Winning Toyota drivers expected to be third at Spa

The drivers of the winning #7 Toyota in Saturday's Spa round of the FIA World Endurance Championship have admitted they went into the weekend expecting to be third due to their success handicap.

Winning Toyota drivers expected to be third at Spa

Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi scored their third win of the 2019/20 campaign as the WEC returned to action in mixed conditions in Belgium, leading a one-two for Toyota ahead of their stablemates in the #8 TS050 Hybrid.

The #7 car was carrying the most severe success handicap heading to the weekend of 3.52 seconds a lap as a result of its advantage in the championship, compared to 3.08s a lap for the sister #8 car and 1.58s for the solo Rebellion R-13.

Read the race report:

But a combination of the weather, which effectively removed the pole-sitting Rebellion from contention, good tyre calls and intermittent electrical problems for the #8 car all combined to give Conway, Lopez and Kobayashi a fairly comfortable win.

Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima eventually brought home the #8 car 34 seconds down at the finish, although the #7 car's lead had been as big as a minute before the third safety car period of the race in the third hour.

"To get the win was quite unexpected with the penalties we have, I have to say," said Conway. "We thought we would finish third this weekend, maybe second if things were mixed up.

"At the beginning Seb [Buemi] was pretty quick, it was hard to keep up, but then they had some issues on their car so we caught the gap up.

"After that it was the right call to go on slicks when we did and we extended a big gap. But it kept changing throughout the race with the safety cars.

"Very challenging all the time, car 8 was very quick in sectors one and three with their extra boost. But we managed to pull it together, got the car well-dialled in, the engineers changed some things overnight and it really worked out well for us today."

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Having come to Spa with a five-point advantage over their stablemates in the #8 Toyota, Conway, Lopez and Kobayashi now head to next month's double-points Le Mans 24 Hours with 12 points in hand over Buemi, Nakajima and Hartley.

Lopez also admitted that in a dry race it would have been difficult to trouble Rebellion, which had topped every session leading up to the race.

"We arrived here with the penalty and in the best conditions we could achieve third place or maybe second," said Lopez. "But, unlike the other years, today everything went in our favour.

"Firstly, without the rain we couldn’t have beaten Rebellion, they were quicker in dry conditions. I think that gave us the possibility to fight as a team.

"And then all the calls we did on the tyres, they were at the right time. We didn't know what was going to happen with the weather, but everything went in our favour today."

Kobayashi added: "This week our team and my teammates did a great job, we didn't do any mistakes. We did a perfect job. 

"This is just before Le Mans, so for us it's very important to put [everything] together especially after the long break [since the previous WEC race at Austin in February]."

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

shares
comments

Related video

Spa WEC: Toyota takes one-two in rain-affected race

Previous article

Spa WEC: Toyota takes one-two in rain-affected race

Next article

Laurent sorry for "unforgivable" mistake after Spa crash

Laurent sorry for "unforgivable" mistake after Spa crash
Load comments
The understated Le Mans legend who has earned a testimonial Prime

The understated Le Mans legend who has earned a testimonial

OPINION: After 24 Le Mans 24 Hours participations, 50-year-old Emmanuel Collard will be absent from the grid this year, stuck at the mercy of his gold driver grading. But, while he's not motivated by breaking start records, the French veteran is determined to return to the field next year.

WEC
Jul 24, 2021
How glitches threatened Toyota's unbeaten WEC streak Prime

How glitches threatened Toyota's unbeaten WEC streak

The FIA World Endurance Championship's long-awaited return to Monza posed the sternest test yet for Toyota's new hypercar. Although the Japanese marque's GR010 Hybrid remains unbeaten, the victory for Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi was far from plain sailing.

WEC
Jul 19, 2021
The significance of the next step in WEC/IMSA convergence Prime

The significance of the next step in WEC/IMSA convergence

Following the latest convergence connection permitting Le Mans Hypercars from the FIA World Endurance Championship to compete against LMDh entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship from 2023, it could open up enticing options not only to manufacturers but also for the calendar and race formats

WEC
Jul 13, 2021
How overlooked Mazda produced one of Le Mans' greatest shocks Prime

How overlooked Mazda produced one of Le Mans' greatest shocks

The screaming rotary-engined Mazda 787 is regarded as one of the most popular Le Mans 24 Hours-winning cars, but until its surprise success on this day 30 years ago it was never regarded as a likely victor. But that reckoned without a new technical partner, some canny political manoeuvring and a rival's bizarre self-inflicted weakness.

Le Mans
Jun 23, 2021
How Alpine's stunted Portimao charge kept Toyota clear Prime

How Alpine's stunted Portimao charge kept Toyota clear

Despite going stride for stride for pace at Portimao, Alpine’s grandfathered LMP1 couldn’t convert pole position into a sustained victory fight against Toyota. And due to rules and car limitations that are set in stone, the French manufacturer will be searching for solutions in its own battle of endurance.

WEC
Jun 14, 2021
Charting 100 world championship sportscar starts for Toyota Prime

Charting 100 world championship sportscar starts for Toyota

This weekend's Portimao 8 Hours round of the FIA World Endurance Championship marks the 100th world champion prototype start for Toyota. Here are the major milestones on the road to three figures since the earliest low-key days of its entry into the Group C arena nearly 40 years ago.

WEC
Jun 12, 2021
The philosophical problems the WEC's new Hypercar class is already facing Prime

The philosophical problems the WEC's new Hypercar class is already facing

Most of the column inches after the World Endurance Championship's opener were centred around the relative pace of the Hypercar class and the LMP2s, but there's another question that needs addressing in order for the new division to have a successful future

WEC
May 7, 2021
How stumbling Toyota drew first blood in the WEC's new era Prime

How stumbling Toyota drew first blood in the WEC's new era

Amid concerns that the new Hypercar class would be upstaged on debut by the spec LMP2 machines at Spa, Toyota delivered the pole and victory that the vast majority of observers expected. But neither car had a clean run, which gave the grandfathered Alpine LMP1 an unexpected shot at glory.

WEC
May 4, 2021