Triumph for Toyota levels WEC title battle
By Iwan Jones
Monday 12th September, 2022 - 2:14pm
Victory for Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi, and Ryo Hirakawa in the 6 Hours of Fuji has seen them even out the battle for the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship crown.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing pilots took the chequered flag over a minute ahead of team-mates Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and Jose Maria Lopez, while the Alpine ELF Team entry of Andre Negaro, Nicolas Lapierre, and Matthieu Vaxiviere rounded out the podium.
The win sees Hartley/Buemi/Hirakawa draw level with Negaro/Lapierre/Vaxiviere in the Hypercar standings on 121 points, with one round to go in this year’s championship.
It is the second win of the season for the #8 and third of the season for the Japanese outfit, which claimed a one-two finish with its pair of Toyota GR010 Hybrids on home soil, with the victory its eighth from nine races at Fuji Speedway.
Pole-sitter Kobayashi led the way in the #7 and set about building a gap over Buemi in the sister entry in the opening stanza.
The entries were separated by seconds during the first hour, before Buemi closed the gap and took the lead on Lap 64, after the first pit cycle was completed.
After taking the lead, Buemi handed over to Hartley, who set about extending a six-second advantage over Lopez, who took control of the sister entry, with the Alpine ELF Team entry close to a minute behind in third.
The New Zealander found his rhythm and built a commanding lead, going on to build a 30-second margin, by the time he handed over to Hirakawa, with two hours on the clock.
Racing in front of his home fans, Hirakawa drove into the distance, to claim victory after 232 laps, in a race that ran without a Safety Car period.
The #31 WRT LMP2 of Robin Frijns, Sean Gelael, and Dries Vanthoor claimed class honours, as did the #51 AF Corse Ferrari piloted by Alessandro Pier Guidi, and James Calado in LMGTE Pro, and the #33 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Ben Keating, Henrique Chaves, and Marco Sorensen in the LMGTE Am category.
The next race of the season is the 8 Hours of Bahrain, on November 12.