Brendon Hartley and Toyota Gazoo Racing teammates Sebastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa have finished second overall in Sunday’s 6 Hours of Fuji, bettered only by their #7 sister car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez.
The Toyota one-two at their home venue also secures the World Endurance manufacturers’ title, but the drivers’ championship remains wide open ahead of November’s season-ending 8 Hours of Bahrain.
Having locked out the front row, both Toyotas were under immense pressure off the start, with Porsche’s lead car, the #6 of Laurens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre and Andre Lotterer getting a good launch and taking the lead through Turn 1. The #50 Ferrari, driven by Miguel Molina, also got away well, moving from seventh to second as several leaders ran wide.
Buemi would continue to fall down the order to sit sixth when a Safety Car was called for a GTE entry stranded at Turn 1.
Porsche continued to lead the way following the restart, the margin to the Toyotas, who had worked their way back into second and third, fluctuating.
All three cars would sit within a second of each other early in the fourth hour, with Toyota electing to switch the positions of the # 7 and #8, which saw Hirakawa pass Estre as the race entered its final third.
Hartley was given the reigns to bring the race home for the #8 but was forced to battle with the car, which resulted in Kobayashi overturning a five-second gap to take the lead and cruise to a 39-second victory.
Hartley brought second place home for the #8, 8.6 seconds ahead of the Porsche Penske entry.
The Ferraris finished fourth and fifth, a lap down on their title rivals, which saw the championship go the way of the Japanese manufacturer with a round to spare.
JOTA’s customer Porsche 963 finished sixth, overcoming a drive-through penalty for contact with the team’s LMP2 car. Following them were the two Peugeot 9X8s, which struggled for pace all weekend.
A seatbelt issue cost Proton significant time during the race, seeing them come home ninth, one spot ahead of the Cadillac Racing entry of Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook. A lost a wheel in the fourth hour, and a drive-through penalty for track limit violations proved their undoing.
The Vanwall entry finished 11th, while Porsche’s #5 963 rounded out the order following a lap one collision and several technical issues during the race.
The season-ending 8 Hours of Bahrain takes place on November 4, with Hartley, Hirokawa and Buemi holding the championship lead over Lopez, Kobayashi and Conway.