WEC: Toyota goes two for two, takes emphatic Spa victory
Images: FIA WEC
The WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps was fairly processional for the first half of the race, but the closing stanza of Round 2 didn't disappoint, serving up compelling storylines as Toyota Racing used supreme pace to score its second consecutive win.
The No. 8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid LMP1 piloted by Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sebastien Buemi used all of the combined 1000 horsepower produced by its V8 engine and ERS unit to streak away from the LMP1-H entries from Audi and Porsche, leading home the No. 1 Audi R18 by 1m13.926s. Toyota completed the podium with the No. 7 TS040, 6.9 seconds behind the single-turbo V6 diesel.
"The beginning of the race was tough; the [problem with] the No. 14 Porsche made it easier," said Lapierre, who ran the final stint in the No. 8 Toyota. "In the end we got the second win. It's the perfect beginning to the season."
The No. 14 Porsche 919 Hybrid looked strong in the early going as Neel Jani led, but surrendered the lead in the pits and would later suffered electrical problems with Romain Dumas behind the wheel. Cycling the electronics at half-speed cost the Frenchman a lap the factory team was unable to recover, leaving the single-turbo V4-powered prototype Porsche fourth at the finish. Problems for the sister No. 20 919 Hybrid left the car sitting stationary in its garage, 23 laps down at the checkered flag.
Based on raw speed and various downforce packages, Toyota and Porsche were very close with the No. 8's best lap of 2:01.327 shadowed by the 2:01.898 set by the No. 14 Porsche. The best Audi could manage was a 2:02.600 with the No. 1. With Toyota and Porsche running Le Mans-friendly low-downforce kits at Spa, Audi went with higher downforce on two of its entries, which visibly limited its top speed. Its No. 3 R18, dressed in low-downforce bodywork, was slowest of the three cars on the stopwatch, posting a 2:03.383, which doesn't bode well with 24 hours of racing ahead in June.
The trio of Olivier Pla, Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal took uncontested LMP2 honors in the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Morgan-Nissan, crossing the finish line 1m11.196s ahead of the Jota Sport Zytek-Nissan. P2 polesitters KCMG claimed third in the No. 38 ORECA-Nissan.
GTE Pro saw AF Corse's Gimmi Bruni and Toni Vilander win from pole by a lap with the No. 51 Ferrari F458 as a spirited battle for second went to the No. 91 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR. The No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari F458 took third.
AF Corse's No. 61 GTE Am team followed suit, also winning from pole in its Ferrari F458 as the Italian squad flexed its muscles in Belgium. A pair of Aston Martins completed the podium with the Nos. 95 and 98 V8 Vantages finishing 32 and 56 seconds arrears, respectively.
Up next for the WEC is the official Le Mans Test Day at La Sarthe on June 1.
Results - 171 laps: Pos Cl Drivers Team/Car Time/Gap 1. P1 Davidson/Lapierre/Buemi Toyota 6h01m31.675s 2. P1 Di Grassi/Duval/Kristensen Audi +1m13.926s 3. P1 Wurz/Sarrazin/Nakajima Toyota +1m20.861s 4. P1 Dumas/Jani/Lieb Porsche +1 lap 5. P1 Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer Audi +1 lap 6. P1 Albuquerque/Bonanomi Audi +2 laps 7. P1 Prost/Heidfeld/Beche Rebellion-Toyota +10 laps 8. P2 Rusinov/Pla/Canal OAK Morgan-Nissan +11 laps 9. P2 Dolan/Tincknell/Gene Jota Zytek-Nissan +11 laps 10. P2 Howson/Bradley/Matsuda KCMG ORECA-Nissan +12 laps 11. P2 Ladygin/Shaitar/Ladygin SMP ORECA-Nissan +13 laps 12. P2 Zlobin/Minassian/Mediani SMP ORECA-Nissan +13 laps 13. GTE P Bruni/Vilander AF Ferrari +19 laps 14. GTE P Pilet/Bergmeister Manthey Porsche +20 laps 15. GTE P Rigon/Calado AF Ferrari +20 laps 16. GTE P Turner/Mucke/Senna Aston Martin +20 laps 17. GTE P MacDowall/O'Young/Rees Aston Martin +21 laps 18. GTE A Perez Companc/Cioci/Venturi AF Ferrari +22 laps 19. GTE A Poulsen/Hansson/Stanaway Aston Martin +22 laps 20. GTE A Dalla Lana/Lamy/Nygaard Aston Martin +22 laps 21. GTE P Holzer/Makowiecki Manthey Porsche +23 laps 22. GTE A Ried/Bachler/Al Qubaisi Proton Porsche +23 laps 23. P1 Bernhard/Webber/Hartley Porsche +23 laps 24. GTE A Wyatt/Rugolo/Bertolini AF Ferrari +23 laps 25. GTE A Perrodo/Collard/Vaxiviere ProSpeed Porsche +25 laps 26. GTE A Mann/Giammaria/Case AF Ferrari +26 laps 27. GTE A Potolicchio/Roda/Ruberti 8Star Ferrari +29 laps Retirements: P1 Kraihamer/Belicchi/Leimer Rebellion-Toyota 47 laps