There could hardly be a more dramatic or perfect setting for the next round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship as the season enters its crucial final three events.
Fuji Speedway typically delivers sensational racing and acts as a spectacular stage for the diverse WEC performers to create another memorable endurance drama.
All eyes will be on the title battle which could see drivers from any of the three LMP1 manufacturers lift the winner’s trophies. However, the favourites have to be the No.2 Porsche Team crew of Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb who have gathered points consistently this season to enjoy a 37.5-point advantage with a maximum of 78 to play for.
In all reality, their rivals for the 2016 silverware look likely to need one non-finish from this trio to get a chance of overtaking them before the end of the season in Bahrain.
The reigning champions – Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard in the No.1 Porsche 919 Hybrid – will be going for a fourth consecutive victory. If they do so it would mirror last season’s achievement when they embarked on a run of four wins to solidify their title quest.
If the title battle will be in sharp focus at Fuji, the fortunes of the Toyota Gazoo Racing squad will be keenly followed as they race on home soil and in front of their adoring fans.
The two new Toyota TS 050 HYBRID contenders have had varying luck in the previous six rounds so far this year, with the No.5 car in particular suffering the most misfortune, principally at Le Mans, Mexico City and last time out in Texas.
With two home-grown heroes in the shape of Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima the committed and passionate Japanese fans will have plenty to cheer for at their home event.
Audi will be striving to be in a position to take a second win of the 2016 season with its pair of Audi R18 LMP1 cars. The No.8 crew of Lucas Di Grassi, Loïc Duval and Oliver Jarvis were left bitterly disappointed after looking on course to win at COTA earlier this month. At Fuji they will be more determined than ever.
The No.7 crew of André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer will be contenders as always with Lotterer and Tréluyer in particular calling upon their forensic knowledge of Fuji after competing there so many times in Formula Nippon and Super Formula.