#8 Toyota wins again for hat-trick of victories
Toyota’s #8 car, driven by Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi, chalked up another win to secure a hat-trick of wins this season.
The two Toyotas swapped positions throughout the race both on track and in the pits. Pole-sitter Kamui Kobayashi consolidated his position at the start but was overtaken by Buemi whilst navigating traffic near the end of hour two mark.
The order then switched during the first set of driver swaps, after the opening drivers had double-stinted their starting Michelins, leaving Alonso to hunt down Conway. Alonso latched onto Conway’s tail midway through the third hour and made a comfortable pass in the braking zone to Brooklands before pulling out a gap.
The McLaren driver’s advantage was cut though by the only safety car of the race, which was brought out to allow the retrieval of debris from a GTE-Pro Ferrari that had deposited shreds of bodywork on-track from a puncture.
That allowed Jose Maria Lopez to draw alongside Nakajima and restore the lead for the pole car – that swiftly turned into a 15-second lead. However rear-wing repairs for the #7 cut that lead down and the positions changed yet again.
The non-hybrid LMP1 cars struggled to match Toyota and a collision between Mathias Beche and Stephane Sarrazin left the #11 SMP car as the leading non-hybrid.
Unfortunately for home favourite Jenson Button, an engine failure before his stint meant fans were disappointed as he failed to make an appearance on Sunday.
The Jackie Chan DC Racing LMP2 squad had been pining for its first victory in 13 months, so a one-two result at program operator Jota Sport’s home event was a more than suitable way to water the drought. Stephane Richelmi, Gabriel Aubry and Ho-Pin Tung bounced back from an early drive-through penalty to take their maiden win as a trio, while the sister Oreca 07 Gibson driven by the all-Malaysian crew of Weiron Tan, Jazeman Jaafar and Nabil Jeffri played tail-gunner in second.
In third was the Signatech Alpine A470 Gibson of Pierre Thiriet, Andre Negrao and Nicolas Lapierre. The French-run car was pegged back by a 75-second stop-and-hold penalty for pitting under a red light during the safety car phase.
Defending GT world champions James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi chalked up their first win of the season in the #51 Ferrari run by AF Corse.
GTE-Am honours went to Dempsey Proton Racing for the second straight race, but the German squad owed much of their triumph to a pair of penalties to the two long-term leaders. Both the TF Sport Aston Martin and the Project 1 Porsche were slapped with 75-second stop and holds.