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Automotive

Toyota takes top two spots in WEC at Spa

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Toyota claimed a second consecutive World Endurance Championship victory of the season Saturday with Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima at Spa in Belgium. However, the victory by rights should have gone to their teammates, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi.

The second of the Toyota TS050 Hybrids ended up in the runner-up spot, just a couple of seconds down after six hours of racing, but it had a clear edge over the winning car. But bad luck during two full-course yellow virtual safety cars deprived victory for Conway and Kobayashi, who were driving as a duo after back injuries sustained at the Silverstone series opener caused Jose Maria Lopez to miss the event.

Kobayashi was half a minute up on the sister car in the third hour, that advantage though turned into a 15-second deficit. The Japanese driver pitted under the green flag, while Davidson made his stop a lap later after the yellows had been deployed.

Conway was able to reduce the gap to just three seconds before he got out of the car. One lap later, the yellows were out again however and the rival Toyota gained nearly 40s.

Conway and Kobayashi were able to make up most of the lost ground. The Japanese driver exploited a softer set of Michelins than Buemi in the wet conditions of the closing stages to whittle the gap down to barely a second starting the final lap.

“We got screwed by the two FCYs at exactly the wrong time,” said Conway. “The car was very good all weekend – we’ve been really dialed into this place.”

Kamui Kobayashi was half a minute up on the sister car in the third hour. Photo by LAT Photographic

The drivers of the winning Toyota were humble enough to admit their good fortune at a track where they lost victory 12 months ago with engine failure.

“Today we were not the fastest by far,” said Buemi. “The No. 7 car deserved the victory more because they lost so much time with the FCYs.”

Davidson explained that he and his teammates had to live with a glitch that lost them power on the straights. “We were six or seven tenths off all weekend,” he said.

The two Toyotas that battled it out for victory were running in high-downforce configuration, while Porsche again ran its 919 Hybrids in a low-downforce trim developed for the 24 Hours of Le Mans next month.

The No. 2 Porsche driven by Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber that had pushed Toyota hard at Silverstone last month was again in the mix. It came into the fray as the temperatures dropped, but ultimately didn’t have the pace over a double stint on a set of Michelin tires to take the fight to its rival.

The second Porsche, shared by Andre Lotterer, Nick Tandy and Neel Jani, was again not a match for its sister car and ended up nearly a minute and a half behind the winner. The third TS050 that Toyota has added to its roster for this race and Le Mans, which was running in low-downforce specification, ended up two laps down in fifth with Nicolas Lapierre, Stephane Sarrazin and Yuji Kunimoto.

WEC Porsche

The No. 2 Porsche driven by Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber finished third. Photo by LAT Photographic

Ferrari took a dominant one-two in GTE Pro during a race in which the pair of factory AF Corse-run 488 GTEs battled hard. Sam Bird and Davide Rigon ended up taking a clear victory ahead of team-mates James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi, but they were rarely separated by more than a second over the first five hours.

Bird double-stinted his tires in the final hour, which gave him some breathing space and was able to extend the gap in the light drizzle in the closing stages.

Ford took distant third and fourth positions, though it had been in the fight with Ferrari in the opening stages. Oliver Pla, Stefan Mucke and Billy Johnson took third after losing contact when Johnson was spun around by an LMP2 car. It subsequently fell behind the second FCY to end up half a minute behind the second of the Ferraris.

The second car driven by Harry Tincknell, Andy Priaulx and ‘Pipo’ Derani lost time with a fuel issue that temporarily stranded the car out on track.

Russian entrant G-Drive Racing took its first victory of the season in LMP2 with Alex Lynn, Roman Rusinov and Pierre Thiriet. Their ORECA-Gibson 07 battled for much of the way with the best of the Rebellion ORECAs, but the time lost to fix the mandatory FIA antenna on the British-run car allowed Lynn to take the checkered flag more than 50 seconds ahead.

Bruno Senna brought the Rebellion car he shared with Nicolas Prost and Julien Canal back to second in the final hour ahead of the Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA driven by Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho-Pin Tung, which lost time with three spins and a drive through.

Aston Martin Racing claimed the GTE Am class with its Vantage GTE shared by Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana.

WEC Ferrari

Ferrari took a dominant one-two in GTE Pro. Photo by LAT Photographic

WEC 6 Hours of Spa Final Classification

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By Gary Watkins

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