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  • Writer's pictureRACERS

WEC: Front-running pace unrewarded for Lilou Wadoux at Fuji

Despite a first lap incident that dropped her teammate to last one lap down at the start of the WEC 6 Hours of Fuji, Lilou Wadoux and her teammates showed superb pace and charged back to ninth in class, in almost 6 hours of uninterrupted green flag racing that gave the team minimal chances to recover.

Lilou Wadoux, Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE, 6H of Fuji, 2023 FIA WEC
Photo credits: Ferrari Races

Lilou Wadoux had an unfortunate sixth round of the FIA WEC season at Fuji Speedway, where the Ferrari GT factory driver completed the 6 hour race in ninth place in the LMGTE class after a charging race from the back of the pack.

Wadoux, who shares the #83 Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE with Alessio Rovera and Luis Perez Companc, had to recover from a first lap incident by her bronze-rated teammate that put the car one lap down at the start - but strong pace throughout the remaining hours resulted in a solid recovery.

The team has collected two podium finishes so far - including a historic victory at Spa Francorchamps, where Wadoux became the first female driver to claim a win in the FIA World Endurance Championship - and has shown speed to battle for the front running positions at most tracks visited so far. Wadoux, Rovera and Perez Companc were looking to carry momentum in Japan, where they soon climbed the order and ran in the top three in practice.

Bronze-rated Perez Companc was behind the wheel for Saturday's qualifying session - this time contested in drying conditions after the rain on Friday. The Argentinian driver set a 1:39.173 lap that gained the Richard Mille AF Corse crew a very solid sixth place for the start of the race, eight tenths from pole position and one tenth from the #57 Kessel Racing car, the fastest of the Ferraris.

Perez Companc was also the selected driver to take the start in the 6 hour race on Sunday - but a hectic start across the classes resulted in the #83 Ferrari spinning under braking at turn 1, barely missing the Iron Dames Porsche, and ending beached in the gravel. The incident brought out the safety car and, although Perez Companc could rejoin the race, he was already one lap down.

Ahead, D'Station Racing opted to start the gold-rated driver Tomonobu Fuji, who immediately took the class lead preceding Ben Keating (Corvette Racing) and Sarah Bovy (Iron Dames). Perez Companc ran at the back of the pack and lapped throughout his stint, until he made way for Alessio Rovera at the first round of pit stops.

During his stint Rovera had a sterling recovery from last to tenth in GTE, having run as high as sixth during the pit cycle. Rovera eventually pitted on lap 67 and Lilou Wadoux started her first stint of the race. Once behind the wheel, Wadoux made up a position and was at one point almost a second per lap faster than anyone in class.

Up to eighth once the #33 Corvette served a stop and go penalty, Lilou had a 20 second gap to close to the #56 Project 1 Porsche. She would gain a further position by passing the #777 Aston Martin of Satoshi Hoshino, who dropped down the order after the opening stint by the gold-rated driver.

A superb run for Wadoux briefly brought the young French racer to the class lead on lap 104, before the #83 Richard Mille Ferrari pitted for the third time at the mid-race mark. She remained in the driving seat and eighth in class - having now reduced the gap to the #56 Porsche to less than 10 seconds.

Lilou Wadoux, Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE, 6H of Fuji, 2023 FIA WEC
Photo credits: Ferrari Races

In her second stint, Wadoux continued to often be the fastest driver in GTE and cycled back to P5 during pit stops. After her double stint, Wadoux handed back over to Luis Perez Companc - whose bronze driving time had not been completed at the start of the race.

Up against some gold and platinum rated drivers, Perez Companc lost a couple of positions and, with one hour to go, it would be Alessio Rovera to take over the #83 Ferrari, from tenth in GTE.

With 45 minutes to go, Alessio Rovera posted the fastest lap of the race: a 1:38.432 that highlighted the car's potential. In the final minutes, Rovera was running over a second per lap faster than anyone and significantly closed in on the #777 D'Station Aston Martin.

The race had its first Full Course Yellow with 17 minutes to go caused by debris; Rovera could make a move stick in the final 10 minutes and grabbed P9 after a spectacular stint.

After a tightly contested 6H of Fuji, Davide Rigon crossed the finish line as the leading GTE car in the #54 AF Corse Ferrari, preceding an impressive Kessel Racing Ferrari and the Corvette Racing, that fought back after a 30 second stop and go penalty. A post race penalty would then promote Corvette Racing to second.

Alessio Rovera, Lilou Wadoux and Luis Perez Companc were ninth at the chequered flag, having shown amazing speed and great pace despite the early accident that hampered their final result. The team's pace was arguably comparable to the 6H of Spa Francorchamps where the trio collected their victory, and a great team work allowed them to catch back the pack and fight for positions.

A fast and well balanced Ferrari at Fuji showed potential for at least another podium finish, but almost 6 hours of uninterrupted green flag racing meant that the #83 Richard Mille AF Corse crew had little opportunities to make up for the lost time at the beginning. All cars crossed the finish line, making the ninth place finish an even greater accomplishment from one lap down.

Wadoux ran almost two hours of the race, completing 71 laps and her pace was not far off her teammate's, who recorded the fastest lap of the race. With these positives in mind, the drivers of the #83 Ferrari will tackle the 8 Hours of Bahrain, final round of the 2023 World Endurance Championship's season on November 4th, aiming to finish on a high at Sakhir.

Wadoux currently sits seventh in the LMGTE points standings.



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