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Toyota Dominates 6H Spa, Alonso Wins On Debut

Ford wins GTE Pro after dramatic final hour

It was a formation finish for Toyota Gazoo Racing in the Total 6 Hours of Spa, Fernando Alonso took the flag in the #8 TS050 HYBRID ahead of the #7 with Mike Conway at the wheel for the final stint, just 1.44 seconds behind.

After starting the race a lap down, the #7 car fought back to be within reaching distance of the lead Toyota coming into the final hour.

The crucial moments for the team came in the final pitstops with just 26:40 left when Conway pitted and Alonso pitted the next lap. Despite a ragged in lap for Alonso, the pitstop was 10 seconds shorter and was able to keep his lead.

Conway would close back in but Alonso had the race under control even though he had to manage a gearbox overheating issue.

The Rebellion R-13s took third and fourth but it didn’t look like it was going to be that way coming into the last hour of the race, when there was quite a fight between the #17 SMP Racing BR1 with Matevos Isaakyan behind the wheel.

He closed in on the #3 Rebellion of Thomas Laurent and passed him on what would be the second last round of pitstops.

The two fought for a few laps with Isaakyan looking ragged as he fought off the Rebellion. With just over an hour to go, however, the SMP suffered a massive accident at Raidillon.

While it is not clear what happened to the car, it suffered front and rear damage. Fortunately Isaakyan was ok but it did draw to an end a great run through the field for the SMP car.

SMP’s loss was Rebellion’s gain. The #1 car lost 90 seconds in the pits after having to repair a GPS receiver that communicates with race control. This fix dropped them behind the SMP car and their teammates but Andre Lotterer was able to fight back to take the final podium spot.

The ByKolles entry continued to run without issue after its pitstop drama early in the race and Tom Dillman was able to bring the car home two laps down and in fifth overall.

The final LMP1 finisher was the #11 SMP Racing entry with Mikhail Aleshin taking the flag. The car lost time earlier in the race and was not able to regain the time to move up the field.

Ultimately, despite the significance of the #8’s win, LMP1 did mostly disappoint, the Toyotas (albeit predictably) going the entire race unchallenged by the privateer runners on pace, making it a one-horse race up front.

In LMP2 it was a race controlled by G-Drive Racing’s ORECA with Jean Eric Vergne in the car for the final hour of the race. He maintained a gap of around 20 seconds over the fight for second.

It was an inspired final hour and half for the Ho-Pin Tung and the #38 Jackie Chan Racing team. Tung closed in on the Signatech Alpine of André Negrão.

They were nose to tail coming into final 45 minutes. Tung pitted early to get clear track and that tactic worked for him and as Negrão emerged from his pitstop a few laps later, Tung had the position and would open up a comfortable gap.

The #37 Jackie Chan entry came home in fourth ahead of TDS Racing, Dragonspeed, Larbre Competition and Racing Team Nederland entries.

In GTE Pro the #66 Ford GT driven by Olivier Pla and Stefan Mucke took home the win in the first race of the WEC ‘Super Season’.

The #66 Ford, driven by Pla at the time, made the winning pass with a side-by-side move on the #92 Porsche RSR GTE through Eau Rouge with 45 minutes remaining. Richard Lietz was behind-the-wheel when the pass was made.

Lietz and the #92 Porsche soon fell back to fourth after being passed by the winning Ford, first by their sister-car, the #91 Porsche 911 RSR GTE with Michael Christensen, and later Davide Rigon on the penultimate lap of the race.

It was a constant battle all race between the German and American manufacturers and despite the fact that Ford had just one bullet left in its gun after Harry Tincknell’s shunt at Eau Rouge, it managed to emerge on top.

The race’s final pitstop gave Porsche the advantage with the lone Ford GT sandwiched between the two Porsche 911s but Olivier Pla was able to find a run on Richard Lietz out of La Source, and eventually get alongside Lietz to make the pass in the middle of Eau Rouge.

Aston Martin with their new Vantage AMR, and BMW with their new M8 GTE both failed to feature in their WEC debuts, finishing in the final four spots taken by the cars that had clean runs in the class. The #82 BMW M8 GTE bested the two Aston Martins, the #97 Vantage AMR meanwhile, finished ahead of the #95, with the #81 M8 GTE of Martin Tomczyk and Nicky Catsburg coming home eighth in class.

In GTE Am the #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage with Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, and Paul Dalla Lana started off their championship-defending season the right way with a win at Spa.

Lamy had a fantastic middle stint that left Dalla Lana, and Lauda plenty of breathing room before one again handing the car back to Lamy for the final portion of the race. Lamy then had some work to do after the late safety car meant its lead was gone and pressure soon came in the form of the #90 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage driven by Euan Hankey.

The battle went all the way to final lap of the race but the veteran Portuguese Aston Martin driver was able to best Hankey. Despite having to settle for second, Hankey still managed to secure a second place finish for TF Sport in its debut WEC race.

Rounding out the podium in GTE Am was the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari, Matt Griffin being the one to bring the car home after a quiet outing for the Singaporean team, which climbed the order when other cars had issues.

Most of the weekend it was expected to be a dominant six hours for the multitude of Porsches in the GTE Am class but it was far from that.

It all started off early with the #86 Gulf Racing UK Porsche 911 RSR GTE going off on Lap 1. Dempsey-Proton’s weekend soon fell apart with a mechanical issues hitting its #77 Porsche, just moments before its #88 found itself in a gravel trap on the exit of Pouhon.

The Project 1 Racing #56 Porsche 911 RSR GTE meanwhile, was the final one to falter, after Egidio Perfetti went backwards into the wall at Pouhon also, before having a collision in the pits with the #51 AF Corse Ferrari, dropping it to last in the class.

An electrical fault struck the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE in the race’s final hour but Francesco Castellacci was able to do refire Ferrari to get it to the finish, the car coming home in eighth in class.