Toyota Gazoo Racing took a double podium this afternoon at Spa Francorchamps with another dominant display in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The No.7 car of Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi finished ahead of the sister No.8 Toyota of Brendan Hartley, Sebastian Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa whilst the No.51 Ferrari of Allesandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Antonio Giovinazzi.
LMP2 went the way of the No.41 Team WRT Oreca of Louis Deletraz, Robert Kubica and Rui Andrade who won a late pitstop race with second-placed No.23 United Autosports Oreca of Tom Blomqvist, Oliver Jarvis and Joshua Pierson.
LMGTE-AM saw history made as Lilou Wadoux became the first woman to take victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Driving the No.83 Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo with co-drivers Alessio Rovera and Luis Perex Companc, the trio finished ahead of a fierce battle for second place.
As the rain poured down on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, the teams had to make a crucial decision: start on wet or slick tyres. Ferrari AF Corse opted for the former, while Toyota Gazoo Racing took a risk with the latter. Initially, it looked like AF Corse’s decision had paid off, with their cars running 1-2 in the opening stages of the race. However, as the track began to dry out, the Ferraris started to struggle, allowing Mike Conway in the No.7 Toyota to take control.
Conway had initially dropped back as he struggled for grip, but he soon found his rhythm and opened up a healthy gap over the field. Meanwhile, Renger van der Zande in the No.3 Cadillac V-Series.R had also started on slicks and was running a strong second, taking advantage of the improving track conditions. However, his race would come to a violent end when he crashed heavily at Eau Rouge. Luckily, he emerged unscathed, but the incident triggered a long safety car period.
With van der Zande out, Laurens Vanthoor in the No.6 Porsche Penske 963 inherited second place. Sebastien Buemi in the No.8 Toyota, who had started from the back of the grid, was also making his way through the field and running third. The second Porsche Penske car, driven by Michael Christensen, was engaged in a spirited battle with Buemi’s Toyota in the opening hour and was running fourth.
Meanwhile, Earl Bamber was also putting in a strong performance in the No.2 Cadillac, running in the top three for much of the opening two hours before settling into fifth position. Of the cars that had started on wet tyres, the No.94 Peugeot TotalEnergies 9X8 driven by Gustavo Menezes was the best placed, running in sixth place before slipping down the field to ninth.
As the race wore on, the Ferraris continued to struggle, with the No.51 499P driven by Antonio Giovinazzi fighting back through the field to claim sixth place. The No.50 Ferrari driven by Nicklas Nielsen was running seventh. The Hertz Team Jota Porsche 963 with Antonio Felix da Costa was eighth, while Romain Dumas in the Glickenhaus Racing car was running in tenth position.
At the end of the first hour, the No.04 Floyd Vanwall lost time after Esteban Guerrieri spun on the run down to Eau Rouge. Despite the mishap, the team continued on, determined to finish the race as the final Hypercar entry but it wasn’t to be and with 80 laps complete the car was retired. As the race approached the three-hour mark, Conway continued to lead, but with several hours still to go, anything could happen on the treacherous Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
The No.7 Toyota Gazoo Racing team seemed to have the race under control. Jose-Maria Lopez was in the driver’s seat and had a comfortable lead over teammate, Ryo Hirakawa, in the No.8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid Hypercar. However, Hirakawa was experiencing brake issues that slowed him down, allowing Lopez to consolidate his lead, which stood at 15 seconds after four hours of racing.
As the race progressed, disappointment hit the Porsche Penske team as the No.6 963 driven by Laurens Vanthoor retired in the third hour after stopping because of an issue on the pit straight. This promoted the sister No.5 car to third, which Dane Cameron had taken over from starter Michael Christensen. Meanwhile, Earl Bamber completed an epic triple stint and handed over to his teammate, Alex Lynn, in fifth place. They had to race the No.50 Ferrari AF Corse 499P driven by Miguel Molina, who had taken over the cockpit from Nicklas Nielsen. Molina had a difficult time returning to the track, running wide on the pit exit, but he eventually caught up with Lynn’s Cadillac before receiving a penalty for the pit exit infraction.
