Toyota scores 1-2 sweep in WEC Six Hours of Spa

Toyota Gazoo Racing has claimed victory in Saturday’s WEC Six Hours of Spa, in a 1-2 sweep for the Japanese manufacturer after a late challenge from Porsche unraveled.

Sebastien Buemi took the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid to a narrow 1.992-second win over the sister entry of Kamui Kobayashi, who made a late charge after leading the middle stages of the race but lost out due to two ill-timed Full Course Yellows.

The No. 7 Toyota of Kazuki Nakajima took over the top spot in the fourth hour, after pitting one lap after the then-leading sister entry of Kamui Kobayashi.

A 20-second lead nearly evaporated by an impressive charge by Mike Conway, only for a second FCY to be called with 1 hour and 53 minutes to go for an accident by the No. 28 TDS Racing Oreca 07 Gibson of Francois Perrodo.

In a near carbon-copy move, Nakajima emerged with a 40-plus second advantage over the Brit, who later lost second to the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Brendon Hartley, who also capitalized on the yellow.

Hartley’s charge, however, was derailed with just over 1 hour to go when the Kiwi made contact with the No. 36 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 Gibson of Romain Dumas at the Bus Stop, spinning the LMP2 car and damaging his Porsche’s nose.

A stop moments later to replace the nose dropped Hartley back to third, where he and co-drivers Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber have provisionally finished third, battling back from a slow puncture early in the race.

The unscheduled stop in the second hour put the No. 2 Porsche off-sequence on stops, and was the last car to make its final stop of the race, while in the overall lead, with 12 minutes remaining.

Hartley, along with Dumas, have been summoned to the race director for a potential post-race ruling from the contact.

Up front, it marked Buemi, Nakajima and Anthony Davidson’s second consecutive win after taking top honors in last month’s season-opener at Silverstone and was Toyota’s first 1-2 finish since Shanghai 2014.

It puts the trio in a comfortable points lead heading into the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Runner-up finishers Conway and Kobayashi completed the race as a pairing, due to Jose Maria Lopez’s back injury that ruled him out of the cockpit this weekend.

The pole-sitting No. 1 Porsche of Andre Lotterer, Nick Tandy and Neel Jani came home fourth, after struggling on tires early and never factoring into the battle for the win.

Toyota’s third, low-downforce entry, driven by Stephane Sarrazin, Nico Lapierre and Super Formula champion Yuji Kunimoto completed the top-five after the LMP1 debutant struggled for pace during his stint.

ByKolles Racing matched its best-ever overall finish, with a sixth place result for James Rossiter, Oliver Webb and Dominik Kraihamer in the No. 4 ENSO CLM P1/01 NISMO, following a trouble-free run for the German squad.

Rossiter finished one lap ahead of the LMP2 class-winning No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca of Alex Lynn, who took top class honors in a dominant effort.

The TDS-run G-Drive squad benefitted from a penalty for the No. 31 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca and a subsequent telemetry system issue for the Anglo-Swiss team that set it back close to one minute.

Bruno Senna, who rejoined in fifth with 90 minutes to go, charged back for a second place finish in class, ahead of the Silverstone class-winning No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca of Ho-Pin Tung, who completed the podium in third.

Lynn, who scored his first career WEC class victory, shared the G-Drive entry with Pierre Thiriet and Roman Rusinov, with the Russian having had an impressive opening stint, holding off Romain Dumas for the class lead.

Dumas’ No. 36 Signatech Alpine came home fifth in class, despite losing traction control in the opening hour, behind the No. 13 Rebellion entry, which was fourth at the line.

AF Corse has dominated the GTE-Pro class, with the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE of Sam Bird and Davide Rigon taking victory ahead of the No. 51 entry.

Both Chip Ganassi Racing Fords were initially able to mix it up with the Ferraris, as the starting positions remained unchanged for most of the first hour in a hard-fought battle.

However, it didn’t take long for both of the Italian entries to run 1-2, with the No. 51 and No. 71 of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi swapping the lead.

Both cars spent more than two-thirds of the race driving in close formation, following team orders in an effort to optimize the pitstops and the end result.

A fuel-only final pitstop gave Bird a break over Calado, who eventually dropped the pace and coasted to P2, 47 seconds down, after taking two front tires in his final stop.

It marked Ferrari’s first class win of the season after a dominant effort by Ford in last month’s season-opener at Silverstone.

The No. 66 Ford GT of Stefan Muecke, Olivier Pla and Billy Johson tried to keep up with the pace of the Ferraris but eventually had to let the Prancing Horses run of into the distance at halfway.

The move of the race came 90 minutes into the race when the leading No. 66 Ford of Pla fell back into the claws of the Ferraris, which were on fresher tires at the time.

Pier Guidi and Bird passed the Ford in the space of two corners, but then had a minor collision with each other in the aftermath of the maneuver, giving Pla the opportunity to temporarily regain second position.

The Silverstone class-winning No. 67 Ford GT was the author of the comeback of the race, after initially losing more than one and a half minute with a fuel-priming problem, forcing Harry Tincknell to park and reset the car at Raidillon.

Pipo Derani and Andy Priaulx managed the bring the No. 67 Ford back up to fourth, steadily overtaking the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE and both Porsche 911 RSRs in the remainder of the race.

While the Ford was still able to challenge Ferrari for the lead at the beginning of the race, the Porsche 911 RSR and Aston Martin were never in contention for the podium positions.

The No. 91 and No. 92 had an uneventful run and settled for fifth and sixth respectively, while both Aston Martins finished two laps down at the bottom of the standings.

AMR still managed to dominate the GTE-Am class with the No. 98 Vantage of Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda en Paul Dalla Lana, who were never threatened and only held up by a 10-second penalty for a grid infringement.

The No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR of Christian Ried, Matteo Cairoli and Marvin Dienst came home second, with Cairoli closing down the gap to just 31 seconds at the line.

Silverstone winners Matt Griffin, Keita Sawa and Weng Sun Mok completed the class podium in third in the Clearwater Racing Ferrari.