After a two-month summer break, the FIA WEC was back in action at Fuji for the penultimate round of the calendar.
The race marked the discipline’s return to Japan, three years after its last appearance on the calendar, and the first time the A480 took on the iconic Japanese circuit at the foot of Mount Fuji.
Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Matthieu Vaxiviere got to grips with their Hypercar’s setup in a productive test programme.
On Saturday, Matthieu Vaxiviere was charged with the task of qualifying.
Matthieu Vaxiviere: “We had a terrific race, solid and clean as usual. We lacked a bit of pace to fight with the leaders or go for the win, but the car was well-balanced with tyre degradation under control.
“I’m not completely satisfied with the weekend, as I like to win, but we still lead the championship going into Bahrain, where we have everything to gain.”
Despite a track that was not very favourable to his car due to a long 1.5 km straight, the Frenchman put in a superb lap to take third place on the grid, just two tenths shy of the pole.
On Sunday, André Negrão was behind the wheel for the start of the 6 Hours of Fuji.
After a good start, the Brazilian kept in touch with the leaders before confronting backmarker traffic.
The #36 was the first car in the premier category to pit and dropped to fourth place, but André Negrão maintained the pressure on his rival until Nicolas Lapierre took over.
Thanks to the perfect coordination of the mechanics and the drivers, the Alpine A480 made an undercut to get back on the provisional podium and quickly distanced the Peugeots.
André Negrão : “I had a good start and tried to stay in contact with the Toyotas, but it became difficult as soon as we got into traffic.
“It also allowed a Peugeot to overtake us, but we counter-attacked perfectly with an undercut. We had a good race, the mechanics and engineers were on top form, and it is now all to play for in Bahrain. It’s up to us to make the most of our opportunities.”
Nicolas Lapierre, who ran alone in third place in a linear race with no safety car periods, did his bit by putting in consistent and efficient laps while keeping his eyes open in the traffic on a circuit that is not particularly conducive to overtaking.
Nicolas Lapierre: “We had a clean and solid race with a fairly simple strategy as there was no on-track incidents. We had a good battle with the Peugeot.
“It was nice to fight with a car with a similar range and pace. We are a bit disappointed with the final result, but we are equal on points in the championship, so we will fight as long as there is hope.”
After consolidating the third position of the crew, Nicolas Lapierre handed over to Matthieu Vaxiviere for the last two hours of the race.
Matthieu Vaxiviere took no unnecessary risks to secure crucial points for the team and took the chequered flag in third place.
Thanks to this fourth podium result of the season, Alpine Elf Endurance Team trio will arrive in Bahrain tied at the top of the drivers’ classification.
In the manufacturers’ championship, Les Bleus trail the leaders by 26 points with 39 points still on offer at the 8 Hours of Bahrain on November 12.
FIA World Endurance Championship Hypercar
- Buemi – Hartley – Hirakawa – 121
- Lapierre – Negrão – Vaxiviere – 121
- Conway – Kobayashi – Lopez – 94
- Dumas – Pla – 70
- Derani – 47
- Toyota Gazoo Racing – 147
- Alpine Elf Endurance Team – 121
- Glickenhaus Racing – 70
- Peugeot TotalEnergies – 24