In the fifth hour, the No.51 Ferrari F Corse car of Alessandro Pier Guidi was tailing Lynn’s Cadillac. Meanwhile, the No.93 Peugeot TotalEnergies car was running in seventh place, with Mikkel Jensen and Paul di Resta taking turns at the wheel. The Hertz Team Jota was having an impressive debut run in eighth position, with Will Stevens having taken over from Yifei Ye. Glickenhaus Racing was in ninth place ahead of the delayed No.94 Peugeot TotalEnergies 9X8 Hypercar. Loic Duval lost time after stopping at the pit exit after shutting down. However, he was able to rejoin the race and was sitting in 10th place in the Hypercar category.
Floyd Vanwall was running in 11th position as Esteban Guerrieri survived two track excursions before handing over to Jacques Villeneuve in the fourth hour. Unfortunately, Villeneuve had a collision with the No.54 AF Corse Ferrari at Blanchimont, and both cars retired, bringing out the third safety car in the process. Despite the accident, both drivers emerged unhurt.
In the end, the No.7 Toyota Gazoo Racing team emerged as the winner of the TotalEnergies 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, with Lopez and his team putting in an impressive performance throughout the race despite a late 5-second penalty for the No.7 for track limits. Third place went to James Calado in the No.51 Ferrari having chased down the No.5 Penske Porsche of Fred Makowiecki to take the position on the final lap of the race.
It was the No.23 United Autosports car driven by Tom Blomqvist that quickly took the lead and dominated the first two hours. However, Blomqvist briefly lost the lead to Doriane Pin’s No.63 Prema car just before a safety car was deployed for Claudio Schiavoni’s spun Iron Lynx Ferrari. 19-year-old Pin showed impressive driving skills as she fought hard with Sean Gelael’s No.31 WRT car and passed him at Eau Rouge.
As the race progressed, Robin Frijns in the No.17 WRT car pushed through to second position, and the Dutch ace started to apply pressure on leader Blomqvist. Pin handed over the seat to Daniil Kvyat, and the No.63 Prema entry ran third. The battle for fourth position was tight, and it thrilled the large crowd as the No.28 Jota of Pietro Fittipaldi led the No.41 WRT entry driven by Louis Deletraz.
Andrea Caldarelli in the second Prema car rounded out the top six. Unfortunately, Vector Sport’s Gabriel Aubry retired early after losing the left rear wheel, causing disappointment for him and the team.
Despite the intense competition, United Autosports continued to lead the pack, and Blomqvist drove brilliantly, holding onto the lead.
The LMP2 category was heating up as the local team, WRT, took advantage of a safety car period to make a break with Robin Frijns building a substantial lead. Frijns eventually handed over to Ferdinand Habsburg, who immediately chased down the sister No.41 WRT car driven by Louis Deletraz on fresher rubber.
However, Habsburg lost his lead after being slowed down by an LMGTE Am car before re-taking Deletraz in a tight battle. As the race progressed, the pair of WRT cars came under increasing pressure from Oliver Rasmussen in the No.28 Jota Oreca-Gibson.
Rasmussen made it through after an epic battle that saw him and Louis Deletraz going through Eau Rouge side-by-side. Habsburg completed a triple stint and entered the final two hours of the race in the lead.
The No.23 United Autosports car that led the early stages lost out in the safety car period and found themselves in sixth place as Tom Blomqvist got his second stint at the wheel. Elsewhere, JOTA lost several positions in the fourth hour, losing momentum as the team went off-strategy trying to recover.
As the fifth hour approached, the third safety car period bunched up the field, with Habsburg just holding off a mob of No.63 Prema and both United Autosports entries.
