TF Sport came to Fuji, Japan for the first fly away event of the World Endurance Championship, the 6 Hours of Fuji and left closer in the Championship after a fine second place in the GTE Am class following an exemplary performance by team and drivers in challenging conditions.
With a new legion of Japanese fans watching on, TF started the race from fifth position in class on a treacherous track caused by light and intermittent rain that continued to fall sporadically as the race got under way. Tyre choice was crucial, and the team opted for intermediate rubber as Charlie Eastwood took the start, initially behind the safety car, quickly making up a position in the early stages as the cars were released to race, doing well to stay out of trouble as the conditions took their toll on some rivals.
A series of safety cars for incidents kept the field together and as the track started to dry. Timing for pit stops and tyre choice became a gamble. On lap 29 Charlie pitted from sixth in class to take slick tyres only to find a DC Racing LMP2 car in his pit box delaying the car momentarily. Charlie made steady progress as conditions became more stable and brought the Aston up to fourth as he handed the car to Salih Yoluc on the two-hour mark.
Salih then proceeded to have a great double stint when it was most needed, driving quickly and without mistakes to close the gap to the top three that had extended through the pit stop phase to bring the car into contention as he handed the car to Jonny Adam for the final two-hours to the flag.
Jonny found himself 40 seconds behind the leader in P2 after the pit stop sequence unfolded and set about closing on the Porsche ahead, steadily reducing the gap to under 30 seconds as the race progressed but was unable to make a sustained challenge on the eventual winning Project 1 Porsche. In the latter stages coming under pressure from a second Porsche, the Dempsey Proton car which he was powerless to defend from dropping back into third where the team crossed the finishing line.
As the podium ceremony took place the stewards were investigating both of the cars standing above TF Sport on the podium for infringements under double waved yellow flags towards the latter stages of the race. Deliberations continued into the night and finally after many hours, TF Sport were promoted to second place, with the Dempsey Proton entry being penalised, dropping to fourth position. The Project 1 car escaping sanction.
TF Sport are now solidly third position in the Championship with 54 points, well within reach of second with 66 and the leaders with 80.
All eyes now turn to the next round the 6 hours of Shanghai China in a months time.
“We have to be happy with the race and closing up a bit more in the championship. Looking back, if three or four things had gone our way we may have had a chance to win here but over a 6-hour endurance race no one gets it perfect. We’ve now been bridesmaids three times so hopefully we can get a win in Shanghai and make Christmas a bit shorter before the 2019 final races of the Super Season.”
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“Overall I am pretty happy, three podiums in three standard (6-hour) WEC races in our first season isn’t too bad and all the guys today were strong and drove a faultless race. We still don’t have the outright pace of the Porsches so it’s difficult to push for victory as they have more speed, but this is another good result for TF Sport and we are still in the Championship race.”
“I really enjoyed racing here in Japan, the track and the fans are great. I was happy with my double stint, I got into a nice rhythm and caught up to the guys in front of me through the stint. If we had a bit more luck with the full course yellow timing and our pit stop we may have gained a minute and been comfortable looking at a win.”
“We had a good race and had good pace from qualifying right through the end of the race. I was able to push for the last two hours, but the Porsches just had a bit too much pace for us to contend with. Salih really upped his game today and if that continues we will be in good shape for the rest of the season.”