Toyota Gazoo Racing delivered its first 1-2 finish since Shanghai in 2014 in the 2017 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, the #8 TS050 Hybrid of Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Anthony Davidson, edging out a late charge to the finish from the sister #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway that crossed the line two seconds behind.
It was a surprisingly close finish after the #7 lost some 45 seconds to the leader after pitting under green just before a mid-race Full-Course Yellow gifted the #8 a substantial advantage at a point when Conway looked set to take the lead on pace.
Behind, Porsche faded after scoring Pole and mixing in with the leaders in the first hour of the race and again after the Full-Corse Yellow shake up.
Brendon Hartley in the #2 Porsche had a clash though, ironically with reigning Porsche World Champion Romain Dumas in the #36 Signatech Alpine at the Bus Stop that left the leading car needing a replacement nose – that would prove to be enough to cost the team their chance of the race win, they’d come home in third place ahead of the sister Porsche with the third Toyota coming home a distant fifth.
Very much worthy of mention is ByKolles, its now Nissan-engined CLM coming home sixth but with a faultless run to finish ahead of the entire LMP2 field.
G-Drive takes its first win of 2017
G-Drive Racing converted its Pole Position to a win, Alex Lynn, Pierre Thiriet and Roman Rusinov combining for what turned into a comfortable victory in LMP2 by over a minute.
For Lynn and Thiriet it was a first LMP2 win in the WEC, for Rusinov a record 16th in the class with G-Drive, scoring a first win with TDS Racing (that team’s first WEC success) and a fourth different team winning with G-Drive branding (after Delta ADR, Oak racing and Jota Sport).
Second and third on the road were the #31 Vaillante Rebellion and #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Orecas, both in the hunt for podium positions throughout, the Rebellion result the team’s first LMP2 podium in FIA WEC.
AF Corse 1-2 after thrilling inter-team battle in Pro
AF Corse dominated GTE Pro, like Toyota, managing to come home 1-2 in the standings, the #71 Ferrari 488 of Sam Bird and Davide Rigon taking the win ahead of the sister #51 car. That made it the #71 crew’s first win since the same event in 2016. This was no parade run though, the two Ferraris went at it hammer and tongs during the race, making contact several times in the battle for the lead.
Calado made one of the moves of the race as the two Fords battled for the lead early on, drafting up to one and dragging by both to take the class lead on the Kemmel Straight after going three wide.
Best of the rest were the two Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK cars . The #66 of Olivier Pla, Stefan Mucke and American racer Billy Johnson had a faultless run but faded, unable to challenge for the lead after the halfway mark. For the first period of the race the #67 was very much in the hunt, Harry Tincknell putting in a stellar first stint but then stalling at pit out as the car suffered a fuel priming issue, the car stopping again at Eau Rouge whilst Tincknell reset the system.
Thereafter it was a long run for home but all three drivers put in storming runs, Pipo Derani impressing in only his second race in the car and Andy Priaulx executing what may prove to be one of the passes of the season around the outside of Fred Makowiecki’s Porsche 911 RSR for fourth position.
Lights-to-flag for AMR in Am
While Aston Martin Racing failed to feature in the race for the podium in Pro, the British marque took the win in GTE Am, Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda managing a lights-to-flag victory, unchallenged by the other four runners in the class despite a ten second pitstop penalty.
It was a record 15th class win for Pedro Lamy in GTE Am on his 60th start for Aston Martin Racing.
Second place went to Dempsey Proton Racing’s #77 Porsche, Christian Ried, Matteo Cairoli and Marvin Dienst delivering a faultless run that was easily good enough to see off a challenge from Silverstone winners Clearwater Racing, its #61 Ferrari 488 GTE completing the podium scoring valuable points to add to its Silverstone triumph.
There were just two retirements in the race. The Gulf Racing Porsche suffered a freak incident, when a bit of debris hit the wiring loom in the 911 shortly after Nick Foster climbed in towards the end of the race. The team is still investigating the issue however.
The Tockwith Motorsports Ligier also failed to finish, after a gearbox issue at the end of the race. It was a tough end to a tough race for the WEC debutants, which served two drive-through penalties and had a puncture early in the race, effectively ending its chances of a good result in the first hour.
Next up for the FIA WEC runners and riders is the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the 17/18 June.