Written by Evan Veer, Edited by Simran Kanthi
The World Endurance Championship is making its return to the Fuji Speedway in Japan for the penultimate round of the season. The track has been a mainstay on the WEC calendar, being included every season since the series' inception in 2012 until the global pandemic ended the streak in 2020.
The current layout was designed by Hermann Tilke in the early 2000s and features some very difficult turns like the long sweeping turns 4 and 5 and a twisty technical final sector, as well as great overtaking opportunities into turn 1 and the double hairpin at turns 10 and 11.
The WEC lap record is held by Mark Webber, having set a lap time of 1:22.639 with his Porsche 919 LMP1 in 2015.
Fuji's main pit complex has space for 34 cars, the lowest of any tracks on the current calendar. This limited pit space is a problem for the WEC as this year's entry list already spanned 38 entries, while even bigger grids are predicted for the future. For this year though, the issue has been solved by giving some teams two garages in the much smaller pit building at the end of the pitlane but using this method, there would still only be room for 39 cars in total.
Temperatures will be very high this weekend, with predicted temperatures on Sunday going up to 31 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit).
Peugeot will be hoping for improvement after their race debut at Monza which, while offering valuable experience, was far from ideal in terms of pace and consistency.
Toyota does have a great history on their home track, winning seven out of the eight WEC races held here in the past. The Japanese outfit does need good performance for their title hopes since at this point the crew of the #8 Toyota is ten points down on the #36 Alpine. Sadly for Alpine, their car has historically been weak at Fuji and Bahrain. They're far from being the favourites for the title.
Since the last race at Monza, both Toyota and Peugeot will be allowed to run with 18kg less weight, while Alpine have had to deal with a reduction in both horsepower and energy they're allowed to use over a stint, meaning they will also either have to pit more often or save fuel more.
Sadly, the top class will have to go without fan-favourites Glickenhaus as it's simply not profitable for them to attend this race, and whether they will be at Bahrain also remains to be seen.
The #38 JOTA still leads the LMP2 championship with a comfortable 19-point lead. Though, a bad race in combination with a strong showing from one of its closest rivals could still easily cost them the title.
With just two races remaining before the twilight of the GTE-PRO class, the fight for its final manufacturers' championship is shaping up for another tight battle between the powerhouses of Porsche and Ferrari. Porsche is currently leading by 14 points, and especially after last season's finale, we know that anything can still happen, even down to the final lap.
Corvette has received a 10kg minimum weight increase while both Ferrari and Porsche have had minor tweaks to their performance, mostly in favour of the latter.
These same adjustments will be applied in GTE-AM while Aston Martin remains unchanged.
Lastly, there's a unique tradition at Fuji called the track safari, in which buses filled with fans do laps of the track while the entire grid passes them at speed, offering a truly unique opportunity to see these cars in action from up close.