Second row start for two Aston Martins as the WEC battles away at Fuji this weekend

Saturday, September 09, 2023


It’s been an impressive display so far from the three Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE teams competing in this weekend’s penultimate round of the World Endurance Championship from the Fuji Speedway circuit in Japan.

Despite some tricky track conditions along the way through the three Free Practice and Qualifying sessions so far thanks to the passing typhoon weather system, two of these cars later went on to present themselves upon the second row on the grid (in class) ahead of tomorrow’s six-hour race.

Local track knowledge has obviously come to the aid of the circuit based #777 D’Station Racing crew of Satoshi Hoshino, Tomonobu Fujii and Casper Stevenson as they collectively secured the lead Aston Martin powered roll in class, ahead of both the #98 Northwest AMR (Heart of Racing) and #25 ORT with TF Sport crews in all three Free Practice sessions.

The brightly orange liveried #25 car of Ahmad Al Harthy, Michael Dinan and Charlie Eastwood would endure something of a frustrating build up to today’s Qualifying as they battled technical issues that would restrict them to just ten laps across the entire first two sessions before finally being able to get down to business in FP3 where they finished tenth fastest out of the thirteen in class.

Missing the last round at Monza seems not to have affected the #98 car either as Ian James, Alex Riberas and Daniel Mancinelli form their first opinions of the Fuji circuit this weekend as they finished their preparatory work mid table throughout the Free Practice sessions, going into Qualifying.

Declared wet with drizzle still falling around the circuit, the first question to be answered in Qualifying was about tyres with half selected soft slicks and the other preferring wets. Whilst both the #25 and #777 preferred the slick option and went about their opening laps, the #98 car of James was one who selected wets only to come straight back in for slicks as the track conditions at least stabilised – if not improved throughout the session.

Two quick banker laps put the #25 car of Al Harthy at the top with the #777 of Hoshino then two places further back but as the session time counted down, the position held by the #25 car would steadily drop as others improved whilst there was nothing more to give from the Omani. Into the final minutes, and Hoshino was again back up to P3 with James just behind in fourth, and whilst these two Astons had no answer to the pace setting Corvette and Porsche, the laps times where just half a second own to the GTE Am Championship winning driver of Ben Keating.

Six thousandths of a second split the #777 and #98 cars whilst the #25 car ending up just over as second down to the leader in P12 but like every event, Qualifying is one thing and the race is something else an whilst Mother Nature holds something up her sleeve this weekend – anything can happen!

Photo credits – Andrew Lofthouse / Drew Gibson
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