Toyota takes double victory, but not without a fight

Toyota Gazoo Racing won the 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps.

Like at the race at Silverstone, the victory was for car number 8 with Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima, and Sebastien Buemi behind the wheel. In second position we had their teammates Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi in car number 7. #7 was the first Toyota to lead, and was the fastest all week. But during a Full Course Yellow period they lost out on the pit strategy, where the #8 was luckier to be in the pits at the right moment.

Porsche #2 finished third after pushing the Toyotas throughout the race. They finished only 35 seconds behind the winning car, and was challenging them several times. It was, however, number 1 who led the race from Pole Position for the first nine laps, but after that it was a Toyota show. Toyota #9 had the low-downforce bodykit, and even though their fastest lap was quicker than the #8, they couldn’t keep their average laptimes up, and especially Yuji Kunimoto was more than two seconds slower than teammates Nicolas Lapierre and Stephane Sarrazin. So he really has to find some speed, if they want to be a challenger at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. They lost more than two laps to the winning car, and even though the Le Mans circuit is about twice the length of Spa Francorchamps, it would still be equivalent of four laps during the 24 hours – and that is without any kind of other problems for the car.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #8
Photo: JJ Media

ByKolles Racing Team #4 had a trouble free Saturday, and beat all the LMP2 cars for the first time this year, and had almost two laps advantage to the first LMP2 car. Their laptimes however are still 7,5 seconds slower than the fastest LMP1 cars – but just finishing the race without any problems, must feel like a victory for the small team.

The LMP2 field saw a close battle through all 6 hours. G-Drive Racing #26 started from Pole Position and finished the race in the same position. But during the race we saw Vaillante Rebellion #31 also in the lead. But they couldn’t keep Roman Rusinov, Pierre Thiriet, and Alex Lynn behind, with their racing winning orange ORECA 07 Gibson. The winners from Silverstone, Jackie Chan DC Racing #38, took third ahead of the other Vaillante Rebellion #13, which was troubled with gearbox actuator problems. It has been a repeated issue for all LMP2 teams throughout the world. The teams have been asking for a solution, since it’s the same issue that keeps happening over and over – in fact Tockwith Motorsports #34 had such a failure shortly into the race, which put them out of the fight immediately. They couldn’t match the other LMP2 cars on pace anyway, and not even the former Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok was near the laptimes of the competitors in the LMP2 category.

G-Drive Racing #26
Photo: JJ Media

The GTE Pro category saw dominance from AF Corse with their two Ferrari F488 GTE cars. #71 started from Pole Position and it was in fact only when the two Ferraris literally started driving each other off the road, that Ford could sneak into the lead for 11 laps. After that it was a Ferrari show again, with #71 driven by Sam Bird and Davide Rigon winning ahead of the #51. Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #66 finished half a minute behind the #51 in third, ahead of the other Ford #67. Porsche didn’t have the speed and finished two laps off the win, with #91 ahead of #92. It was much worse for Aston Martin Racing, with their fastest laps 1 and 1,8 seconds slower than the Ferrari’s. Marco Sørensen said to ahead of the race, that they knew it would be a difficult race, but was hoping that the warmer weather would bring them a little closer to the front. But it wasn’t close enough – to finish three laps behind the winners is a very disappointing result for the defending World Champions.

AF Corse #71
Photo: JJ Media

The lack of results from AMR in GTE Pro, was a very different story in the GTE Am ranks. #98 driven by Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda, and Pedro Lamy won with half a minute to the Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77, Clearwater Racing Ferrari #61 and Spirit of Race Ferrari #54. However, it was Matteo Cairoli in #77 who set the fastest lap of the race in the category. Gulf Racing UK #86 didn’t make the finish, when they had to retire about halfway through the race, after the rear-wheels of the cars locked up in the middle of the Bus Stop Chicane, and couldn’t move anymore.

Aston Martin Racing #98 & Clearwater Racing #61.
Photo: JJ Media

Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 leads the LMP1 Championship ahead of Porsche #2 and Porsche #1. Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 leads LMP2 ahead of G-Drive Racing #26 and Vaillante Rebellion #31.

GTE Pro is led by Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67, followed by AF Corse #51 and Porsche #91. In GTE Am we have AMR #98 leading ahead of Clearwater Racing #61 and Dempsey-Proton Racing #77.

Now all the teams will prepare for the Le Mans test day on June 4th.

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