Patrick Dempsey gets first class win in Six Hours of Fuji
History was made Sunday at Fuji Speedway, with Dempsey Proton Racing breaking through for GTE-Am class victory in the FIA WEC Six Hours of Fuji, marking the first career sports car win for Hollywood actor/racer Patrick Dempsey.
Porsche, meanwhile, claimed its fourth consecutive overall win following a dominant performance in the mixed-condition race.
Dempsey, who jumped into the No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR for the closing 20 minutes to meet his minimum drive time, held off the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Paul Dalla Lana by 17.10 seconds at the end.
The German squad had a dominant run, with Dempsey completing the early rain-soaked stages after taking over from Patrick Long during the 40-minute full-course caution period, which the race started under.
It was, however, Marco Seefried that took the No. 77 Porsche to the class lead in the third hour and bridged out a one-lap advantage as part of a quadruple-stint on the same set of Michelin intermediates.
The No. 98 Aston Martin of Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, which served a late-race penalty, was second, with the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari completing the class podium.
The win was Dempsey’s first in his 10-year racing career and came on the heels of a podium finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and pole position at COTA for he and co-drivers Long and Seefried.
Up front, Timo Bernhard took the No. 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid to a 14.308-second victory over Porsche teammate Neel Jani, following team orders that saw Jani slow from the lead with 10 minutes to go.
As a result of their win, Bernhard and co-drivers Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley take over the lead of the Drivers’ World Championship.
The race saw the No. 7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Marcel Fassler stretch out a considerable lead early in the wet.
However, once it began to dry, the Porsches powered through, with Romain Dumas taking over the top spot from Fassler in the third hour, and benefiting from a pit stop during a Full Course Yellow to expand the margin even further.
With Audi fumbling with the wrong tire choice, it appeared to be clear sailing for the No. 17 trio of Jani, Dumas and Marc Lieb, but saw its 50-plus second lead cut in half when it served a drive-through penalty for passing under a yellow.
However, team orders saw Jani hand the win to the No. 17 car, which scores crucial championship points for the German manufacturer.
Both Audis also swapped positions in the closing stages, with the No. 7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler finishing third overall.
The trio lost their championship lead and now trail Bernhard, Webber and Hartley by one point heading into next month’s Six Hours of Shanghai.
Loic Duval, Lucas Di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis finished fourth, while the pair of Toyota TS040 Hybrids had a disastrous race on home soil.
The No. 2 Toyota lost nearly 10 laps after contact with a GT car resulted in engine cooling issues in the third hour, relegating the, to sixth, behind the No. 1 entry that lost ground with multiple penalties.
Rebellion Racing scored its second LMP1 Privateer class win of the season, with the No. 12 Rebellion R-One Toyota of Nicolas Prost and Mathias Beche finishing a respectable 6th overall in a relatively trouble-free run.
G-Drive Racing scored a controversial class victory in LMP2, with Roman Rusinov, Sam Bird and Julien Canal provisionally taking over the lead of the championship.
It came following multiple incidents between the Russian squad’s two Ligier JS P2 Nissans and the KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan, which still remains under investigation.
Rusniov took the No. 26 Ligier Nissan to a 32.372-second victory over the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A450b Nissan, after late-race contact between Gustavo Yacaman’s No. 28 G-Drive entry and Richard Bradley in the KCMG Oreca-Nissan ended in a heavy crash for the Englishman.
The Hong Kong-backed squad, which entered the weekend as championship leaders, leave Japan with a heavily damaged car and zero points after no fewer than six incidents between the two G-Drive cars in the closing hour.
Yacaman and co-drivers Pipo Derani and Ricardo Gonzalez have provisionally finished third, ahead of the No. 30 Tequila Patron ESM Ligier JS P2 Honda, which equaled a season-best fourth place result.
AF Corse’s Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander took AF Corse and Ferrari to the class win in GTE-Pro, breaking a four-race winless streak following a battle with the pair of factory Porsche 911 RSRs.
A decision by Vilander, who drove a marathon three-hour opening stint, to switch from intermediates to slicks, however, proved to be the key, with Bruni taking the lead and eventual class win.
Bruni crossed the line one lap ahead of the No. 92 Porsche Team Manthey entry of Patrick Pilet, who enjoyed a hard-fought battle with the sister No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari of James Calado.
Calado and co-driver Davide Rigon settled for third in class, with class championship leader Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen coming home fourth.