Toyota makes history at Spa
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s trio of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima took the first ever Hypercar victory at the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, first of 2021 FIA WEC rounds.
Buemi took the all-new Toyota GR010-Hybrid to the chequered flag after an eventful race which saw the crew fightback from two separate penalties. Buemi, Hartley and Nakajima faced down a race-long challenge from both the sister Toyota of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose-Maria Lopez and the Alpine A480-Gibson. All three Hypercar entries led during the frantic six hour race but it was the No. 8 that came out on top when several issues were encountered by the No. 7 machine. These included an off-track excursion, contact with the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR – 19 and a brief on-track stoppage which forced a systems re-set. But Kobayashi was still able to claim third placed points and round out the first ever Hypercar podium. The Alpine Elf Matmut team ran an excellent race to fight the Toyotas throughout with Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre and Matthieu Vaxiviere all driving strong stints in an impressive category debut for the French squad.
In the LMGTE Pro category Kevin Estre and Neel Jani dominated with a lights-to-flag victory in the Porsche 911 RSR. It marks the Porsche GT Team’s second consecutive win at Spa and Estre’s fifth WEC victory. Meanwhile, WEC returnee Jani made a dream comeback taking his fifth win in the series – the Swiss driver’s first since Le Mans in 2016. The AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado finished second, 35 seconds adrift of the category-winning Porsche. The sister car which was driven by Miguel Molina and Daniel Serra claimed the final podium spot. Britain’s Oliver Gavin signed off an incredible 30-year racing career with a fourth place finish – the legendary sportscar driver and team-mate Antonio Garcia putting in a solid effort with the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R on its debut on European soil. In the race’s closing hour, the Porsche 911 RSR driven by Gimmi Bruni and Richard Lietz lost time after it made impact with the No. 7 Toyota, incurring a puncture. The team were also penalised with a track limits drive-through penalty. They eventually finished fifth, 20 seconds adrift of the Corvette.
n LMP2 the United Autosports USA squad took a conclusive victory with Filipe Albuquerque, Phil Hanson and Fabio Scherer combining to vanquish their opposition. The reigning champions gave a notice of intent by topping all of the practice and qualifying sessions ahead of the race, before Hanson and Albuquerque built a solid lead in order for WEC rookie to consolidate the gap and take a debut victory. Jota took an accomplished second and third in class after botx of its cars stealthily climbed up the order. The No. 28 trio of Sean Gelael, Tom Blomqvist and Stoffel Vandoorne looked set for an excellent runner-up position but were forced to take a late race penalty for contact with the Alpine Hypercar. This allowed the No. 38 Jota Oreca-Gibson of Roberto Gonzalez, Antonio Felix da Costa and Anthony Davidson through to grab second in the final moments of the race. Racing Team Nederland’s line-up of Giedo van der Garde, Frits Van Eeerd and Job Van Uitert finished fourth and also took the first ever LMP2 Pro/Am trophy. Local favourites Team WRT were engaged in the podium fight on their WEC debut but were forced in to a long pit-stop after a clutch issue in the fourth hour.
The LMGTE Am category was never short of drama but it was the AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo driven by Francois Perrodo, Nicklas Nielsen and newcomer Alessio Rovera who eventually crossed the finish line first. The reigning category champions finished 44 seconds clear of the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage shared by Ben Keating, Dylan Pereira and Felipe Fraga. Completing the podium was Italian outfit Cetilar Racing, the Ferrari benefiting from a Full Course Yellow to climb up to third despite contact with the No.1 Richard Mille LMP2 car earlier in the race. The No. 88 Dempsey-Proton looked set to complete the podium to ensure three different manufacturers in top three positions but a late penalty dropped the Porsche 911 RSR out of contention, with the trio eventually finishing fifth. Fourth place went to the No. 54 AF Corse Ferrari. Neither the No. 46 nor the No. 56 Team Project 1 cars started today’s race. Egidio Perfetti hit the barrier at Raidillon during yesterday’s qualifying, the damage of the shell structure on the rear left of his Porsche 911 RSR unable to be repaired in time. Also unable to start today’s race was the GR Racing Porsche 911 RSR after Michael Wainwright crashed during the outlap, incurring damage to the No. 86 car only 10 minutes before the green flag was dropped.