Toyota take Second Victory of 2017 World Endurance Championship

by Alice Holloway

After showing an improved pace throughout the weekend, Toyota Gazoo Racing was back on top at the chequered flag of the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

Taking their first one-two finish since 2014, the Toyota #8 driven by Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima took their second win of the 2017 World Endurance Championship. It had been the #7 team that had looked to have the better pace but the luck of the race had definitely gone to the winning squad.

G-Drive Racing #26 converted their pole position to a race victory in LMP2. The lead was passed between a few teams as the pit stop cycles were completed, but it was Alex Lynn, who spent most of the race in the cockpit, Pierre Thiriet and Roman Rusinov who came out on top.

As the green flag indicated the start of the race, Andre Lotterer found himself surrounded by two Toyotas heading into La Source. Nicolas Lapierre tried to make an ambitious move, trying to improve on his third place qualifying position, but the move was too ambitious. He sent his Toyota #9 straight off into the run-off area as he locked his brakes, narrowly missing taking out the other two front-runners. Lotterer just about managed to hold off the threats for the lead as he led the grid towards Eau Rouge. The second Porsche made the most of the first corner action as Brendon Hartley managed to move it into fourth.

Credit: Craig Robertson

The #7 was the fastest car on track, but the luck of the race did not play into their hands. Only two full course yellows occurred in the race, but both of them came out at the wrong time to give Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi any advantages in extending their lead. In both the full course cautions, the #7 had just completed its scheduled pit stop, meaning that their closest competitors were gaining time on them in the pits as the slower racing pace lost them less time out on track.

The first full course yellow came just before the halfway mark as the #86 Gulf Racing Am Porsche came to a halt down the main straight. The second came closer to the end of the race as the #28 TDS Racing entrant had an off at Courbe Paul Frère.

Due to losing around 50 seconds to the field in pit stops during full course yellows, the #7 was behind the #8 as the last few moments of the race came. It was commendable to their pace that they were competitively second, with around 26 seconds advantage on the #2 Porsche in third. Kobayashi was not ready to give up the fight and was pushing hard to try and steal the lead of the race on the line. The lead gap got down to about seven-tenths of a second, but traffic dropped Kobayashi too far off to be able to get close enough to pass. Had there have been a few more laps in the race, the #7 would have taken victory.

G-Drive Racing – Credit: Craig Robertson

Hartley had a moment towards the end of the race where he made contact with the #36 Signatech Alpine LMP2 car and it spun off the track. Hartley had been trying to pass through the traffic of the Signatech machine and had committed to a move on the inside of the corner. The Kiwi driver tried to back out of the move when he realised that there was not going to be enough room left by the #36 to make a clean pass and locked his brakes in the process of trying to get out of the move. However, it was a little too late a light contact to the back of the LMP2 machine saw it spinning off the track. The incident will be investigated after the race but with a 51 second lead to the car in fourth-place, Porsche #1, the team should safely keep their third place result if any time penalties are added.

ByKolles #4 had a fantastic and surprising race compared to what everyone expected. Off the start they managed to clear the LMP2 cars, having a pace about a second a lap faster than the other class. The car had a trouble-free race and finished sixth overall, around four laps off the front-running LMP1 Hybrids but surprisingly nearly a lap up on the LMP2 field. ByKolles may have finally got their package working smoothly.

Vaillante Rebellion – Credit: Craig Robertson

After setting a lap-record time in qualifying, Lynn was the man primarily in the cockpit of the winning #26 G-Drive. He completed a triple stint at the beginning of the race, falling to third before handing over to his team-mates. Rusinov and Thirielt did an incredible job to get the #26 back up into a leading position before handing the car back to Lynn in the closing stages to bring it to the chequered flag for their first win of the season.

The main fight in LMP2 was seen between second and third for honour of the silver cup. Once the #26 had started disappearing and becoming out of reach for others to challenge, Vaillante Rebellion #31 and Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 went head to head for second place. It was a close race, but in the final stages of the race, the #31 had the edge to keep #38 at bay just enough to secure the extra three points.

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