Spa WEC: #7 Toyota victorious in dramatic mixed weather race

The #7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez claimed victory in a stop-start FIA World Endurance Championship race at Spa, beating Alpine in mixed conditions.

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The 2022 WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps may not have been an instant classic, but it certainly was a typical Spa sportscar race. At 1pm local time the race started in dry conditions, but soon enough the capricious Ardennes weather began to play a starring role.

In the #8 Toyota Sebastien Buemi led the early running after both Toyotas passed the polesitting #708 Glickenhaus 007 LMH of Olivier Pla.

But after the first of three red flags for the crash of Miroslav Konopka in the #44 ARC Bratislava LMP2 car, Buemi was forced to park his car after the restart with what the team described as hybrid issues.

A power cycle proving futile, Buemi retired the #8 car on the spot, handing over the lead to the #7 sister car. It was the second retirement in as many races for the Japanese giant, although its misfortune has been evenly spread across both entries so far.

Konopka's off - just as it had started drizzling over one part of the Ardennes circuit but stayed bone dry on the other, a classic Spa-ism - was the first of many. During the first red flag teams were forced to gamble on whether the rain would persist, but soon enough the floodgates duly opened.

The refurbished and repaved circuit proved even more slippery than usual, and when cars started aquaplaning the race was red flagged a second time before the two-hour mark.

During the second red flag period Robin Frijns had cycled into the lead in the #31 WRT Oreca 07 LMP2, and as racing continued the Dutchman continued to impress with his wet weather prowess as he distanced Conway in the #7 Toyota.

The race's third stoppage occurred after three hours and 20 minutes following a crash for Alex Brundle in the #34 Inter Europol Oreca LMP2 machine. Brundle slapped the Turn 9 barriers hard, which prompted repairs to the armco.

Other offs in that period included a scary moment for Antonio Felix da Costa in the #38 JOTA car, who barely managed to keep the LMP2 frontrunner out of the wall, as well as excursions for Prema's Louis Deletraz and Vector Sport's Sebastien Bourdais. Though in fairness to them it would be easier to list the cars that didn't spin or go off track at any point.

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With little over two hours to go, racing resumed once again on a circuit that slowly but surely started drying.

On intermediates Toyota's Lopez tried to build a gap on Matthieu Vaxiviere in the Alpine, while half a lap behind them WRT's Rene Rast continued to circulate at a similar pace to the Hypercar class runners.

Lopez made his final pitstop for slicks with 30 minutes to go, safe in the knowledge that Vaxiviere also would have to pit. The Argentine brought the #7 to the chequered flag with a 27s lead, finding redemption after he crashed the car out of March's Sebring 1000 Miles.

Vaxiviere and Alpine teammates Negrao and Nicolas Lapierre settled for second, reinforcing their lead in the championship after winning Florida's season opener.

Polesitting Glickenhaus took a hit when a miscommunication between the team and Pipo Derani caused the Brazilian to make an extra pitstop for grooved tyres. That dropped the boutique manufacturer to ninth behind the LMP2 frontrunners but still third in Hypercar.

1-2 for WRT in LMP2

#31 Wrt Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2 : Sean Gelael, Robin Frijns, René Rast

#31 Wrt Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2 : Sean Gelael, Robin Frijns, René Rast

Photo by: Eric Le Galliot

Jousting for the overall lead at one stage, WRT proved the class of the LMP2 field. On home soil the Vincent Vosse-led outfit bagged an overall podium in third with Frijns, Rast and Sean Gelael.

Behind Rast, the #41 sister car of Ferdinand Habsburg fought out a prolonged battle with Phil Hanson in the #22 United Autosports Oreca. 

Hanson overtook Habsburg twice but spun off at the Bus Stop chicane to allow Habsburg and teammates Norman Nato and Rui Andrade to finish second, while Will Stevens brought home the #38 JOTA machine he shares with Roberto Gonzalez and da Costa.

American powerhouse Penske also passed the United car for fourth when Hanson made an additional late pitstop under yellow, despite the young Briton's best efforts to re-pass Felipe Nasr late on.

GTE Pro: Ferrari defeats Porsche in titanic battle

#51 AF CORSE Ferrari 488 GTE EVO: Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado

#51 AF CORSE Ferrari 488 GTE EVO: Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado

Photo by: Paul Foster

In GTE Pro, honours went to the #51 AF Corse Ferrari crew of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi.

Porsche endured a rough start despite occupying the front row. Kevin Estre outbraked himself in the #92 911 RSR-19 as he tried to pass polesitting teammate Gianmaria Bruni at La Source. While Estre passed Bruni, the pair made contact on exit, which led to a puncture for the Italian.

That forced the #92 to fight the two Ferraris and the Corvette on its own, and through the first stoppage the #52 Ferrari gained a one-lap lead by staying out. That huge gap was cancelled out after the third red flag, allowing the GTE Pro class to resume a straight fight to the finish.

As the track dried up, the #52 Ferrari dropped down the order behind the #51 and the #92 Porsche, setting up a door-to-door duel between Antonio Fuoco and Michael Christensen in the final hour. Christensen found a way past the Italian and then hunted down leader Calado, but their battle was halted by a late full-course yellow.

During a rare 10-minute green flag spell to the flag Christensen immediately tried to pounce but Calado resisted valiantly. Grappling with both slower and faster traffic on the final few laps, Calado continued to soak up the Dane's pressure and beat the Porsche by a few car lengths.

Fuoco closely followed in third in the #52 car he shared with Davide Rigon, with Corvette Racing's sole entry a distant fourth ahead of the #91 Porsche.

