L&T Motorsport

WEC News Roundup: Hartley F1 Ride Brightens an Otherwise Dark Start to the Fuji Weekend

A fittingly damp and dark Fuji circuit welcomed the cars and teams of the WEC to the 7th round of the 2017 Championship. With rain in the forecast for the entire race weekend, the stage is set at Fuji for a dramatic contest.

WEC Fuji Track Gloom

Pictured: Heavy rain for much of the day. The paddock are hoping a shortened FP2 is not a sign of things to come for Sunday.

Mimicking the dark clouds over the raceway, ominous emotions occupy the minds of all those in the paddock. Many expected Toyota to make an announcement on their plans for the upcoming 2018-2019 “Super Season,” but have since announced a statement on their plans is unlikely during the race weekend.

Ongoing talks between Toyota and the FIA/ACO revolve around opening up LMP1 Privateer regulations. Toyota are demanding changes to be made so the LMP1 non-hybrid cars can challenge for race wins. Without these changes, Toyota feel their results would be unearned. A very legitimate point of contention.

WEC Fuji Toyota pit

Pictured: Toyota in the center of the media storm lately. A lot of stakeholders ponder will they or won’t they commit to the WEC’s 2018-2019 “Super Season.”

Experts and media close to the situation have said the most plausible way to satisfy Toyota’s request is to allow for higher fuel flow rates. With a lot variables including increased cost, reliability, and number of interested parties, there is no guarantee such a solution will satisfy the interested parties.

And with Peugeot’s recent announcement that they will continue to focus on the WRC and will not revive their LMP1 program, perhaps the last glimmer of hope for an additional pair of Hybrid’s has been extinguished. We could very well be looking at a Manufacturer-less WEC prototype class for the next two years.

WEC Fuji Toyota track

Pictured: A Toyota TS050 punching a vapor trail down Fuji’s long home straight. Will we see the team driving off into the distance away from the series soon?

Gulp…

 

For now, the WEC circus presses on.

Toyota enter the weekend sputtering. After having won the last three races at Fuji, and 4 out 5 total since the WEC’s inaugural season, the Japanese manufacturer are hoping the home field advantage can play out again to their favor.

WEC Fuji Toyota 2012

Pictured: Toyota TS030 en route to the teams first win on home soil in 2012.

Having gone fastest in the rain shortened second practice session on Friday, Toyota are in the fight.

Porsche were 1-2 in the first practice session and logged the fastest laps of the day. In a less wet, albeit still very wet, session, the 1.35:527s time submitted by Andre Lotterer was nearly a half second faster than the 1.36:010s by Jose Maria Lopez, the fastest Toyota lap thus far.

WEC Fuji Porsche

Pictured: No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid at the hands of pacesetter Andre Lotterer. Not quite as gorgeous as this 908/04 Hybrid Concept, but very pleasing on the eye nonetheless.

Paramount on the minds of the Porsche team is the chance to wrap up both Championship’s this weekend. A 1-2 would secure the second straight title for the German marque and appropriately wrap up their four-year program in the WEC.

Additionally, for Porsche, big news for one of their drivers broke after the practice sessions wrapped up. Kiwi driver, Brenden Hartley, will join Scuderia Toro Rosso at the United States Grand Prix in Austin Texas later this month, taking the vacated Carlos Sainz seat.

A lot hinges on how his ride goes for Toro Rosso. Hartley has been rumored to be joining Chip Ganassi Racing in IndyCar for months. It is possible a strong showing at Circuit of the Americas can lead to 2018 F1 seat. As part of the WEC family, we are all hoping for a solid result by the Porsche driver in Austin.

One hopes the bright spot of Hartley’s news will spark some more positivity on the WEC news-wire in the weeks to come. An announcement from Toyota is expected by the end of the month…

Plenty of story-lines heading into Qualifying and race day. Who will tread the waters of temporary lake Fuji and find land on the top step of the podium? Keep it here for your race day coverage and news.

WEC Fuji Pink Porsche

Pictured: No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche wrapped in a special livery for this weekend’s race. In honor of Dempsey’s mother, a breast cancer survivor, the car will run in pink to bring attention for breast cancer awareness month.

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