Anthony Davidson’s Fuji Favourites
Photo: WEC

Anthony Davidson’s Fuji Favourites

As the dust settles on 6 Hours of Fuji, round six of FIA WEC, Anthony Davidson selects the exceptional performances from an action-packed weekend of racing...

Hypercar – Laurens Vanthoor

I thought Vanthoor was excellent at Fuji, and obviously the real star of those opening two hours.

The way he grabbed the lead and then built a gap was very impressive and I’m not sure anyone really saw that pace coming from the Porsche Penske 963.

It’s not been an easy start for Porsche’s return to the top class in WEC but the feeling was that they would always come good sometime and somewhere. It just happened to be Fuji and that was all the more impressive considering they hadn’t been there before with this new model.

It was clear that something went wrong with the re-fuelling at the start. Maybe a glitch because they clearly had a short fill. While that might have flattered Vanthoor slightly it was still super impressive how first he and then Estre managed the pace which was obviously very good throughout.

That point in the race when Estre was fending off Lopez and Hirakawa was so much fun. Really good, close endurance racing and it had us all on the edge of our seats.

I can’t not mention Kamui Kobayashi and the job that he did at Fuji. His qualifying lap was mesmeric, really top notch. Then in the race he was just as good. It’s quite rare for someone’s qualifying pace to translate in racing conditions but Kamui managed it. He was magnificent, as were Lopez and Conway actually. They thoroughly deserved their win.

But because Porsche really looked the part in the first half of the race I am going to give the star performer in Hypercar to Laurens Vanthoor. I thought he was brilliant and it was just nice to see someone else giving Toyota a race.

LMP2 – Louis Deletraz

I hadn’t realised that Robert Kubica had done a stint after Rui Andrade had completed his seat time early on in the race and it seems that it was a really important one. We know how good Kubica is and he really excelled at Fuji. He was flawless.

But I thought Louis Deletraz’s stints at the wheel were exceptional too and his double stint was really something and it broke the opposition a fair bit in the mid-to-late phase of the race.

He was really dynamic and handed the car back over to Robert with a decent gap. All three drivers really contributed well to a decisive victory and one that looks like it has dissipated their opposition in terms of the title.

I think you also have to mention Phil Hanson’s pole position, his second on the trot after his ELMS heroics in Aragon last month. It was a great lap in difficult conditions so fair play to him for that.

Filipe Albuquerque was dynamite at the beginning, making hay while the silvers were in most of the other cars in LMP2. The plan seemed to be working nicely but the No.41 Team WRT entry just had that little bit more.

And that battle with Robin Frijns at the end! What a treat. Two great racers going for it tooth and nail and swapping positions twice. Great stuff.

LMGTE Am – Thomas Flohr

The No.54 AF Corse guys have had some tough luck in 2023, especially at their home event in Monza with a technical issue which denied them at least a podium. But it all came good in Japan and it was great to see because it was the first time since Davide Rigon replaced Giancarlo Fisichella that this crew have gained a win.

I reckon that Thomas Flohr deserves this accolade because it was his stint at the start which laid a really strong foundation for the maximum points. Thomas has been driving well this season and he kept his nose clean pretty much despite a shove from Ben Keating in the Corvette.

Ironically it was that incident which really cost Corvette as they had to serve a penalty and despite losing time through that and another sanction they still got second place after the Kessel Ferrari was penalised after the chequered flag.

Flohr, Castellacci and Rigon really deserved the win and it was good to see that they were back on the top step after a few disappointments in recent seasons.

The WEC will be back in action for the season-closing 8 Hours of Bahrain at the start of November.