The no.36 Signatech-Alpine will have a chance to secure the FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 title at the next round, held in Shanghai (6 November).
After devoting free practice to improving the balance of the Alpine A460s at the Fuji Speedway, Gustavo Menezes and Nicolas Lapierre qualified second in the no.36 Signatech-Alpine, missing out on pole position by just two tenths.
The competitors were greeted with fine weather on Sunday morning as the race began at 11am local time. The race began at a hectic pace, with a series of close fights throughout the field. In the no.35, Ho-Pin Tung suffered at the hands of an overzealous rival who sent him into a spin, thus spoiling his excellent start.
From that point onwards, the Baxi DC Racing Alpine's race was compromised. After a double stint, Ho-Pin handed over driving duties to Paul-Loup Chatin. On his return to the team, the Frenchman produced a solid performance, setting very good lap times and gaining five places!
Meanwhile, Nicolas Lapierre was battling hard with the leaders. Aiming to make one fewer pit stop, the team went for a different strategy in the early stages of the race as Stéphane Richelmi took over from Nicolas at the end of the first stint. This approach enabled the no.36 car to remain in contention for the win, briefly leading the race as rival cars pitted.
Then Gustavo Menezes got behind the wheel for his double stint. Like his team-mates, he defended his place in the field for all his worth and provided television viewers with some of the day's most spectacular on-track action! Hitting the brakes as late as possible at the end of the Fuji Speedway's long home straight, he was forced wide by the no.44 Manor and leapt back onto the track across a rumble strip!
Nicolas Lapierre remained in the top three until the chequered flag, ready to seize any opportunities provided by the no.26 G-Drive or the no.43 RGR. In the end, third place in the LMP2 category was an excellent result for the Signatech-Alpine crew, who only lost three points to their direct rivals in the championship.
Signatech-Alpine still leads the overall standings with 171 points, a healthy 35 points clear of second place. Baxi DC Racing Alpine is ninth with 24 points.
The next round of the FIA WEC will be held on 6 November in Shanghai.
Bernard Ollivier, Alpine Deputy Managing Director: " You have to start from scratch on each circuit. We adopted a defensive position, and our strategy ended up paying off as we managed to make one fewer pit stop. We are still ideally-placed in the championship standings and we hope to secure the titles at the next round in Shanghai."
Philippe Sinault, Signatech-Alpine Team Principal: " In the race, we knew that we had to opt for a different strategy in order to have a chance of finishing on the podium. By opting to make one fewer pit stop, the drivers had to constantly save fuel and look after the tyres.. Over the course of a season, sometimes you have to accept you've met your match and get as many points as you can. That's precisely what we have done here."
Nicolas Lapierre: "It's always a good sign when you're not entirely happy with third place! Our job was difficult, because we're slightly harder on the tyres than our rivals. It wasn't easy behind the wheel, but that's what we needed to do in order to score heavily today. We achieved our goal."
Stéphane Richelmi: "We can be fairly pleased, especially as G-Drive's win cost RGR important points for the championship! I had never raced here before, but it wasn't especially difficult because we had done a lot of work on the simulator."
Gustavo Menezes: "Third place – well, it could have been better, but it could also have a lot worse! The weekend was tough going, because we were slightly behind in terms of performance in free practice. With plenty of hard work, we managed to improve over the course of the sessions.”
LMP2 STANDINGS FOR THE 6 HOURS OF FUJI
1. G-Drive Racing no.26 223 laps
2. RGR Sport by Morand no.43 +1.398
3. Signatech-Alpine no.36 +27.623
4. Extreme Speed Motorsports no.30 +51.316
5. Extreme Speed Motorsports no.31 + 1 lap
6. Strakka Racing no.42 +1 lap
7. Manor no.44 +1 lap
8. SMP Racing no.27 +1 lap
9. Baxi DC Racing Alpine no.35 +2 laps
10. SMP Racing no. 37 +3 laps
11. Manor no.45 +33 laps