Toyota repeated its 2018 Spa 6 Hours win in last weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship at Spa-Francorchamps. #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing pilots Fernando Alonso, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima raced to victory, this time through a myriad of snow, hail and rain showers.
With its home base just over the border in Cologne, Toyota Gazoo Racing ran a home race in the Belgian Ardennes. It wasn’t a complete walkover as seen so often during the FIA World Endurance Championship Super Season, however, as the team saw its #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid drop out of contention at the halfway mark. Kamui Kobayashi, leading the race in the #7 Toyota with a one-minute advantage over the sister car, was forced to bring the car into the pits with a hybrid system sensor malfunction.
As the Alonso-Buemi-Nakajima combination took the lead for the remainder of the race, Kobayashi and co-drivers Mike Conway and José María López could only recover to 6th place at the finish.
The #3 Rebellion Racing R13 (Nathanaël Berthon/Thomas Laurent/Gustavo Menezes) and #11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 (Mikhail Aleshin/Vitaly Petrov/Stoffel Vandoorne) completed the podium.
Four laps behind the outright winner, the #31 DragonSpeed Oreca 07 (Pastor Maldonado/Roberto González/Anthony Davidson) took the LMP2 class win. It was Pastor Maldonado who won it with a late charge to the front after the penultimate safety car period to take over the lead and held on until the red flag came out with 11 minutes left.
The biggest spectacle once again came from the GTE-Pro class, where the GT works teams kept the battle for victory alive throughout the nearly six hours of racing as they took turns at the head of the field.
When a final snow shower minutes before the end put the racing on a definite hold, Aston Martin Racing’s Maxime Martin – sharing the #97 Aston Martin Vantage AMR with Alex Lynn – only just held off the advancing AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE of James Calado who shared the #51 Ferrari with Alessandro Pier Guidi. With a third and eight place at the finish, Porsche secured the World Endurance GTE Manufacturers’ Championship.
GTE-Am class spoils went to the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 991 RSR of Matt Campbell, Riccardo Pera and Christian Ried.
Photos by JP Wagner and Marcel Wulf.
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