Strakka Racing is heading to the Fuji Speedway for the first time since the 2012 season, Jay Davenport – the team’s technical director – previews the event
Constructed in the early 1960s, Fuji Speedway is a mecca of Japanese motorsport made famous by its mile-long pit straight featuring the backdrop of Mount Fuji. Now in its fifth configuration, the Toyota-owned circuit was a mainstay on the World Sportscar Championship’s calendar in the 80s and has been a key round of the World Endurance Championship since its inception in 2012, attracting the largest crowds outside of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
What’s the team’s overall feelings prior to leaving for Japan?
It’s been a few years since Strakka has been at Fuji Speedway, last time the team raced there was in the FIA WEC’s inaugural season back in 2012, so we’re all looking forward to returning. Danny (Watts) in particular has a smile on his face, he loves driving there and almost snatched pole in the LMP1 privateer class last time.
What are the key characteristics of the Fuji Speedway that you have to prepare for?
The famous pit-straight comes to mind, but it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that’s the most crucial part of the circuit. There’s so much to be gained in the final sector, which is very technical and the long right-hander at Turn 4 wears the left-side tyres so much that we tend to run an asymmetrical camber. It’s a smooth track so we can make the most of that through optimizing the ride height and making the most of the kerbs!
So what do you expect from the Dunlop rubber this time round, having had them for a few events now?
We feel we have a deeper understanding of them now, especially after CoTA. We’ll be running the Dunlop Medium and Medium Plus compounds throughout the weekend. The Gibson is pretty light on its tyres so we’re hoping to gain an advantage from that. Cooler temperatures in region surrounding Mount Fuji should fare better for the Gibson. Nick Leventis, Jonny Kane and Danny Watts all have experience driving at the Speedway during the WEC’s inaugural season too, something we were missing from CoTA.
What’s the strategy for the weekend and the race?
Well Fuji is pretty unpredictable when it comes to weather, so we have to keep that in mind. The long-range forecast suggests we may see showers, but it can change in an instant, just look at the event two years ago when the WEC made the trip: sunny one day, torrential rain and mist the next! One thing we do know is that Jonny (Kane) will be in the car for Qualifying this time round. He really likes the track. He’ll get extended running throughout Practice to ensure he’s at his best for the Qualifying session.
How about the competition, who do you think will be the biggest challenge to beat this time round?
The Ligiers are really strong and will continue to be, but we all think the Oreca 05 is still the car to beat. The 05 is such an efficient car and should be good down the pit-straight too. If the rain does come down though, all bets are off!
The fans at Fuji tend to be a talking point, as they’re so passionate and there are so many of them. Does that provide any extra motivation?
Definitely, it’s the biggest crowd of the year outside of Le Mans, and that makes a huge difference. It feels like a big event from what I’ve seen and that will get us all working that little bit harder to impress our fans. The drivers always say you can feed off 50,000+ people in the grandstands. I can’t wait to see the Strakka fans at the autograph sessions, we have no doubt there will be some after our history racing with Honda and DOME.
The on-track action for the WEC teams runs from the 9th-11th of October, with the race starting at 11am local time.