Victory at Sebring for Toyota/Michelin
Round six of the 2018/2019 FIA World Endurance Championship at Sebring, Florida, USA, was won by the N°8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid/Michelin of Buemi/Nakajima/Alons...
The N°8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid/Michelin (Buemi/Nakajima/Alonso) overcame atrocious weather to secure its second straight victory at Spa-Francorchamps. The six-hour race was interrupted on several occasions due to hailstones and even snow. The other podium finishers were the N°3 Rebellion/Michelin N°3 (Berthon/Laurent/Menezes) and the N°11 BR1-AER/Michelin (Aleshin/Petrov/Vandoorne). In addition to securing the top prize in LMP2 with Dragonspeed’s N°31 Oreca-Gibson (Maldonado/Gonzalez/Davidson), Michelin also topped the LM GTE Pro and LM GTE Am classes with the N°97 Aston Martin (Martin/Lynn) and N°77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche (Ried/Pera/Campbell). Porsche and the N°92 crew Christensen/Estre are the 2018/2019 FIA WEC GT Manufacturers and Drivers champions with Michelin.
The 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps kicked off with an all-dry track, but that soon changed when torrential rain, hailstones and even snow swept over the Belgian circuit three laps into the race. Twenty minutes later, the racing line was dry again, but the chequered flag was shown 10 minutes early due to more heavy rain.
Michelin’s complete range of endurance racing tyres was used in the course the afternoon, from slicks and intermediates to wet and full wet rubber. Its partners (31 of the 35 cars on the grid) won all four classes, helped by the versatility of the French’s firm tyres in the frequently changing conditions, as well as their fast warm-up performance after the five Safety Car and Full Course Yellow periods.
The N°7 Toyota TS050/Michelin started from pole position but lost around 10 minutes in its pits due to a hybrid system problem before the halfway point. First place was inherited by the N°8 sister car of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso who went on to claim their fourth victory of the season.
Michelin runners performed strongly in LMP2 in which there is a fierce battle between tyre companies. Giedo Van Der Garde (N°29 Dallara-Gibson) pulled off a superb move through Le Raidillon to take the lead on Lap 1. The N°36 Alpine-Gibson/Michelin then topped the category before Pastor Maldonado (N°31 Oreca-Gibson/Michelin) took control in the rain.
In LM GTE Pro, Aston Martin, Ford, Porsche and Ferrari all led at some stage as a function of their pit stop strategies and the track conditions. The N°97 Aston Martin/Michelin (Maxime Martin/Alex Lynn) appeared particularly at ease in the rain on its way to its first win of the 2018/2019 championship. The second-placed N°51 Ferrari/Michelin (Calado/Pier Guidi) finished marginally clear of the two factory Michelin-equipped Porsche 911 RSRs, but that didn’t prevent the German carmaker from wrapping up the GT Manufacturers title ahead of the trip to Le Mans, while the N°92 crew (Kevin Estre/Michael Christensen) sewed up the chase for the Drivers’ crown.
The N°77 Porsche/Michelin (Dempsey-Proton Racing) secured another win in LM GTE Am, although the N°98 Aston Martin/Michelin led for much of the race. The class’s other top-three finishers were the N°90 Aston Martin/Michelin (TF Sport) and the N°61 Ferrari/Michelin (Clearwater Racing).
The extremely wet 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps served as a useful rehearsal for the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours which will complete the FIA WEC’s ‘Super Season’ on June 15-16.