Victory at Fuji circuit will give NZ two more motor world champs.
If the cards fall the right way at Fuji, Japan, this weekend New Zealand will have two more world motor racing champions.
Kiwis Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber, along with German Timo Bernhard, have a healthy 51-point lead over nearest rivals Alex Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) title race.
If the leading trio can bring their Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 car home in first place they will have an unassailable points lead with two rounds to go at Shanghai and Bahrain. If they do pull it off, it will round out a remarkable year for the two Kiwis as they could be the reigning Le Mans 24 Hour and WEC champions.
However, Hartley is playing it one race at a time and not concentrating on the overall championship.
"If things go well there's a chance we can secure the drivers' championship," Hartley told the Weekend Herald.
"However, we're not going to take anything for granted and just try to do our best to win the race.
"I'm trying not to think about the championship and just concentrate on getting points on the board.
"The team has been in awesome form as have my teammates Earl and Timo. Everyone has been doing their job and if we deliver this weekend there will be a big celebration Sunday night.
"There's a long way to go before we should be talking about that."
Hartley arrives at the monster 4.5km Fuji International Speedway with it's imposing 1.5km straight in good form, having won the Le Petite Le Mans at Road Atlanta in the United States last weekend. He was racing for the Tequila Patron team in a Nissan DPi car along with Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel.
"It was good and we were quick all race. We lost a bit of ground later on but we were quick and won the race.
"I love racing in the US and it was so cool to get the Le Petit Le Mans after winning the big one [Le Mans 24 Hour] earlier this year. It's going to be a year for me not to forget and all the stories I'll be able to remember.
"It was an incredible experience and I was proud to be part of it. It's also good to be heading into the race with that win and the confidence it brings," said Hartley.
The long straight at Fuji will challenge the robustness of the power plants as they will be held wide open for a considerable amount of time, and lapping traffic in the winding parts of the circuit is high risk at the best of times.
Couple this with tight and twisting nature of the rest of the circuit makes getting the set-up to work both flat out and being flicked from side-to-side quite daunting for mechanics and engineers.
Depending on their aerodynamic configuration, Toyota's and or Porsche's Le Mans prototypes may crack the 300km/h barrier.
"We think Toyota are going to be very strong here and we're expecting they will be hard to beat. It's a great race and I have always loved racing in Japan and the crowds are great.
"There are no major changes to the car as far as I'm aware of, maybe just a few small things in the background," said Hartley.
"It's a unique circuit with a massively long straight that would suggest you'd have to be low drag.
"You still need high downforce in the middle sector and especially the last sector where there's off camber interconnecting corners where there are quite a few line choices especially in the rain. And it looks like it could rain. It's a complicated track to get right.
"We've got a few of the New Zealand support crew coming out to see me and Earl race this weekend which is also great," he said.
Hartley's teammate Bamber has mixed memories about the Fuji track.
In 2014, he won both the Carrera Cup Asia races. However, during the 2015 WEC race he was taken out by an Audi.
He also thinks the team will face a tough weekend with strong competition from Toyota and a lot depends on the balancing act between high and low downforce.
1. B Hartley/E Bamber/T Bernhard 159
2. A Davidson/K Nakajima/S Buemi 108
3. A Lotterer/N Jani/N Tandy 83
4. H Tung/O Jarvis/T Laurent 64.5
5. K Kobayashi 60.5
6. M Conway 60.5
7. B Senna/J Canal/N Prost 46
8. A Negrao/G Menzies/J M Lopez 42.5