The FIA WEC’s 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps settled into a rhythm after the chaos of the first hour with the #7 Toyota looking set to lead the #8 Toyota at the halfway mark.
The #7 Toyota with Kamui Kobayashi had built a solid lead over Fernando Alonso with a 50-second advantage. But it slowed on the track and was pushed into the garage at 16:23. The ending cover came off the back of the car with the team’s technicians seeking to fix a sensor issue.
“We had a sensor failure on the hybrid system, this is why the car had to come in. The mechanics changed it, they did well. Mike and Kamui did a good job, bad luck for them.” said Toyota’s Rob Leupen.
Kobayashi climbed out the but was able to get back on track just after the halfway mark. The car had dropped five laps and sit in 23rd overall, sixth in class.
That left the #8 car in the lead but it has not all been smooth running for the car, particularly the #8 entry. The car’s first issue was during the safety car period in the first hour. The team made a stop at the start and end of that period which later emerged that the car had to make a stop when the pits were closed due to fuel.
Under the regulations, the team can take on five seconds of fuel and no other changes to the car, unless there was damage to fix. The team, therefore, took five seconds of fuel and then returned as the track went green to complete their regular pitstop.
Their next issue was Alonso spinning at Pouhon after hitting the wet curbs on the outside. While the Spaniard was able to keep going, they did lose time. In the end, though, the car now leads and if it runs faultlessly for the rest of the race, will take another win.
The drama for the #7 put the #3 Rebellion and the #11 SMP Racing entries and their battle into second and third. The #11 SMP Racing BR1 pitted first with Stoffel Vandoorne handing over to Vitaly Petrov, they held the advantage over Rebellion with Nathaniel Berthon taking over from Gustavo Menezes.
However, just after the halfway mark, the #11 was given a drive-through penalty for an FCY infringement, swapping the positions again.
Other incidents included an awkward spin for Andre Lotterer in the #1 Rebellion. He spun under a Full-Course Yellow at the final chicane. While he continued, it was a strange error.
For the #17 SMP BR1, Egor Orudzhev had enjoyed a very rapid lap 2 hours 15 into the race but then, the lap after, bizarrely the front right wheel became detached from the car. Orudzhev was able to get back to the pits, but lots of time was lost, and it’s now fifth.
After their early crash, the By Kolles ENSO was able to emerge from the pits but is 33 laps down.
The front runners have completed six stops during the first half of the race.
Pierre Thriet led the LMP2 category in the Signatech Alpine after three hours, holding an eight second lead over Ho Ping Tung in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car.
Tung was charging through to catch the Alpine, putting in his fastest lap at the halfway mark.
In third was Job van Uitert in the G-Drive Racing entry.
GTE Pro is led by Aston Martin Racing’s #97 Vantage AMR, Alex Lynn fighting his way to the front, with a masterful overtake on Richard Lietz’s #91 Porsche around the outside at Blanchimont.
There’s been a great deal of moving and shaking in the order since the snowstorm in the opening hour. FCYs and a second safety car have kept the pack close and created some astonishing (grand!) touring-car-style racing.
Behind Lynn is the #71 Ferrari of Davide Rigon heading into Hour 4, after a scrap with Lietz shortly after Lynn got by. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari, which led for a chunk of Hour 3 after a mix up in the pits caused the crew to have to pit out of sync for a tyre change.
James Calado explained the mix-up, which came during the first Safety Car in the snow:
“We boxed a lap after the others and put the wrong tyres on the car, a hard compound in the snow is bad, which has forced us to come in for a new set of hard wets and fuel to see if a gamble pays off.
“You don’t know what the conditions will do, which is why I love Spa.”
The #95 Aston Martin meanwhile, is now way down the order in seventh in class, mixing it with the BMWs and Fords that have faded as the track conditions improved. Nicki Thiim would be up front but suffered front-end damage in an incident at La Source.
Frits Van Eerd (RTN Dallara) shoved him into the barriers in a similar fashion to the incident to the one which brought out the second Safety Car of the race in Hour 2 between Jordan King (#37 JCDC) and Tom Dillman (ByKolles).
“It’s god damn rock and roll out there!” Thiim said after his stint!
In GTE Am, it’s also been a bit of a lottery. Clearwater Racing now leads the class Matteo Cressoni building a comfortable 35-second lead over the #56 Project 1 Porsche and #98 Aston Martin. The battle for second has been tight though, with Patrick Lindsey and Paul Dalla Lana going at it.
TF Sport, after a rollercoaster three hours, is now up to fourth.
Three hours remain and with plenty still to play for and more rain predicted, it could turn into a memorable edition of the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps