18th October 2018
Tom Blomqvist strung together one of his most impressive performances of the season at Fuji Speedway as the 24-year-old Brit lead the way as the fastest BMW driver in free practice, qualifying and the race to finish the Six Hours of Fuji in second place.
Heading to Japan, Tom looked to build on his two previous appearances in the BMW M8 GTE that saw Tom recorded the joint-highest finish of the M8’s WEC career at Spa-Francorchamps when he and Antonio Felix Da Costa finished the 6-hour race in 5th place in class.
Looking to impress behind the wheel once again, Tom led the BMW Team MTEK attack in his #82 BMW M8 GTE and set the fastest lap of any BMW driver in the opening practice session of the weekend on Friday morning - finishing the session 7th in class.
Just like all the circuits on the calendar this year, BMW were having to use the weekend’s practice sessions to gather crucial data for the car but a 40-minute red flag period in second practice meant the team missed out on vital running time despite a 10-minute extension of the session. Finishing the second session in 10th place, the team knew that there was still more pace to be found on the Fuji tarmac.
Saturday morning brought the final practice of the weekend and Tom was once again on the ball from the first runs of the day. Working hard with his engineers, Tom and the team were able to get the balance better with every session and they eventually finished the 45-minute session in 5th place, Tom, again, lead the way for BMW with the fastest time from their four-driver stable with his lap time of 1:37.176.
For qualifying, Tom was selected to be the first of the #82’s driver pairing to hit the track and the Thunderhead-sponsored driver delivered one of the best qualifying performances of the season. Posting a blistering 1:35.936 lap time on his run, Tom was one of only two drivers all qualifying to break the 1:36-barrier in the GTE class and handed the car over to António Félix da Costa with the team in the fight for pole position.
Eventually finishing the qualifying 2nd place in class, Tom and António secured BMW their best qualifying result of the WEC season as they ended the session less than two-tenths off pole position.
“I think the team has done a great job this weekend and we’ve improved session on session. I had a good car for qualifying to go second fastest and António did a great job with older tyres to maintain the position. We couldn’t ask for much better. It’s the best starting position for the WEC but it’s just half the job. The rest we do tomorrow in the race.”
António Félix Da Costa (BMW Team MTEK, No. 82 BMW M8 GTE): “I’m very happy for us to be on the front row for the first time in the World Endurance Championship. The team worked really well in practice to bring the balance of the BMW M8 GTE to where Tom and I like it. We’re doing well so far, but the hard work is in the race - we are hoping to get BMW’s first WEC podium.”
Unsure on how the race would go, having never raced around the Fuji circuit in the M8, the team nervously lined up from the front row in the GTE class. With wet conditions setting the scene for the opening phase of the race, Tom and the #82 BMW M8 GTE slipped back from their 2nd place qualifying position but were soon back in the fight for class victory. As the track dried, the BMW came alive, and an excellent call on strategy meant it was one of the first cars to dive into the pits for a set of slick tyres and they were soon the fastest car out on track.
After the halfway stage had passed, Tom was behind the wheel and was a man on a mission. Setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 136 in the GTE class, Tom was the fastest man all day by more than two-tenths and, alongside a perfect strategy from the team, the M8 looked stronger and stronger the longer the race progressed.
With Tom at the wheel, he guided the M8 GTE across the finishing line in 2nd place to gift himself and BMW their best result of the season and BMW’s silverware since returning to the World Endurance Championship.
Evidently happy with the result in Japan, Tom put the success down to how well the team developed through the weekend.
“I think we have to be happy with that. We thought we would be competitive here but you never know until you arrive. In practice, we struggled but we made good progress through every session and then qualified on the front row - which was a great feeling. Ultimately, the win was out of reach today but to be battling at the top end is always a positive sign so we have to be happy with P2.”
Tom and the team will be determined to be back fighting for race wins when the WEC heads to China for the final race in 2018 and the fifth of eight races this season, the 6 Hours of Shanghai on Sunday 18th November.