Fernando Alonso has claimed victory in his FIA World Endurance Championship debut, in a commanding run for Toyota in Saturday’s season-opening Total Six Hours of Spa.
The two-time Formula One world champion held off teammate Mike Conway, whose No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid charged from a pit-lane start and one-lap deficit to challenge for the win in the closing stages.
However, a ten-second slower final stop for Conway put Alonso, who also took fuel-only, comfortably out front, despite slowing in his closing stint with increasing gearbox temperatures.
Alonso crossed the line 1.444 seconds ahead of Conway to claim his first win since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix.
The Spaniard shared top honors with Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi.
Conway and co-drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez settled for second, despite appearing to have the quicker car in the end, although the pair of Toyotas finishing two laps ahead of the nearest competition.
The No. 1 Rebellion R13 Gibson of Andre Lotterer, Bruno Senna and Neel Jani completed the overall podium in third, the best of the non-hybrid contenders.
While Lotterer pressured the pole-sitting Toyota of Buemi on the opening lap, it was the closest any of the LMP1 privateers came to the overall lead in the race.
The car battled issues with its data logger, having received multiple blue-and-yellow flags, but still came out ahead of the sister No. 3 Rebellion entry, which faded to fourth.
Thomas Laurent rocketed past the No. 17 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 AER of Matevos Isaakyan for third late in the fifth hour, just moments before the Russian crashed out in dramatic fashion at the top of Eau Rouge.
Isaakyan’s accident brought out the race’s third and final safety car period and set up a 49-minute run to the finish.
The No. 4 ByKolles CLM P1/01 NISMO completed the top-five after showing early promise, despite a brief exhaust fire during the car’s first stop.
SMP’s No. 11 BR1, meanwhile, was the only Dallara-built LMP1 cars to finish, following Isaakyan’s crash and Pietro Fittipaldi’s leg-breaking shunt in qualifying that ruled out DragonSpeed’s Gibson-powered entry from taking part in the race.
G-Drive Dominant in LMP2
G-Drive Racing claimed back-to-back class victories at Spa, with Jean-Eric Vergne, Roman Rusinov and Andrea Pizzitola taking their No. 26 Oreca 07 Gibson to LMP2 honors.
While losing the lead to the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara P217 Gibson of Giedo Van Der Garde early, Vergne re-took the top spot when alternator issues struck the Dallara early on.
A right-side only tire change on Vergne’s final stop kept the TDS-run Oreca out front.
Vergne finished 21.744 seconds ahead of the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca of Ho-Pin Tung in second, with the Signatech Alpine A470 Gibson completing the class podium in third.
Class pole-sitter Nico Lapierre dropped to seventh after receiving a drive-through penalty for “not respecting official instruction in Turn 1” although remained strong in the latter stages of the race.
RESULTS: Total Six Hours of Spa