Neel Jani has steered a Michelin-equipped Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo to a new lap record for Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. He completed the course in 1m41.770s for...
Toyota Gazoo Racing monopolised the top two places at the end of the hot and sunny 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, opening round of the 2018/2019 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). First over the line was the N°8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Buemi/Nakajima/Alonso, chased by the N°7 prototype of Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez. Third was the N°1 Rebellion/Michelin, while the LM GTE Pro victor was the N°66 Ford/Michelin of Mücke/Pla/Johnson.
Ex-F1 world champion (with Renault/Michelin) Fernando Alonso celebrated his debut endurance racing appearance by being first past the chequered flag at Spa-Francorchamps in the N°8 Toyota/Michelin, 1.444s clear of Mike Conway in the similar N°7 prototype.
A fuel feed problem resulted in the N°7 Toyota starting the Belgian clash a lap behind from the pit lane, which meant it was unable to take advantage of pole position. It succeeded in making up the gap to the N°8 sister car, however, aided by a number of Safety Car periods and some double-stinting on its Michelin tyres.
By the halfway point, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose-Maria Lopez were running second in the order, around 50 seconds short of the leading car. Two hours later, the gap was down to 15 or so seconds and the final phase of the race kept the crowd entertained as Alonso and Conway weaved through the traffic in their scrap for supremacy. The N°8 car eventually clinched the win by a margin of just 1.444s.
Third and fourth places went to the non-hybrid LMP1 Rebellion-Gibson/Michelin prototypes of Jani/Lotterer/Senna (+2 laps) and Beche/Laurent/Menezes, while the N°4 ByKolles and N°11 SMP Racing prototypes rounded out the top six. The LMP2 spoils went to G-Drive Racing (7
Three different manufacturers finished on the day’s LM GTE Pro podium. Victory went to the N°66 Ford/Michelin of Mücke/Pla/Johnson, ahead of N°92 Porsche 911 RSR/Michelin (Christensen/Bruni, +13.931s). The N°71 Ferrari/Michelin clinched third place on the final lap when Davide Rigon found a way past Richard Lietz’s N°92 Porsche/Michelin. The pole-winning N°67 Ford/Michelin crashed out spectacularly early on at Le Raidillon (with Tincknell behind the wheel) and the N°51 Ferrari/Michelin lost ground following a tangle with another car.
The next port of call for FIA WEC competitors will be the official test day ahead of the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours at the beginning of June.