Toyota Gazoo Racing‘s streak of one-two finishes came to an end at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps after the #7 suffered from a mid-race technical issue. New winners took the top step in both LMP2 and GTE Pro, whilst the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing took their third LM GTE Am victory in a row.
The weather conditions for the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa were extremely unpredictable, changing from one moment to the next from rain, sleet, snow and sunshine. It was miraculous that there were no retirees from the race, and barely any incidents. A multitude of Full Course Yellows and Safety Car periods stifled the proceedings, but these were predominantly weather related, with only one Safety Car being due to excessive debris on track.
The race started in sunshine, but five minutes after the green flag torrential rain hit the track, forcing all cars into the pits for wet weather tyres. Stacking the two Toyotas, the Japanese team did not have the tyres ready for the championship-leading #8 and handed an earlier advantage to the sister car as they lost time in the pits.
However, a mid race failed brake sensor forced the #7 into the garage and turned their 50-second lead into going four laps down on the leaders. The #8 soared to an easy victory, despite the horrific race conditions, and the #7 made it back to the bottom of the LMP1 class come the chequered flag.
This result saw the Japanese manufacturer claim the Manufacturers’ World Endurance Championship for the 2018/19 season, something the team have not won since 2014.
Rebellion Racing #3 joined the Toyota on the podium, scoring their first on-track second place of the season, with home favourite Stoffel Vandoorne giving the cold and wet fans something to cheer about as he completed the podium with the #11 SMP Racing crew.
The Bykolles Racing Team had been doing a good job, although at the back of the LMP2 class, gaining some mileage on their new engine and getting some well needed data ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but sadly in the first hour, the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing in the hands of Jordan King put them in the wall at La Source, costing them just over an hour of repairs in the pits. They did get back out on track, but finished at the very back of the grid.
The LMP2 class looked to be a battle between pole-sitting #26 G-Drive Racing and class leaders #36 Signatech Alpine, but it was Pastor Maldonado who came through as the opportunist in the closing stages of the race to claim DragonSpeed‘s first WEC victory.
During the penultimate Safety Car period, Maldonado found himself with a shot at taking the fight to the class leaders. Showing excellent skill in the changeable conditions, he made light work of the #36 Signatech and #38 Jackie Chan cars, promoting himself to the class lead. He looked to have the class win in the bag when the final Safety Car came out on the circuit and abolished his ten-second buffer.
The Venezuelan held the charging G-Drive and Signatech back to take the chequered flag, with the three cars taking the class podium in that order.
As the G-Drive Racing car is not illegible for championship points (using the 6 Hours of Spa as a test for Le Mans), the #36 Signatech Apline inherits second-place points, whilst their championship challengers #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing take third place points (they finished fourth in class). This gives the Signatech crew a four-point lead over Jackie Chan DC Racing as they head into the final round of the Superseason.
Maiden Victory for Lynn and Martin in their #97 Aston Martin Racing
The GTE Pro class presented a race of swings and roundabouts, with the class leader changing as quickly as the weather conditions. However, the #97 Aston Martin Racing in the hands of Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin was always in the fight, keeping their car in the top three.
Passing Ferraris, Porsches and holding off a charging BMW Team MTEK, the duo took their lime green car to its first, and Aston Martin‘s second, victory of the Superseason.
BMW also looked strong throughout the six hours, and looked like they had their best opportunity all season to claim a class victory. But as the conditions turned from bad to worse towards the end of the race, the German team played it safe and pitted their cars for wet tyres. By staying out, Aston Martin were able to utilise the late race Safety Cars and secure the win.
It looked like the GTE Drivers’ World Endurance Championship was going to be wrapped up this race after the #91 Porsche GT Team was hit with a drive-through penalty for clashing with the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari earlier in the race. The penalty was handed to the team just a few laps before the red flag shortened the race, meaning that it could not be served, turning the penalty into a 30-second post race time addition.
This saw them drop from fourth to ninth in the final result, losing a massive hall of points they had gained in the championship on the sister #92 car, which crossed the line third to complete the podium. The point gap in the championship is now almost unattainable; if the #91 does not claim pole position at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the championship could be settled before the blue-ribboned event even starts.
Due to the strong performance of all Porsche-running teams in Pro and Am this year, the German manufacturer also managed to secure the GT Manufacturers’ World Endurance Championship this weekend. They finished the race with over a 100-point lead on Ferrari, putting them mathematically out of reach.
The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing was back on top of the Am class, topping the podium ahead of the pole-sitting #90 TF Sport and the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari. Championship leaders Team Project 1 had been looking to score well in this round until a late off at Fargnes saw them lose positions and drop to fifth in class. They still currently lead the championship, leaving it all to fight for at the Le Mans finale.