Britain's Harry Tincknell scored his stunning maiden victory for the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team in the 6 Hours of Fuji today (16 Oct) Ford's second FIA World Endurance Championship GTE Pro class victory. Tincknell, sharing the factory Ford GT with co-driver Andy Priaulx, finished 15.506secs ahead of the second-placed sister Ford in the Japanese race.
It marked Harry's first GTE Pro class victory in only his seventh race in the Ford GT having placed fourth (Silverstone), second (Spa) ninth (Le Mans) seventh (Nürburgring), fifth (Mexico) plus sixth (Austin) and represented his third WEC class triumph after previous LMP2 sports-prototype wins at Le Mans (2014) and Spa (2015) in his 10 race WEC career.
Tincknell, who was racing in Japan and at Fuji for the first time in his career, combined with Priaulx to claim a GTE class front row start position their best qualifying position of the season but Harry jumped the sister pole-starting Ford at the start. Tincknell led throughout his near one-hour stint, opening up a two-seconds lead, before Priaulx took over. Harry was back behind the wheel again with just over two hours on the clock and led by one second at mid-distance moments before contact with another car obliged the Briton to pit slightly earlier than planned to check on any damage and swap to Priaulx who led by two seconds after the pit-stops.
Harry, back in the Ford GT and with 90mins remaining, had extended the lead to almost nine secs before the second-placed Ford spun pushing the gap out to almost 17secs with an hour to run Priaulx taking the final stint to the chequered flag.
Before the penultimate round of the WEC in Shanghai on 6 November, Tincknell will bid to win the European Le Mans Series title next weekend (22-23 Oct). Harry heads to Portugal and the 4 Hours of Estoril trailing the series leaders by 13-points but with 26pts on offer and with three teams mathematically capable of winning the Driver's title. He will contest the race with Simon Dolan and Giedo van der Garde in the JOTA Sport operated G-Drive Racing Gibson 015S-Nissan. Harry, who first raced at Estoril in 2008 (Portuguese Formula Renault Winter Series), has finished third (2014) and fourth (2015) in the corresponding ELMS races over the past two years.
Harry says: "My first victory for Ford is a very special moment in my career. I drove my heart out every time I was in the car I treated every single lap in the race as if it was in qualifying. It's without doubt the hardest victory of my career there was just no let up during the entire six hours for Andy and I. The start was a little jumbled up caused by the LMP2 cars jostling for positions but my side of the grid was pretty clear which I took advantage of while also playing it a little safe. I settled down in front, got my head down and pulled a small gap. We had just the one hairy moment when a Porsche and I contacted each other but it was a racing incident, it was a light touch causing no damage. To have been so close but to miss out on my first GTE pole for Ford was a little frustrating but that's forgotten 24 hours later! The team was magnificent, perfect strategy and awesome pit-stops throughout. The Fuji track ideally suited the Ford GT with a good long straight and many high-speed corners."
"Hopefully I can now take this winning form to Portugal next weekend. Essentially we just need to continue to do all the small things well and get the best race result possible. We have to win and TDS have to be no higher than fifth so I'm not really thinking about the championship. I like the Estoril track as it's proper old school, bumpy with plenty of character and features a large variety of corners. There's a bit of everything and you need to be fully committed in the high speed sections while being agile and accurate in the tight technical ones. The final chicane is one of the slowest corners in motorsport while the last corner is right on the edge of being flat out so there's some big contrasts."