Porsche, Dempsey lead winners in wet, wild FIA WEC 6 Hours of Fuji

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Porsche Team has claimed its fourth straight win in the FIA World Endurance Championship, and third straight for the trio of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley in the No. 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid in Sunday’s rain-affected 6 Hours of Fuji.

The No. 17 car took the lead from the erstwhile dominant No. 18 car, driven by Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb, in the final half hour following a team decision.

It had been an entertaining bout throughout the LMP1 field for the majority of the race, with the Audi R18 e-tron quattros showing well early in wetter conditions before the track came back over the second half of the race and the Porsches regained the momentum.

Other class winners though took the spotlight after some fascinating drives.

In GTE-Am, Patrick Dempsey finally got on the board with his first career international sports car victory, following a dynamic drive from he, Marco Seefried and Patrick Long in the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911.

Dempsey started and turned the car over to Seefried, with the German moving ahead following a stellar middle stint in changing conditions. Long, then Dempsey again, brought it home to the finish to end SMP Racing’s run of wins in the class.

LMP2 saw G-Drive Racing’s trio of Sam Bird, Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal win in the No. 26 Ligier JS P2 Nissan, although subject to a bit of controversy following several instances of contact between the No. 26 car and the sister No. 28 car, with KCMG’s Oreca 05 Nissan driven by Matt Howson, Richard Bradley and Nick Tandy.

Contact occurred between Gustavo Yacaman’s No. 28 car and Bradley’s No. 47 Oreca in the final 10 minutes, with the stewards analyzing the data to determine any potential post-race penalties.

GTE-Pro saw a less eventful race and wins from Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander, sharing the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia.

The WEC resumes in Shanghai in three weeks time.

Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list; Musquin remains out

Shimoda injured
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Bad news continues to come out of the Monster Energy / Pro Circuit Kawasaki team as they announced Jo Shimoda injured his shoulder in a practice session and will not mount up when the Monster Energy Supercross 250 East division opens in Houston, Texas on February 4. A timetable has not been given for Shimoda’s return, but a press release from the team references multiple weeks.

“I’m doing my best to focus forward on my return to racing,” said Shimoda in the release. “Our goal was to compete for the 250 Supercross Eastern Regional Championship and I know we had been doing the right work to make that happen. Unfortunately, this crash will cause me to miss the start of the season, but I still aim to be back on the track racing for wins before the end of Supercross.”

Shimoda is joined on the sidelines by teammates Seth Hammaker and Austin Forkner, who also suffered injuries in recent weeks.

The news of Hammaker’s sidelining came just two days ago. His wrist injury is sufficient to require surgery, so he too will miss multiple weeks. Hammaker was scheduled to compete in the 250 East division alongside Shimoda.

Forkner was involved in a Lap 1 crash in the 250 West season opener at Anaheim. Multiple injuries, including an ACL tear, will sideline him for the remainder of the season. He described the injury and its aftermath on Instagram.

Forkner will be relieved by Carson Mumford, but not before that rider’s wrist has healed sufficiently. He is scheduled to debut with Kawasaki in Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 Supercross race on February 18.

Shimoda finished fourth in the 2022 Supercross 250 West division and was second in 2021 points in 250 East. In 2021, Shimoda won his first Supercross race at Salt Lake City. Last year, he scored one podium and six top-fives in nine starts.

Shimoda finished second in last year’s outdoor Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season, where he added two more SuperMotocross wins including the Unadilla Nationals that kicked off a four-race streak of first- or second-place results.

Kawasaki is not the only team facing injury. Red Bull KTM initially reported Marvin Musquin would be out for the San Diego round with a wrist injury and “maybe more”. This week it was announced he will miss this week’s Triple Crown race in Anaheim and “at least the next several rounds.”