New Zealand driver Brendon Hartley and his Porsche team-mates Mark Webber (Australia) and Timo Bernhard (Germany) are chasing their fourth consecutive victory when the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) heads to Japan this weekend.
After a troubled start to defending their world title in the first three races of 2016, the champion trio have achieved wins in the 6-Hour races at the Nurburgring, Mexico City and the Circuit of the Americas and have climbed to fourth in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
This Sunday’s 6-Hour event at Fuji International Speedway is the seventh out of nine rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship. After five race wins for the 919 Hybrid – including the Le Mans 24 Hours – Porsche leads the manufacturers’ world championship with 238 points ahead of Audi on 185 and Toyota 137.
In the drivers’ title standings, the Le Mans-winning Porsche trio of Romain Dumas (France), Neel Jani (Switzerland) and Marc Lieb (Germany) top the standings with 130 points. The Audi crew of Loic Duval (France), Lucas di Grassi (Brazil) and Oliver Jarvis have 92.5 points and the best placed Toyota crew of Kamui Kobayashi (Japan), Mike Conway (GB) and Stephane Sarrazin are just half a point behind.
Bernhard, Hartley and Webber have climbed back to fourth place (78.5 points) in the championship with Audi’s Andre Lotterer (Germany) and Marcel Fassler (Switzerland) on 78 points.
‘‘We go to Japan with good momentum after three wins on the trot for car number 1,’’ said Hartley.
‘‘Fuji is a track I enjoy and it's a track that has produced great racing over the last years in the WEC. I expect another tough fight, and our goal and focus is to continue our winning streak.’’
The Fuji International Speedway is a 4.549km circuit that features a 1.5km long straight where minimum drag is required. But through the 16 corners a significant amount of downforce is required which provides an aerodynamic set-up challenge for the prototype teams.
Porsche claimed a 1-2 finish at Fuji in 2015 with Bernhard/Hartley/Webber taking victory ahead of Dumas/Jani/Lieb.
The Kiwi contingent on the 2016 WEC grid is restored to its usual strength for the Fuji race.
Tauranga’s Richie Stanaway was given an opportunity to miss the US round last month so he could begin his Pirtek Enduro Cup Supercars campaign at the Sandown 500. He’s back on duty for Aston Martin in Japan following a 12th place finish teamed with Chris Pither for Super Black Racing at Bathurst.
Stanaway is paired with British racer Darren Turner in the Aston Martin Racing squad for the Fuji race. They won the GTE-Pro category at the Mexico City race and Aston Martin holds a slender six-point lead over Ferrari in the WEC GT Manufacturers Championship.