Fernando Alonso and Toyota win season-opening 6 Hours of Spa
Toyota Gazoo Racing stormed to victory at FIA World Endurance Championship's season-opening 6 Hours of Spa, with rookie Fernando Alonso claiming victory in his first race for the team.
In qualifying, the #7 Toyota claimed pole, however, was excluded from the final result following an “incorrect declaration of fuel flow metre,” handing pole position to the sister #8 car, shared by Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.
Starting from pole, the #8 car gained an early lead with Buemi starting the race while this was aided with the #7 machine starting from the pit lane, one lap down on the rest of the field.
For the first half of the race, Rebellion Racing seemed to be Toyota's nearest challenger, but with superior hybrid power, the #8 Toyota recovered from its difficult start to move into slice through the field to move into second position in the third hour.
While the two Toyota machines lapped in first and second place, separated by one minute, the field was closed up following an accident for SMP Racing's Matevos Isaakyan, with the Russian crashing the #17 machine in Eau Rouge.
With Fernando Alonso now behind the wheel of the #7 and Mike Conway in the #8, the WEC was set to a see a thrilling battle to the chequered flag in the final hour of racing around the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
When the timer reached zero, it was Alonso who took the chequered flag to take his first win since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix while Conway completed a Toyota 1-2 in second place, hot on the gearbox on the #8 ahead. The #1 Rebellion of Andre Lotterer, Neel Jani and Bruno Senna stood on the final step of the podium in the LMP1 category.
In LMP2, it was G-Drive Racing who came out on top, with Jean-Eric Vergne taking the chequered flag after sharing driving duties with Roman Runsinov and Andrea Pizzitola for the afternoon.
The #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca was G-Drive's nearest challenger, 21 seconds behind while the #36 Signatech Alpine car finished third in its class.
In GTE Pro, it was the #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK car that was triumphant through the services of Oliver Pla, Stefan Mucke and Billy Johnson, with the team's sister #67 car crashing out of the race early on after Harry Tincknell lost control in Eau Rouge after an unknown failure.
The #92 Porsche finished in second place while the #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 stood on the final step of the podium, overtaking the #92's sister #91 car in the closing stages of the race.
Aston Martin Racing took a historic fourth consecutive victory in the GTE Am class at Spa with Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda sharing driving duties.
Like the #8 Toyota, the Aston Martin squad also had an assertive lead over the rest of the field prior to the late-race safety car which allowed the TF Sport Aston Martin to close up.
An intense battle between the two cars saw a gap of 0.2s separating them across the finishing line after the sixth hour was over, with the rookie TF Sport team claiming second in class while Clearwater Racing Ferrari completed the podium positions.