In GTE Am, Harry Tincknell, Sebastian Priaulx and Christian Ried took the win in the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche after a late yellow set up a shootout for victory between Tincknell and the #33 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage of Marco Sorensen. Nicki Thiim took third in the #98 Northwest AMR Aston.

Spa WEC - Race results:

Cla # Drivers Car Class Laps Gap
1 7 United Kingdom Mike Conway
Japan Kamui Kobayashi
Argentina Jose Maria Lopez
Toyota GR010 - Hybrid HYPERCAR 103  
2 36 Brazil Andre Negrao
France Nicolas Lapierre
France Matthieu Vaxiviere
Alpine A480 HYPERCAR 103 27.473
3 31 Indonesia Sean Gelael
Netherlands Robin Frijns
Germany René Rast
Oreca 07 LMP2 103 1'06.185
4 41 Portugal Rui Andrade
Austria Ferdinand Habsburg
France Norman Nato
Oreca 07 LMP2 103 1'40.676
5 38 Mexico Roberto Gonzalez
Portugal Antonio Felix da Costa
United Kingdom Will Stevens
Oreca 07 LMP2 103 1'48.571
6 5 United States Dane Cameron
France Emmanuel Collard
Brazil Felipe Nasr
Oreca 07 LMP2 103 1'57.610
7 22 United Kingdom Philip Hanson
Portugal Filipe Albuquerque
United States Will Owen
Oreca 07 LMP2 103 1'57.901
8 23 United Kingdom Alex Lynn
United Kingdom Oliver Jarvis
United States Josh Pierson
Oreca 07 LMP2 102 1 Lap
9 708 France Olivier Pla
France Romain Dumas
Brazil Pipo Derani
Glickenhaus 007 LMH HYPERCAR 102 1 Lap
10 9 Poland Robert Kubica
Switzerland Louis Deletraz
Italy Lorenzo Colombo
Oreca 07 LMP2 102 1 Lap
11 51 Italy Alessandro Pier Guidi
United Kingdom James Calado
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE PRO 102 1 Lap
12 92 Denmark Michael Christensen
France Kevin Estre
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE PRO 102 1 Lap
13 52 Spain Miguel Molina
Italy Antonio Fuoco
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE PRO 102 1 Lap
14 1 France Lilou Wadoux
France Sébastien Ogier
France Charles Milesi
Oreca 07 LMP2 101 2 Laps
15 83 France François Perrodo
Denmark Nicklas Nielsen
Italy Alessio Rovera
Oreca 07 LMP2 101 2 Laps
16 10 Switzerland Nico Müller
Ireland Ryan Cullen
France Sébastien Bourdais
Oreca 07 LMP2 101 2 Laps
17 45 United States Steven Thomas
Australia James Allen
Austria Rene Binder
Oreca 07 LMP2 101 2 Laps
18 64 United States Tommy Milner
United Kingdom Nick Tandy
Chevrolet Corvette C8.R LMGTE PRO 101 2 Laps
19 35 France Jean Baptiste Lahaye
France Matthieu Lahaye
France François Heriau
Oreca 07 LMP2 100 3 Laps
20 91 Italy Gianmaria Bruni
Austria Richard Lietz
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE PRO 100 3 Laps
21 77 Germany Christian Ried
United Kingdom Sebastian Priaulx
United Kingdom Harry Tincknell
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE AM 99 4 Laps
22 33 United States Ben Keating
Portugal Henrique Chaves Jr.
Denmark Marco Sorensen
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE AM 99 4 Laps
23 98 Canada Paul Dalla Lana
United Kingdom David Pittard
Denmark Nicki Thiim
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE AM 99 4 Laps
24 54 Switzerland Thomas Flohr
Italy Francesco Castellacci
New Zealand Nick Cassidy
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 99 4 Laps
25 46 Italy Matteo Cairoli
Denmark Mikkel Pedersen
Switzerland Nicolas Leutwiler
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE AM 99 4 Laps
26 86 United Kingdom Michael Wainwright
Italy Riccardo Pera
United Kingdom Benjamin Barker
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE AM 98 5 Laps
27 777 Japan Satoshi Hoshino
Japan Tomonobu Fujii
United Kingdom Charlie Fagg
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE AM 97 6 Laps
28 60 Italy Claudio Schiavoni
Italy Matteo Cressoni
Italy Giancarlo Fisichella
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 97 6 Laps
29 88 United States Fred Poordad
United States Patrick Lindsey
Belgium Jan Heylen
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE AM 96 7 Laps
30 85 Switzerland Rahel Frey
Denmark Michelle Gatting
Belgium Sarah Bovy
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 96 7 Laps
31 21 France Simon Mann
Switzerland Christoph Ulrich
Finland Toni Vilander
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 94 9 Laps
32 71 France Franck Dezoteux
France Pierre Ragues
France Gabriel Aubry
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 91 12 Laps
  56 United States Brendan Iribe
United Kingdom Ollie Millroy
United Kingdom Ben Barnicoat
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE AM 93 10 Laps
  28 Denmark Oliver Rasmussen
United Arab Emirates Ed Jones
South Africa Jonathan Aberdein
Oreca 07 LMP2 82 21 Laps
  34 Poland Jakub Smiechowski
United Kingdom Alex Brundle
Mexico Esteban Gutierrez
Oreca 07 LMP2 52 51 Laps
  8 Switzerland Sébastien Buemi
New Zealand Brendon Hartley
Japan Ryo Hirakawa
Toyota GR010 - Hybrid HYPERCAR 29 74 Laps
  44 Slovakia Miro Konopka
Netherlands Tijmen van der Helm
Netherlands Bent Viscaal
Oreca 07 LMP2 25 78 Laps

 

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