Stefan Mücke
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Taking a chance with strategy at the foot of Mount Fuji: Stefan Mücke narrowly misses Podium

? Ford Chip Ganassi driver Stefan Mücke books P4 in seventh race of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Fuji ? Tricky conditions: Race stoppage prevents possible victory in LMGTE PRO class ? Stefan: "I'm pretty certain we could have contended for the win"

After their trip across the Atlantic to America, the FIA World Endurance Championship teams and drivers were in Japan this weekend to contest the last Asia 'triple' at the Fuji International Speedway. Stefan Mücke and his Ford Chip Ganassi team travelled to the track at the foot of Mount Fuji with the aim of building on the success they've enjoyed this season. 51,000 fans came through the gates at the Speedway during the weekend to watch the 6-Hours of Fuji which was chaotic at times.
Rain dominated proceedings at the 4.563-km circuit. Not a single session took place in the dry, making things tricky for everyone in the field, but Mücke and his team-mate Olivier Pla did really well in qualifying and secured P3 on the grid.
The six-hour race was characterized by several safety car periods and by the yellow and red flags coming out. Mücke experienced a roller-coaster of emotions during his stint which lasted almost three-and-a-half-hours. At times, he found himself in last position, in the middle of the field and even in P1 in the high-calibre LMGTE PRO class. The Ford Chip Ganassi strategists were kept on their toes, dealing with the very variable weather and the ever-changing conditions out on track and planned on having a full tank of fuel for the final stint of the race.
Hopes of victory for the Ford GT with start number #66 evaporated, though, when the race was red-flagged, because the team could no longer benefit from their strategic advantage. They were in fourth place before the stoppage, and only six seconds separated Mücke and Pla from the winners in their class.
Mücke and his team will be in China around three weeks from now when the two drivers intend to build on their strong performance in Japan during the 6-Hours of Shanghai (4th - 5th November).
Four questions for Stefan Mücke
The podium was well within reach this time, Stefan. How did your stint go?
It was a very chaotic race. Track conditions were extremely difficult. We had a lot of safety car periods, and the race was stopped and finally finished for good because of the fog. My stint was a real roller-coaster of emotions. At times, we found ourselves all over the place, up front, at the back and even in the middle. Ultimately, strategy played a key role. If, for example, we'd had any idea that the race might be stopped, we wouldn't have pitted during a safety car period to refuel, but had it continued, we would have been at a massive disadvantage compared to the competition, because under normal race conditions, you lose much more ground on your opponents when you pit.
You had an excellent chance of contending for the win after the driver handover...
We had enough fuel left to finish the race with just one more pit stop after Olivier took over the car, whereas all the other cars around us had much less petrol on board and probably would have had to come in two more times. Unfortunately, our strategy didn't work out, because the fog came in pretty thick again, and the race had to be stopped for good in the end. That was obviously a big pity, because we had a strong hand as far as strategy goes. Besides, our pace was really competitive over quite long stretches.
Your race was not without other problems. What happened exactly?
The windscreen wipers packed up on Lap 8, which put us at a major disadvantage. My stint lasted three-and-a-half hours, and visibility was severely impaired from time to time as a result of the issue with the wipers. Things were generally OK to start with after the stops, because we put Rain-X on the screen to make the rain run off, but it didn't last long. Apart from the water affecting visibility, there was also oil and dirt from the guys in front and from the lapping prototypes. I'm pretty certain that we could have contended for the win had that not happened.
You will get another chance to mount an assault on the podium in three weeks' time in Shanghai, or might even more be possible?
We did well in Shanghai last year. We obviously hope that the weather in China will be kinder and that conditions won't be as chaotic as in Japan, because we'll then be able to show our full potential. I'm fairly certain that we can contend for a podium if not a win in our Ford GT with the track layout there, which has an exciting mix of fast and slow turns and long straights. The first corner is a bit peculiar but really adds to the circuit's unique character. I'm quite looking forward to the next race weekend.

Copy: Ford Chip Ganassi Racing