Toyota Gazoo Racing took their fourth win of the season in a mixed-conditioned FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. The winning #7 car had an incident-free race to claim victory over the sister car.
Rebellion Racing started on pole with their sole entry, but it wasn’t to last very long for the Swiss team. A heavy rainstorm fell over the track half an hour before race start, forcing all teams to run wet weather tyres and the race start behind the Safety Car. After four laps, the field was released to race, but the Rebellion team would lose the lead by the first corner.
Norman Nato went wide going through La Source on the wet track, allowing not one but both Toyotas to pass into the lead. This would be the highest Rebellion would get in the field after an early race fight with ByKolles Racing Team. It was clear quickly that the Rebellion was struggling with the wet conditions, and didn’t really come to life until the track had dried up around the four hour mark.
The #8 car of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima quickly became an early favourite, with Buemi mastering the wet conditions to pull a ten second lead over the #7. An electrical glitch that plagued the car for the race, however, put a stop to his charge, bringing the #7 of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez into the lead. A split strategy saw the #8 come back out of the pits on wet tyres, whilst the #7 came out on dry tyres, which handed the advantage and the win to the #7 car.
The #8 crew tried as they could to keep the fight going with their team mates, as the #8 had half a second less success ballast than the #7, but the recurring electrical glitch that Toyota could not discover the source of left the #7 car unchallenged from the moment it got into the lead.
Rebellion’s race was solidified when the wrong tyre call was made during the first hour of the race. The #1 entry was the first LMP1 to stop, 16 laps into the race, and chose to take another set of wet weather tyres rather than switching to slicks. As the track was drying out, the wet weather tyres heated quickly and lost grip, forcing the car to return to the pits for dry tyres as the first of four Safety Cars came out in the race. This lost the team a lot of time, dropping them to sixth overall, behind the LMP2 leaders.
The trio of Nato, Bruno Senna and Gustavo Menezes fought back to third, aided by two slow stops by the ByKolles team that dropped them to the back of the grid.
Three in a row for United Autosports
United Autosports managed to win from pole position in the LMP2 class, taking their third victory in a row, but they certainly had to fight for it. Racing Team Nederland showed they still had the pace through the first four hours of the race, climbing the LMP2 field from the back to be in contention for the lead. It was nail-biting between Giedo van der Garde, Firts van Eerd and Job van Uitert in the #29 machine as they swapped the lead of the class with Paul di Resta, Phil Hanson and Filipe Alburquerque.
United Autosports fell back from the lead of the race as Hanson was fuel managing, and a great stint from Thomas Laurent saw the Signatech Alpine #36 passing to challenge the Racing Team Nederlands car for class lead. Laurent showed the pace to take the lead from the Nederland’s car, but as he passed for the lead van Eerd tagged the Signatech at the fast left-handed kink before Blanchimont, sending Laurent into a scary roll.
Laurent was fine and luckily able to walk away from the wreck, but this ruined Signatech Alpine’s strong change of getting a race win.
The incident handed Di Resta, then in the United Autosports machine, the lead of the race by around two seconds, a lead he would hold onto until the chequered flag. Nicolas Lapierre had a spectacular final stint in the Cool Racing car to claim second on the class podium, whilst Racing Team Nederland held onto third with just over half a second advantage on fourth-placed JOTA Sport.
Porsche and Aston Martin go head-to-head in GTE Pro
Although the AF Corse Ferrari‘s showed great pace in the wet conditions, as the track dried out they fell down the field, having no competitive edge to the Aston Martin‘s or Porsche‘s in the dry.
At the start of the race, both Ferraris carved through the field, with Alessandro Pier Guidi showing great race craft to get the #51 machine up into the lead of the class. He made some spectacular moves around the outside of his competitors, making the look like they were in a class of their own, holding onto the lead of the race for over half race distance. But as the track dried, the tables turned and it quickly became a battle between Aston Martin Racing and Porsche GT Team.
Aston Martin had the advantage, with the two Vantages battling on track for the lead of the class. In the closing stages of the race, it was Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin in the #97 machine that were leading the way, with Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre in the #92 Porsche splitting them from the sister car.
A mistake from the #97 car saw Estre slot up into the lead of the race, but the #97 needed to make a splash-and-dash stop ahead of the chequered flag, so would have lost the lead regardless. Their stop released Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen – who at the time were around three seconds behind the #97 as they were fuel saving – to try and secure Aston Martin the victory. There wasn’t enough race time or fuel left on board the #95, however, meaning Estre and Christensen took race victory, having started at the back of the GTE field.
Lynn and Martin were able to come out ahead of the #51 Ferrari to hold onto a podium finish, whilst James Calado did a great job in the AF Corse to hold the second Porsche behind him to clinched fourth.
Ferrari triumphs in GTE Am
Only a lap down on the last-placed GTE Pro car, Nicklas Nielsen, Emmanuel Collard and Francois Perrodo took class victory in GTE Am with their Ferrari 488 GTE. It was a close battle between them and pole-sitting #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing, with the two keeping each other honest throughout the race. The #83 AF Corse fought through the field, having started fifth on the grid, to show competitive pace and good race craft in the mixed conditions race.
Jonny Adam, Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc had an equally impressive race, driving from sixth on the grid to take the final step on the podium for TF Sport.