10. October 2012
After the fifth victory of the season in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Audi is traveling to Japan with eager anticipation. At the seventh of the season’s eight rounds on October 14, the factory team will be celebrating its racing debut in the Asian island state. The challenging Fuji circuit southwest of Tokyo is the venue for the next battle of the Audi factory drivers who are in contention for the drivers’ championship.
The Le Mans winners Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer enlarged their advantage over Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish by 6 to 13.5 points in the Bahrain heat race. With that, a title decision would be possible as early as in Japan but, with 52 points yet to be awarded, does not seem likely before the season’s finale at Shanghai.
After coping with air temperatures of more than 35 degrees in the Sakhir desert, the five drivers, in the middle of October, will be in for more or less changeable weather conditions at the venue that is within a viewing distance of Mount Fuji. Rain and clearly lower temperature are often on the agenda in the region at this time of year. With its unusually banked turns and rather untypical radii, the 4.563-kilometer track poses a special challenge. André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer are the drivers who are most familiar with the Fuji circuit. The German relocated his career to Japan in 2003 and the Frenchman has spent as many as twelve years of his life as a racer in the Far East. Tom Kristensen spent several seasons driving in the Land of the Rising Sun in the nineties and Allan McNish has a large number of test and race kilometers there under his belt as well. Only Marcel Fässler has never been to Japan.
Both squads are again relying on the Audi R18 e-tron quattro. The heat in Bahrain was deemed to be the ultimate thermal test for Audi’s first hybrid sports car. The third victory of the season clinched by the innovative prototype a week ago clearly underscores the fortes of its engineering design.
To the delight of many sports car fans, Toyota has evolved into a particularly strong opponent in the World Endurance Championship since June and is competing on its home track at Fuji. Audi, on the other hand, has never competed in Japan with a factory-level commitment. The brand with the four rings enjoys growing support by Japanese racing fans nonetheless. They accompanied a race of the Goh privateer team at Suzuka in the 2002 season with the legendary Audi R8 LMP sports prototype and have been turning out for customer-level commitments with the Audi R8 LMS GT3 sports car since the past season.