JAPAN: Toyota clinched the 2023 manufacturers’ title with a triumphant 1-2 finish on their home track at Fuji Speedway. The team’s technical director, Pascal Vasselon, commended their achievement, especially in the face of fierce competition from Porsche.
However, the Prancing Horse of Ferrari faced a challenging day, with their two 499Ps finishing a lap behind in fourth and fifth place, respectively. This marked Ferrari’s least competitive performance since joining the top class of the WEC this year.
Vasselon attributed part of Ferrari’s struggle to the impressive performance of Antonio Fuoco in the #50 Ferrari LMH during the final leg of the race. Fuoco displayed exceptional skill, overtaking Alessandro Pier Guidi in the sister #51 car and securing a 21-second lead to secure fourth place.
The result puts Ferrari’s hopes of clinching the drivers’ title in jeopardy, with the #51 crew now trailing the leading #8 Toyota trio by 31 points and only 39 points up for grabs in the Bahrain season finale.
Toyota’s driver and team principal, Kamui Kobayashi, echoed Vasselon’s sentiments, emphasizing the importance of adapting to changing track conditions at Fuji. Kobayashi emphasized the key to their victory was the drivers’ ability to quickly adjust their driving styles to suit the challenging conditions.
While Vasselon highlighted the consistent performance of Toyota’s drivers throughout the season, he acknowledged that Kobayashi and Ryo Hirakawa had an edge at Fuji due to their extensive familiarity with the track.
In a spectacular display of skill, Kobayashi secured pole position by six-tenths and propelled the #7 Toyota to victory with a 39-second lead. Hirakawa’s strategic moves also proved pivotal, allowing Toyota to overtake Porsche and secure an impressive finish.
Vasselon concluded, “It’s the special ‘Kamui effect’… The guys who are used to racing here have something on top of the others.” Toyota’s dominance on home turf sends a powerful message as the WEC season approaches its climax in Bahrain.