how important this Fuji race is for TOYOTA and we made it.”
Kazuki Nakajima: “What a day! It is a great achievement and it was a team effort so many thanks to my team-mates and the team, who prepared a great car, as well as everybody at TOYOTA who prepared such an impressive hybrid system. We all achieved this together. To win a world championship race as a driver has been my aim for my whole career so it is a great day. The crowd was fantastic; it was great to see so many TOYOTA flags in the grandstands. I was so excited in the last few laps. I was getting the message from my engineer to push hard because I had to make a gap for our last pit stop, so it was quite challenging. I was pushing like crazy and finally we just made it.”
If the final outcome between the factory teams was tiny in terms of the gap, the race amongst the LMP1 Privateers was quickly settled. The No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota finished a lap ahead of its nearest rival, which allowed the British-based Swiss team to lift the FIA Endurance Trophy in the category one race before the end of the 2012 season. Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost were never headed in the race, leaving the other protagonists to battle it out for second place which eventually went to the No.22 JRM HPD-Honda. In fact, David Brabham, Karun Chandhok and Peter Dumbreck emerged as winners in a fantastic duel with rivals Jonny Kane, Nick Leventis and Danny Watts, drivers of the No.21 Strakka Racing HPD ARX 03a-Honda.
Just as Rebellion Racing succeeded in getting its hands on the FIA Endurance Trophy in its category, so also did Starworks Motorsport in LMP2 thanks to the second place finish of Stéphane Sarrazin, Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio at the wheel of the No.44 HPD ARX 03b-Honda. The trio, who were invincible at Sebring, Le Mans and Brazil, couldn’t match the No.25 ADR Delta Oreca 03 Nissan of John Martin, Tor Graves and Japanese driver Shinji Nakano, winners of the LMP2 class by a comfortable margin of one lap. The Starworks car managed to stay ahead of the No.24 OAK Racing Morgan Nissan, Jacques Nicolet, Olivier Pla and Matthieu Lahaye climbing onto the third step of the podium for the second consecutive time following the 6 Hours of Bahrain.
Ryan Dalziel, Starworks Motorsport: “It will probably take a little while for our Championship win to sink in. It was a program that I felt kept getting stronger and stronger. When you look at the results we have had, it is incredible that a first-year team with no experience in motorsport outside of North America and with engineers who had never been outside America, could come here and do this. It all comes down to having the right people in place. We took the right decision in going for the Honda HPD chassis, then the Dunlop tires worked well with the car. A lot of our success came from having a reliable car – not necessarily the fastest car. It is incredible to put your name next to a world championship. I don’t care whether it is a team championship or a driver championship – in racing it is a team and we all deserved to win this.”
Teams and drivers will now turn their attention towards China for the 6 Hours of Shanghai, the final round of the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship at which the Drivers’ title will finally be decided. Rendez-vous then on the 28th October to find out who the winners will be!
Toyota Racing’s Kazuki Nakajima set Fuji Speedway alight this afternoon by claiming the manufacturer’s first pole position in Japan with the No.7 TS030 Hybrid, at their home track.
The Japanese driver, making his return to the Toyota’s cockpit for the first time since the 24 Hours of Le Mans, set a time of 1:27.499, more than two tenths of a second clear of second placed Benôit Tréluyer in the No.1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro. The Frenchman, who raced in Japan for almost 12 years, couldn’t quite match the Toyota, but he was more than half a second clear of his team mate Tom Kristensen in the No.2 Audi.
Kazuki Nakajima: “I am really happy to get this pole position at Fuji Speedway; it means a lot to me and the team. It was cool to see the reaction of everyone in the garage at the end of the session because we had big support and also big expectations as this is our home country, our home track. We saw this morning that the car was quick enough to fight for pole position and, even though I had a bit of traffic at the start of qualifying, I managed to get a clean lap. It is a good achievement but it is still Saturday; the race means a lot more than qualifying. It will be a tricky race, particularly because it is difficult to cope with traffic in the last sector. So we will have to be careful and make no mistakes. Our aim is to win the race; we will push hard.”
Toyota also had much to celebrate among the LMP1 Privateers as it was Neel Jani’s No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota which marked the fastest qualifying time with a lap of 1:29.871, fourth overall. He edged out the HPD-Hondas of Strakka Racing and JRM – Danny Watts in the British-flagged No.21 HPD ARX 03b by just two tenths and David Brabham in the No.22 JRM car by a solid half second. Just four out of the top 18 cars are powered by engines not produced by a Japanese manufacturer.
In LMP2 it was the championship points leader who claimed pole position thanks to Stéphane Sarrazin whose lap of 1:32.367 was the fastest of the whole week in the category. The pole allows the No. 44 Starworks Motorsports HPD-Honda, winners at Sebring, Le Mans and São Paulo to notch up an extra point in its chase of the FIA Endurance Trophy. The fight was tight in the class as less than two tenths separated the poleman from John Martin in the No.25 ADR-Delta Oreca 03-Nissan who was himself in front of Vitantonio Liuzzi’s No.32 Lola Lotus by less than another two tenths. The narrow gaps foretell a closely-contested race in this class which has got better and better; Starworks Motorsports being 22 points ahead after getting pole.
Who from Toyota, Honda or Nissan will be waving the Japanese colours tomorrow for the 6 Hours of Fuji? The answer will be known at 1700 hours, but before everyone will be back on track at 0755 hours for Warm Up and at 1100 hours for the start of the race.
JRM RACING CONTINUES ITS CHAMPIONSHIP CHALLENGE AT FUJI SPEEDWAY–
Karun Chandhok meanwhile makes his first trip to Fuji, the first time he will have raced on Japanese soil, although he is no stranger to Japan. ‘This will be the first time I’m going to race in Japan, which should be interesting. I did the Friday free practice session last year for Team Lotus at Suzuka, but Fuji will be a new experience altogether. My visit last year was the first time I’ve been to Japan and I absolutely loved the country, the culture and the passion for motorsport there. The JRM team and my team-mate Peter Dumbreck have a strong history with Japanese motorsport so I hope we can get a good result for everyone there. In the last couple races we’ve been in pretty good shape in the races only for some reliability issues to make a mess of the result. I know Nigel and the team have been working very hard to get on top of that and the extra day of testing in Fuji will hopefully help us a bit more.