Conditions at the track threatened trouble even before the start at the 6 Hours of Fuji. Rain hung in the air, ready to drastically mix up the race at any given moment. The threat was real enough to push race control into declaring a ’wet track’ permitting teams to start on wet weather tires at a moments notice. It was an opportunity none took, all cars taking to the dry tarmac on racing slicks instead.
The GTE AM battle promised a lot right from the start, more than half of the field looked capable of taking the victory. The number 98 Aston Martin team had clear ambitions of a racing victory on the day, but found themselves shut down disappointingly fast. An unavoidable racing incident in the hands of Paul Dalla Lana brought their competition hopes crashing to a close less than 6 minutes from the start.
The 86 Gulf Racing saw a strong start with gentleman driver and team owner Mike Wainwright at the wheel. A strong performance early-on brought the team up to first place before an unlucky puncture eventually dropped them back into the middle of the pack.
Threats of more rain grew along with the racing tension. Light showers created precarious conditions across all classifications. Cars quickly spin and slid wide when due care and attention fell away. A number of teams across classifications pitted for intermediate tires approaching half-way into the race. In the end, the wet weather didn’t come to enough for teams to benefit one way or the other from the decision.
If the number 98 had the worst of days on the track, the sister number 90 Aston Martin of TF Sport had one of its best. The team managed to build speed throughout the race with strong strategy and excellent pace. The red Aston took first with a full lap over the competition.
The Ferrari of AF Corse took second with the Porsche of Team Project one taking the final spot on the podium. The fight throughout the field from second to sixth was a tightly contested battle with drivers trading places, paint, and wing mirrors at various points throughout. The race damaged 98 Aston, hampered from the first lap, did cross the line to complete the race, if some 22 laps behind the leader.
Gulf Racing’s similar misfortune saw the team cross the line in 8th place, four laps down on the leader. The experience gained in front running and tricky conditions for the team owner will likely prove invaluable for the coming season.
In a race which saw zero retirements for mechanical failures or racing collisions, every team will have an armful of positive notes to take away from the Fuji circuit.