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Extra Alpine Stop Puts Toyota in Control at Portimao

Toyota’s longer stints wear down Alpine’s early advantage at 8H Portimao…

Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

Toyota Gazoo Racing gained control of the 8 Hours of Portimao in the middle portion of the race as longer stints compared to Alpine swung the advantage in the Japanese manufacturer’s direction.

No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid driver Kamui Kobayashi held an 18-second lead over Kazuki Nakajima in the No. 8 Toyota with three hours to go, while Nicolas Lapierre sat almost a minute further back in the pole-sitting Alpine A480 Gibson grandfathered LMP1.

Alpine commanded the early stages but the French outfit’s inability to match Toyota’s 37-lap stints gradually shifted momentum in favor of the reigning world champions.

Matthieu Vaxiviere made his car’s sixth pit stop just before the end of the fifth hour, while Kobayashi and Nakajima pitted their Toyotas for the fifth time a few moments later, signaling an extra service for Alpine.

Kobayashi had a nervous moment on pit entry for the No. 7 Toyota’s most recent stop when the Japanese driver locked up under braking and ran over a marker board.

Nakajima pitted not long after Kobayashi, exiting 20 seconds behind his teammate and a minute clear of Lapierre.

The LMP2 lead swung toward United Autosports’ No. 22 Oreca 07 Gibson which moved into first place after profiting from a third-hour drive-penalty for the Team WRT Oreca.

WRT was sanctioned for speeding in the pits, dropping Charles Milesi behind Wayne Boyd. The Frenchman was then forced to come back into the pits around 20 minutes later to conduct another drive-through for not respecting the blue overtaking flags.

This temporarily demoted WRT to third, but Milesi made an impressive overtake on Inter Europol Competition’s Louis Deletraz at the Turn 1 right-hander to reclaim one place.

WRT has since entered a battle for second with the No. 28 JOTA Oreca which has recovered from its spin on the first lap that dropped it to the rear of the LMP2 field.

Ferrari controlled much of the opening half in GTE-Pro after James Calado overtook Neel Jani – in for pole-sitter Kevin Estre – early in the second stint.

Calado then opened up a large gap between his No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo and the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19, with the No. 52 AF Corse Ferrari running in third.

Miguel Molina made it a Ferrari one-two approaching halfway with an overtake on Michael Christensen, who is an additional driver for this race alongside Jani and Estre.

NorthWest AMR’s Aston Martin Vantage GTE ran a the front of the GTE-Am pack on five hours with Paul Dalla Lana at the helm.

The Canadian had about half a minute in hand to Robert Lacorte a the wheel of the second-placed Cetilar Racing Ferrari.

The Glickenhaus Racing SCG 007 LMH was involved in contact with the D’Station Racing Aston Martin and one of the Dempsey-Proton Porsches on the approach to Turn 5.

Ryan Briscoe returned the SCG Hypercar to the pits where a clutch issue was found that cost the team exactly one hour in repairs.

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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