Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway have won the FIA World Endurance Championship’s 6 Hours of Spa in the #7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid, completing a second 1-2 this season for Toyota, with the sister #8 Toyota finishing 16 seconds back.
The #8 Toyota crew of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa started almost last after Hartley crashed in qualifying, but they worked their way through to take second.
The race started in the wet, with the two Ferrari 499Ps, starting on wet tyres, taking the lead from Conway. However, it wasn’t to last, with a safety car negating the advantage the wets had on a dry track, and after the safety car period, Conway soon took the lead back as his Toyota was slick-shod.
The #7 Toyota led almost every lap after that, in a dominant display for the Japanese-German team. The Ferraris slipped back after overheating their wet tyres on a virtually dry track, and pitted for slicks. However, the 499P struggled in the cool conditions to warm the tyres up, and the cars dropped a lap as a result.
The #3 Cadillac sat third for the first two hours, but with just over four hours to go, Renger van der Zande had a huge crash at Eau Rouge, with the car bottoming out and leaving the Dutchman as a passenger as he and his car careered towards the barriers on drivers’ left. Luckily, he walked away unharmed.
Later, the #6 Porsche 963 stopped on track, the car suffering from a hybrid issue, with Laurens Vanthoor climbing out of the car, confirming its retirement from the race.
This left the two Ferraris, the #2 Cadillac and the #5 Porsche to contest third, after Buemi had made his way into second behind the sister car.
However, these four cars would soon be reduced to three. With just under two hours to go, Antonio Fuoco in the #50 Ferrari 499P, who had just replaced teammate Miguel Molina in the car, exited the pits on cold tyres. However, as he squeezed the throttle on the run down to Eau Rouge, he got a huge amount of wheelspin, pitching the car into the barriers on drivers’ left and rendering it an instant retirement.
Minutes before, the other three podium challengers from Ferrari, Porsche and Cadillac had got back onto the lead lap, as they’d been catching the Toyotas, and were helped further by pitstop shuffles. The resulting safety car meant they gained the rest of the lap behind the Toyotas, bunching the field up.
However, both the remaining Ferrari, with Alessandro Pier Guidi at the wheel of the #51, and Alex Lynn in the #2 Cadillac, were just about to pit when the safety car came out and the pit lane entry closed. This meant, as both cars required fuel, they needed to stop for emergency service. They’d then have to pit again for full service when the safety car came in, dropping them back a further minute and a half behind Toyota.
With that essentially deciding the first two podium positions, the race was on for the final spot on the podium. Calado, who’d replaced Pier Guidi in the Ferrari, had to now push to catch Fred Makowiecki in the #5 Porsche,, meaning Calado had to push hard to close a gap of 30 seconds to the Frenchman
And push he did. He caught Makowiecki on the final lap, passing him for third going into Les Combes for the final time, taking the final podium spot.
With Makowiecki fourth in the #5 Porsche alongside his teammates Dane Cameron and Michael Christensen, Richard Westbrook brought the #2 Cadillac home fifth.
The #38 JOTA Porsche 963 finished a fantastic sixth with Will Stevens, Antonio Felix da Costa and Yifei Ye, the car’s first ever race.
Louis Deletraz, Rui Andrade, and Robert Kubica took the spoils in LMP2 for WRT, after a race-long battle with the #23 United Autosports crew of Tom Blomqvist, Oliver Jarvis and Josh Pierson.
Blomqvist pulled out a huge lead in the first two hours, but had this wiped out during the safety car period for van der Zande’s crash. They also lost time to the victorious #41 WRT Oreca 07-Gibson squad, as they pitted just before the pit lane closed, meaning they got a free pit stop.
From then on the two cars battled for the lead, with interjections from the #31 WRT, #34 Inter Europol and #63 Prema. However, the latter of these would get a huge penalty, a three minutes stop go, late in the race for not respecting safety car procedures, taking them out of the fight.
After the final safety car period to recover Fuoco’s stricken Ferrari, the two leading cars had to pit for a final fuel stop, bringing them towards the #9 Prema of Andrea Caldarelli, who was in third at the time.
However, both Deletraz and Blomqvist had pished enough to ensure they came out in the lead, with the Swiss driver in the WRT emerging ahead of the Brit in the United Autosports Oreca 07-Gibson. This was the way it stayed until they crossed the line, with Deletraz six seconds ahead of Blomqvist.
In third was Albert Costa in the #34 Inter Europol Oreca 07-Gibson, the Spanish driver having passed Caldarelli with mere minutes left in the race.
And finally, in GTE-Am, history was made as Lilou Wadoux became the first woman to win a WEC race. She, along with her teammates Alessio Rovera and Luis Perez Companc, took victory in the #83 Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, 18 seconds ahead of the second-placed #33 Corvette C8.R of Nicky Catsburg, Ben Keating, and Nico Varrone.
Having started fifth, the Ferrari trio worked their way up through the order, third by the end of the first hour and leading by the end of the third. They then retained the lead, leading at the end of every hour for the rest of the race, preserving and keeping the lead at the safety car restarts and staying out of trouble.
The Corvette, meanwhile, started on wets and took the lead early on as Keating used his wet tyres to his advantage. As the track dried, though, the American dropped back down the order, but Varrone, Keating and Catsburg were able to work their way back up to second to take a third podium in three races — although it wasn’t their third win on the trot.
With the Corvette second, the polesitting #25 ORT by TF Aston Martin Vantage AMR was third, with Charlie Eastwood just 0.297 behind Catsburg at the line.
The Irishman had tried every whichway to get past, but he couldn’t find a way through, having to settle for third.
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