In the final half-hour the No.23 United Autosports car of Tom Blomqvist was leading from the No.41 Team WRT of Louis Delatraz with just half a second separating the two and the No.23 looking like its tyres were beginning to go off. With 13 minutes remaining both leaders stopped for a final splash of fuel with a gap of 55 seconds back to the No.9 Prema car of Andrea Caldarelli in third place.
The WRT crews was quickest and Delatraz was away before the United car to take a 3.5 second lead which he held to the end. The battle in the class now was for the final podium place as the No.34 Inter Europol Competition car with Albert Costa behind the wheel had caught the Prema and was challenging hard. A mistake into the final chicane gifted the position to Costa. Half a lap later and Caldarelli attempted to retake the place into Les Combes but was forced to cut the corner and give the position back securing Inter Europol their first WEC podium.
At the start, Ben Keating took best advantage of his wet tyres to make a stunning start in the No.33 Corvette C8.R and grab the lead. However, as the track started to dry out, Keating had to switch to slick tyres which saw him lose his lead and drop back through the field.
Tomonobu Fuji, in the No.777 D’Station Aston Martin, seized the opportunity and took the lead, leading for much of the first hour of the race. However, his lead was short-lived as he received a drive-through penalty for a clash with Sarah Bovy in the Iron Dames Porsche.
After the second pit stop cycle, Michael Dinan in the pole-sitting ORT by TF Sport Aston Martin took the lead and held a 15-second advantage over the No.21 AF Corse Ferrari, which started from the back of the grid after a practice accident. The penalised D’Station Aston managed to recover and placed third, ahead of Lilou Wadoux in the Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari. Meanwhile, The Iron Dames team was playing a long game with Rahel Frey taking over from Bovy, placed fifth.
Despite starting from the back of the grid, the No.21 AF Corse Ferrari made impressive progress and found itself in second place behind the leading ORT by TF Sport Aston Martin. Meanwhile, Ben Keating, the current points leader, continued to struggle with his slick tyres and fell further back.
As the race progressed, the ORT by TF Sport Aston Martin continued to hold its lead, but the No.21 AF Corse Ferrari kept up the pressure. The penalised No.777 D’Station Aston Martin fought hard to regain lost ground and managed to place third. The Lilou Wadoux driven Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari held onto fourth place, while Iron Dames continued in fifth place.
In the mid-portion of the race, Lilou Wadoux in the No.83 Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari was making her move. Setting her sights set on the No.88 Dempsey Proton Porsche, Wadoux was able to take the lead, and quickly started to build a gap over the rest of the field. However, as the race approached the fourth hour, a third safety car was called, and the field was bunched back up.
Despite the safety car, the No.88 Dempsey Proton Porsche was still in a strong position. Zachary Robichon was getting ready to hand over to Harry Tincknell for the final two stints of the race, and they knew that they had a chance to take the lead back.
The Iron Dames Porsche was also in contention for the win. Rahel Frey was behind the wheel of the pink car, and she was putting in a mammoth stint. They were determined to fight for the win until the very end.
ORT by TF Sport was in fourth place, with Ahmad Al Harthy continuing his strong form despite having to take a penalty for crossing the pit exit line. They were determined to make up the lost ground and push for a podium finish.
Corvette Racing was in fifth place, with Nicolas Varrone behind the wheel. They were able to hold off the No.21 AF Corse Ferrari in sixth place, but they knew that they would have to keep pushing if they wanted to move up the field.
As the race approached its final stages, the tension in the air was palpable. The drivers knew that every second counted, and they were all pushing to the limit. In the end, it was the No.83 Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari that crossed the finish line first however some 17 seconds behind a battle was raging between the No.33 Corvette Racing of Nicky Catsburg and the No.25 ORT by TF Sport with Charlie Eastwood behind the wheel.
Catsburg had fought his way up to second place and was defending hard right to the line from a determined Eastwood but despite there rarely being little more than a cigarette paper between the two, Catsburg was able to hold onto second place.
Please consider making a donation so we can keep bringing you our best content from the racetrack.