TOYOTA GAZOO Racing now makes the short journey back to Cologne
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing took its second consecutive victory of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season with a one-two in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
Silverstone winners Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima, in the #8 TS050 HYBRID, again took top step of the podium to extend their lead in the drivers’ World Championship to 17 points.
In a dramatic race, the #7 of Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi finished just 1.992secs behind in second place, for the team’s first one-two since Shanghai in 2014. That moves Toyota into the lead of the manufacturers’ World Championship, by 8.5 points from Porsche.
The #9 crew of Stéphane Sarrazin, Yuji Kunimoto and Nicolas Lapierre, competing together for the first time, completed a trouble-free race to finish fifth and gather valuable experience with the low-downforce TS050 HYBRID.
Right from the start, the Toyotas were challenging for the win, with first Sébastien then Mike putting the pole-position #1 Porsche under pressure. On the 10th lap, Mike took the lead, while Sébastien took second three laps later.
At the first driver changes, Yuji took over the #9 in fifth for his first-ever racing laps at Spa. He showed consistency and maturity throughout his two stints to navigate safely through the lapped traffic; a key stage in his acclimatisation to WEC racing.
Kamui was consistently building a lead for the #7 as the race passed the halfway point, with Anthony in the #8 in second. But the race soon took a significant turn with two full course yellow periods.
The #7 was unlucky to be already in the pits on both occasions. Other cars pitted after the yellow flags and therefore conceded far less time due to the 80km/h limit around the lap. Mike, whose stops were made when the competitors were driving at racing speeds, lost around one minute.
Kazuki initially took the lead during the first full course yellow then extended it significantly during the second. Mike on the other hand found himself in a fight with the #2 Porsche, dropping to third.
A further twist saw the #2 Porsche lose time due to accident repairs meaning Sébastien held a half-minute lead going into the final hour over Kamui, now second in the #7.
Kamui closed the gap but held position in the last laps, crossing the line just behind Sébastien, who took Toyota’s 13th win since its WEC debut in 2012. Nicolas completed a clean run for the #9 car, taking the flag in fifth, two laps behind.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing now makes the short journey back to Cologne to accelerate preparations for the Le Mans 24 Hours on 17-18 June when the team expects a challenging and close fight with Porsche. Before that, all teams participate in the official Le Mans test day on 4 June.