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Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi have extended their lead in the FIA World Endurance Championship drivers' standings as Toyota reeled off a perfect 1-2 finish on home soil in the Fuji 6 Hours.
A dominant performance by the Japanese firm, which extends his winning run around the Fuji Speedway to three years, the #8 TS040 Hybrid fought off its rivals on the opening laps before steadily extending its advantage at the front of the field, ceding its lead only when out of pit sequence with its closest rivals.
Indeed, despite being reduced to just two drivers after Nicolas Lapierre's decision to 'take a break' from competition, Davidson and Buemi worked impeccably as a duo, maintaining a comfortable advantage over the sister Toyota of Alex Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima as its Porsche and Audi rivals steadily fell away.
Porsche looked racy early on in the hands of Mark Webber and Neel Jani, but while the respective #20 and #14 919 Hybrids would slip one and two laps adrift respectively, it was comfortably the manufacturer's most competitive race of the season in terms of pure pace.
Indeed, it was the first time Porsche had out-performed Audi since its return, the multiple title-winning manufacturer enduring a dismal day as the R18 e-tron struggled for outright speed. Their cause wasn't helped by Andre Lotterer misjudging his fuel consumption and having to slow in order to avoid a penalty, contributing to the #2 car finishing three laps off the lead.
Furthermore, having taken the lead of the manufacturers' standings with a 1-2 in Austin, Audi's 5-6 here means Toyota has returned to the top of the order, while Davidson and Buemi now command a 29 point lead over the #2 trio of Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer.
In the LMP1-L class, the #13 Rebellion R-ONE of Dominik Kraihamer, Fabio Leimer and Andrea Belicchi not only notched up its first win for the season, but also its first finish in what has been a troubled year for the Swiss-Italian trio. By contrast, the #12 car of Nick Heidfeld, Nicolas Prost and Mathias Beche finished down the order after suffering technical problems, while the Lotus was involved in a shunt before catching blaze.
Ligier claims first WEC LMP2 win
Following its debut last time out in the USA, the new Ligier JSP2 couple claimed its first WEC win in the hands of G-Drive trio Olivier Pla, Roman Rusinov and Julian Canal after a composed performance against the odds.
The French machine ran well throughout the race, but almost saw its chances scuppered by a late puncture that dropped it behind the KCMG machine, before fighting back in the final hour. The result moves all three drivers closer to the LMP2 drivers' leader Sergey Zlobin, who retains 16 point advantage after his SMP Racing machine finished fourth in class, behind the wild-card OAK Racing entry.
Ferrari overturns Aston Martin for GTE win
Toni Vilander and Gimmi Bruni have moved closer to the GTE Pro title after recovering from a drive-through penalty to lead an AF Corse Ferrari 1-2 from James Calado and Davide Rigon.
Receiving the penalty for not respecting the limits of the track, Vilander and Bruni nonetheless fought back to secure a narrow win over their team-mates to extend their overall advantage to a mammoth 49.5 points.
The pole sitting Aston Martin of Fernando Rees, Alex MacDowell and Darryl O'Young completed the podium after leading initially, albeit only after getting caught up in a first corner tangle with team-mate Darren Turner, who made contact after locking-up and spinning into the path of the Porsche, forcing both out of victory contention.
In the GTE Am class though, Aston Martin continued to dominate with Kristian Poulsen, David Heinemeier-Hansson and Kristian Poulsen wrapping up a third win of the season.