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(Photo: © Marius Hecker - AdrenalMedia.com)

Toyota Dominates to Win 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

Ultimately, there was no real drama in the the top class in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s season-opening 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday (May 5).  The overall victory was all but decided Friday when the No. 7 Toyota was penalized for a incorrect fuel flow meter declaration.  The penalty forced the No. 7 to start the race more than a full lap behind the field.  The No. 8 Toyota of Fernando Alonso, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima led nearly flag-to-flag to claim the overall victory.

“I am delighted with the result,” Alonso said after the race.  “The whole weekend has been amazing in terms of team performance, a one-two in qually, a one-two in the race.

“I think we executed the race in the best way we could, and I’m extremely happy to win my first endurance race,” Alonso continued.  “Seb and Kazuki I think did an amazing job, made my life a little bit easier, and thanks to everyone in the team.”

Despite starting so far behind, the No. 7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José Maria Lopez was able to make it up to second by the finish.  The No. 8 was never seriously threatened.

The best non-Hybrid LMP1 entries were two laps behind the Toyotas at the finish.  For much of the race, REBELLION Racing’s two R13s were the best of the rest in LMP1.  However, the No. 17 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 of Matevos Isaakyan, Egor Orudzhev and Stéphane Sarrazin made a charge in the second half of the race to get up to third overall.

Unfortunately for SMP Racing, Isaakyan crashed hard in Raidillon to bring out the safety car.  While Isaakyan was ok, the No. 17 was heavily damaged and done for the day.

At the finish, the No. 1 REBELLION R13 of Neel Jani, André Lotterer and Bruno Senna was third overall.  However, the No. 1 was found in post-race inspection to have too thin of a skid block.  The skid block is mounted under the car and is designed to keep ride height in check.  The skid block on the No. 1 was 1.2 millimeters too thin.  While there are a number of reasons why that could happen, the rule of thumb is that it isn’t allowed.  The penalty was very strict, the team was disqualified from the results.

As a result of the No. 1 R13’s DQ, the No. 3 REBELLION R13 of Mathias Beche, Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes that was 41 seconds behind the No. 1 assumed third overall.  The ByKolles Racing Team ENSO CLM P1/01 of Tom Dillmann, Dominik Kraihamer and Oliver Webb was fourth, five laps down, while SMP Racing’s No. 11 for Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov was fifth.

LMP2 saw Racing Team Nederland’s Giedo van der Garde rise up from seventh in class at the start to lead early in the sole Dallara.  Unreliability reared its ugly head at the end of the first hour, forcing the No. 29 Dallara into the garage with a bad alternator.

The misfortune of Racing Team Nederland ultimately allowed G-Drive Racing’s No. 26 ORECA 07-Gibson of Andrea Pizzitola, Roman Rusinov and Jean-Eric Vergne to come to the forefront.   For the vast majority of the remaining time, G-Drive Racing was untouchable.  The team led all the way to the finish to pick up a dominant victory.

The margin of victory was 21.714 seconds over the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA 07-Gibson of Gabriel Aubry, Stéphane Richelmi and Ho-Pin Tung.  Signatech Alpine Matmut’s Nicolas Lapierre, André Negrão and Pierre Thiriet were third.

GTE-Pro was an extension of much of the rest of the weekend.  The race was a Porsche vs. Ford duel.  The No. 66 Ford of Billy Johnson, Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla led early, while the No. 67 of Harry Tincknell gave chase.

Tincknell’s day ended barely an hour into the race when a failure pitched him into the tires at Eau Rouge.

Despite hitting in almost the exact same spot as DragonSpeed’s Pietro Fittipaldi did on Friday in qualifying, Tincknell walked away from the crash uninjured.  The Ford GT was heavily damaged.

Late in the race, the No. 91 Porsche of Richard Lietz led the class, but started to fall off.  That resulted in Lietz falling into the clutches of Pla.  With 45 minutes to go, Pla made his move at Eau Rouge.

Once out front, Pla pulled away and was not challenged on the way to a class victory.  The margin was 13.931 seconds over the No. 92 Porsche of Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre.  The No. 71 Ferrari of Sam Bird and Davide Rigon was third, while Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni dropped back to fourth.

GTE-Am was dominated for much of the weekend by the Porsches.  However, the race was much different.  The race ended up being a duel between the Aston Martin Racing No. 98 of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda and the No. 90 TF Sport Aston Martin of Euan Hankey, Salih Yoluc and Charles Eastwood.

That duel lasted all the way to the finish.  In the closing laps, Eastwood took on the former Formula 1 racer Lamy for the class lead.  Eastwood tried his hardest, but just could not get past as Lamy held on for the win.

The margin of victory was less than a quarter of a second back to the TF Sport Aston Martin.  Clearwater Racing’s No. 61 Ferrari shared by Matt Griffin, Keita Sawa and Weng Sun Mok finished a lap back in third.

FIA WORLD ENDURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP 6 HOURS OF SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS RESULTS

WEC teams will now take the next couple of weeks off in preparation for Le Mans.  The Le Mans Test Day is scheduled for June 3 and is mandatory for anyone planning on competing (exceptions are given for those who have races scheduled for the day of the test, like Tony Kanaan

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About Phil Allaway

Phil Allaway
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor. Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as Tony Stewart's Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions.

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