Following on from its victory at the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship’s opener at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Toyota Gazoo Racing succeeded in monopolizing the top two places at the end of the 8 Hours of Portimao with its brace of MICHELIN Pilot Sport-equipped GR010 Hybrids. The Japanese Hypercars were joined on the Portuguese podium by the sole Alpine A480/Michelin. Ferrari/Michelin topped the order in both LM GTE classes.
The Autodromo do Algarve, which was hosting FIA WEC action for the very first time, is a twisty, flowing, recently-resurfaced circuit that proved particularly punishing for tires as the track temperature soared to more than 40°C in the early-summer heat.
“The long, last, downhill turn was particularly hard on the left-hand tires,” says Pierre Alves, the manager of Michelin Motorsport’s endurance racing programs. “Over a distance of around 150 meters, and for approximately two-and-a-half seconds, the two left-hand tires had to soak up a load of 1,200kg while running at a temperature of 150°C. In the Toyotas’ case, they had to cope with this punishment 37 times per stint. Even so, thanks to the Performance Made to Last qualities of our latest products, our partners in the Hypercar class were able to run double-stint strategies.”
The eight-hour race (a third of the distance of the Le Mans 24 Hours which had initially been scheduled to take place the same weekend before its postponement until late-August) produced a one-two finish for Toyota Gazoo Racing, led by the team’s N°8 prototype of Buemi/Nakajima/Hartley after a fierce fight with its N°7 sister car (Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez) and the Alpine A480 which was also competing on Michelin’s new Hypercar tires. The gap between Toyota’s GR010 Hybrids at the finish was just 1.8 seconds after 300 laps/1,370km!
After claiming the French make’s first pole-position in world-class endurance racing since Le Mans 1977, the Alpine seemed to have the edge in terms of race speed. Indeed, helped by the consistency of his MICHELIN Pilot Sports, French driver Nicolas Lapierre posted the afternoon’s fastest race lap on Lap 212 on tires that that had already completed 27 laps. The Alpine A480 was forced to make two additional refueling stops compared to the Toyotas, however, and had to settle for third spot at the checkered flag, 1m8.597s adrift of the winning prototype.
The LMGTE Pro class saw Ferrari and Michelin claim their 26
The next round of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship will take teams to Italy for the 6 Hours of Monza on July 18. It will be the final chance for teams to prepare for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours (August 21-22) which is expected to attract a crowd of 50,000 spectators.
8 Hours of Portimao – Final Positions:
Buemi/Nakajima/Hartley (Toyota GR010 Hybrid/Michelin), 300 laps
Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez (Toyota GR010 Hybrid/Michelin), +1.800s
Negrao/Lapierre/Vaxivière (Alpine A480/Michelin), +1m8.597s
Gonzalez/Da Costa/Davidson (Oreca-Gibson), +4 laps
Geleal/Vandoorne/Blomqvist (Oreca-Gibson), +4 laps