Domination in the rain!
After the 488 GTE proved its strength in America the car was put to the test again in Japan. This time not in extremely hot conditions but in extremely wet conditions. It would be a race with red flags and safety cars but in the end it would be another great weekend for Ferrari.
In GTE-Pro class, the race was difficult and complex from the start, which took place behind the safety car after an hour of heavy rain. When the green flag was waved Alessandro Pier Guidi did superbly to jump from seventh to fifth and then rapidly to fourth, passing Christensen in the Porsche. The first suspension came after an hour and a half, preceded by three laps of the Safety Car. At that point the two Ferraris had just refuelled and the strategy was clearly spot on. Indeed, at the restart, all three leading cars had to make a pit stop and ended up behind in the standings. The Ford #67 even incurred a penalty at the pit exit, which cost a stop & go that relegated it to last position. With Pier Guidi behind the wheel, the Ferrari remained in the lead ahead of Davide Rigon in its sister car. A second Safety Car caused a problem for both 488s. In fact, the cars were about to return to the pits when rain and poor visibility brought the Safety Car back out to lead the group. The two Ferraris had to make an emergency stop, which allowed them to only refuel for five seconds. When the safety car returned the two GTE 488s had to pull in again for the real pitstop. #51 went for a full service pitstop and driver change, with James Calado taking over with the race nearly at the halfway point. On the #71 car Davide Rigon remained behind the wheel stopping only for fuel. At the restart Porsche was first and second with the #51 and #71 close behind them. Shortly after Calado passed the leading Porsche of Makowiecki in a controlled slide. With the fourth hour starting Ferrari and AF Corse decided to pit the #71 for fresh tyres. It was a perfect strategy but the weather changed it. The #71 was catching up quickly and passed both Aston Martin’s shortly after the pit stop. The car then went on to the Ford but another red flag meant that the race would not be resumed and Ferrari finished first with the #51 and fifth with the #71.
Ferrari also totally dominated the GTE-Am class. The #61 took pole on Saturday after a perfect lap. Local hero Keita Sawa initially held the lead on a rain drenched circuit. His knowledge of the track helped him up to sixth place overall in the GT class at the wheel of the 488 GTE of Clearwater Racing. Francesco Castellacci made rapid progress behind car #61 to move into second place. The middle part of the race saw a wonderful head-to-head between Weng Sun Mok and Thomas Flohr, but the last stint really made the difference with an extremely aggressive Miguel Molina powering car #54 up into first. This was the first win for Molina, Flohr and Castellacci in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The #61 came home in second place.
With this result in the 6 Hours of Fuji Ferrari has further extended its lead in the Constructors’ championship to 238 points, 47 ahead of Porsche on 191. Calado and Pier Guidi move into top spot in the Drivers’ standings with 120 points, ahead of Makowiecki and Lietz on 115. Davide Rigon is third (105.5). Next round is at the start of November: the 6 Hours of Shanghai.