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Alpine Up Front at Halfway with Toyota Chasing

Slower second-hour pit stops for Toyotas enable Alpine to take midway lead at Spa…

Photo: MPS Agency

Alpine Endurance Team led the Total 6 Hours of Spa at halfway as Nicolas Lapierre held a narrow two-second advantage over Jose Maria Lopez in the No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid.

Alpine’s non-hybrid A480 Gibson LMP1 car advanced from third to first during the second round of Hypercar class pit stops after an hour and 45 minutes.

The No. 8 Toyota led into that pit cycle after Sebastien Buemi overtook pole-sitter Mike Conway during the opening stint, but it was forced to observe a 30-second hold for a mechanic releasing the refueling hose too early during its first service of the race.

This amounted to 1m 46s spent between pit-in and pit exit, dropping Buemi’s co-driver Brendon Hartley behind the Alpine and the No. 7 Toyota.

The Alpine moved into the lead in part due to its second pit stop, which took place three laps earlier, being almost 20 seconds quicker than the No. 7 Toyota’s equivalent.

Lapierre’s lead of around 20 seconds was then brought down by Lopez, in for Conway, over the course of the third hour despite a lock-up at Les Combes that required the Toyota driver to dive down an escape road.

After three hours, third-placed Hartley was a further 29 seconds behind Lopez.

United Autosports dominated the first half of the race in the LMP2 class with Phil Hanson leading away from pole before handing the No. 22 Oreca 07 Gibson over to Filipe Albuquerque, who set the category’s fastest lap in qualifying on Friday.

Albuquerque pitted just before the three-hour mark but previously held a lead of around a minute over Nyck de Vries in the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Aurus-badged Oreca.

Antonio Felix da Costa moved JOTA’s No. 38 Oreca up to third with a move on WRT’s Ferdinand Habsburg nearing the top of the fourth hour and the fourth LMP2 pit stops.

Habsburg and da Costa went side-by-side up Raidillon before the WRT driver got held up by GT traffic on the Kemmel Straight, enabling both da Costa and Racing Team Nederland’s Giedo van der Garde to squeeze through.

In GTE-Pro, Neel Jani led in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 from James Calado at the wheel of the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.

Jani, who is teamed up with Kevin Estre, had around 23 seconds in hand to Calado at the end of three hours shortly before the category’s third pit stops started unfolding.

Daniel Serra was third in the other AF Corse Ferrari, from Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin. 

GTE-Am leader Francois Perrodo pitted moments before the halfway mark.

After an early charge to the front from Dempsey-Proton Racing’s Matt Campbell, Perrodo’s AF Corse driving partner Alessio Rovera passed Ried who had taken over the No. 77 Porsche from Campbell after an hour.

TF Sport’s Aston Martin Vantage GTE and the No. 85 Iron Lynx Ferrari have also been in the mix.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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