TOYOTA has won its home race, on the foothills of Mount Fuji, for the past three years, including a one-two victory last year on its way to winning the manufacturers’ World Championship.
Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi won the Fuji race 12 months ago to strengthen their hold on the drivers’ title and this year they are joined in the #1 TS040 HYBRID by Kazuki Nakajima, a winner of this race in 2012 and 2013.
Alex Wurz is also a two-time victor at Fuji and he is joined in the #2 TS040 HYBRID by Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway, who is making his LMP1 debut in Japan.
The Fuji Speedway track, which is now 4.563km long with 16 corners and a 1.475km straight, has a rich history in endurance racing and a special place in TOYOTA’s own motorsport past.
The 1000km of Fuji attained legendary status since its first race in 1967, won by the TOYOTA 2000GT. The iconic TOYOTA 7 forged its reputation as an endurance race car by winning the following two Fuji races.
The race joined the WEC calendar in 1982 and ran for seven years, including three seasons when the series was known as the World Sports Prototype Championship.
Fuji Speedway itself, located around 110km from central Tokyo, has evolved significantly since its opening in 1965, when a banked oval-style section made up half of its length.
In 1976, Fuji hosted the first-ever Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix. After an extensive renovation under TOYOTA ownership, it reopened in 2005 and once again welcomed Formula 1, in 2007 and 2008.
This week’s event represents the 15th FIA World Championship race held at Fuji Speedway. It begins with two practice sessions on Friday (11.45 & 15.30), with final practice (09.50) and qualifying (14.10) on Saturday. The race starts on Sunday at 11.00.
Toshio Sato, Team President: “As our home race, Fuji Speedway is always a highlight of the year for our team. We experience fantastic support from the Japanese fans and they make us feel very welcome. In the past three years we have had great success at Fuji so we have some special memories and we will be pushing as hard as possible again. Our Higashi-Fuji Technical Centre, where our hybrid powertrain is developed, is very close to Fuji Speedway so this weekend is a rare chance for these colleagues to see their car in action. We are very pleased to have their support and we are lucky to have a lot of other TOYOTA Motor Corporation colleagues, as well as our TOYOTA group partners, joining us at the track, which always brings added motivation.”
Anthony Davidson (TS040 HYBRID #1): “We are all looking forward to our home race at Fuji. Hopefully we can put on a good show for the fans and all our TOYOTA colleagues who come to support us. We have a great track record there; we are undefeated in WEC at Fuji. I know it is going to be a challenge to keep that winning run going for another year but you never know. The weather can be unpredictable in Fuji at this time of year and wet conditions would sway things in our favour. We’ll be giving everything to take any opportunities that come our way.”
Sébastien Buemi (TS040 HYBRID #1): “Fuji is always a very special race for us because it’s our home race. We have an impressive record there having won the race for three years in a row. Unfortunately we know this year will be much harder but we will be fighting for a good result. The weather can be a factor at Fuji so that might help us. We are racing in front of our fans and all the people from TOYOTA so we are fully motivated. We approach the race in a positive way and we will try to get the most out of the weekend.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS040 HYBRID #1): “Fuji is a big highlight of the WEC season for me. It’s fantastic to drive an LMP1 car in front of the Japanese fans on a circuit like Fuji, which has so much history in endurance racing. Fuji is one of my favourite circuits and I have so many nice memories there, including my first WEC win back in 2012. It’s a circuit I know very well and I am usually pretty strong there; already this season I finished on the podium in July in the Super Formula race. It’s also nice to show Japan to my team-mates, even if it does mean I have to do all the ordering when we go for dinner!”
Alex Wurz : “Fuji is a great track, and its sportscar history dates back a long time. It’s a difficult circuit and one where it is surprisingly hard to find the right set-up. There is a lot of variety, with the very long straight then the fast R130 corner, and then the ever so tricky last sector. So it’s a challenge for the drivers and engineers to get this right, and this will be our priority in the practice sessions. It’s our home race so I am looking forward to putting on a good show for our fans and TOYOTA colleagues.”
Stéphane Sarrazin : “I like Fuji a lot; it is one of my favourite tracks of the whole season. Last year we had a very strong race there so let’s see how it will go this time. It’s amazing to race in Japan, especially as a TOYOTA driver, because the fans are so crazy. There are always lots of fan waiting for autographs in the paddock which gives us a nice feeling. We really feel their support and appreciate it. I am sure we will again see a big crowd and I hope we can give them all a good race to enjoy.”
Mike Conway : “This is my first trip to Japan as a TOYOTA driver so I can’t wait to experience it. I was there in 2013 with LMP2 so I know the Japanese fans are so enthusiastic. I’ve been doing my homework for this race with some time on the simulator so I feel ready. It’s the home race for TOYOTA so I am looking forward to experience that, and it’s nice also to visit Higashi-Fuji, where our hybrid powertrain is developed. I hope we can get a positive result; I know the car has been really strong there in the past and we’ll be giving everything.”