Toyota’s Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez extended their FIA World Endurance Championship points lead with victory in the Total 6 Hours of Spa.
The No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing crew led home a one-two for the manufacturer and won despite having the largest success handicap of the four-car LMP1 field.
Conway took the checkered flag 34 seconds ahead of Sebastien Buemi who was forced to make a late splash for fuel in the sister No. 8 machine that was also driven by Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley.
Rebellion Racing completed the top-three with the Swiss team’s Rebellion R13 Gibson of Gustavo Menezes, Bruno Senna and Norman Nato finishing a lap down to the winner.
Round six of the 2019-20 WEC season started with both Toyotas getting the better of the sole Rebellion when the race eventually got underway following a period behind the safety car, due to the severity of Saturday’s wet conditions.
The leading No. 8 car’s time advantage that was built up in the opening hour was affected by an issue with its system automatically engaging ‘safe mode’ which affected first Buemi and then Hartley later on.
When the No. 8 pitted from the lead in the second hour, right after the first of three-car periods after the green flag running started, the No. 7 emerged ahead with an edge of around 40 seconds.
Conway held a clear lead over Buemi, before handing over to Kobayashi who grew the gap to around a minute over Hartley into the fourth hour.
The margin then stabilized over the final two hours and while the No. 8 Toyota got close to its sister car near the end, its requirement for a late fuel splash set it back.
Rebellion never seemed to provide a challenge to Toyota despite setting the pace in all three practice sessions and qualifying.
The other non-hybrid team, ByKolles Racing, started brightly and ran third for a brief spell before the ENSO CLM P1/01 Gibson lost a handful of laps with an issue.
Another Win for United Autosports in LMP2
United Autosports’ Oreca 07 Gibson came through in fourth overall, while the Anglo-American squad claimed its second LMP2 class victory at Spa in as many weeks.
Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque, who won the European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Spa six days ago, doubled up in the WEC alongside Paul di Resta.
Di Resta was classified one lap ahead of Nicolas Lapierre in the Cool Racing Oreca that the Frenchman shared with Alexandre Coigny and Antonin Borga.
Racing Team Nederland picked up a podium with Giedo van der Garde, Job van Uitert and Frits van Eerd, while the No. 38 Jota Oreca finished fourth.
Van Eerd was involved in a tangle with the No. 36 Signatech Alpine of Thomas Laurent in the fifth hour which resulted in the third and final safety car of the day.
Laurent came up behind van Eerd on the run down to Blanchimont and lost control with two wheels on the grass, before heavily impacting the right-side barriers.
The Nederland squad went on to pick up third place when Mark Patterson spun in the High Class Racing Oreca at Bus Stop during the final hour.
Porsche Wins GTE-Pro Contest
Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen earned their first GTE-Pro win of the season in their No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 after finishing second on four previous occasions.
Estre overtook the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE of Maxime Martin in the final half-hour with a move at La Source and was assured of victory when Martin came in for a late fuel splash.
The Belgian, who shared the Aston with Alex Lynn, emerged behind the sister Vantage of Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim but also came out just ahead of Ferrari driver James Calado and Porsche’s Gianmaria Bruni.
The trio ran nose-to-tail through the closing stages, but Martin held on to secure a double podium for the AMR squad.
Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi were the best AF Corse Ferrari pairing in fourth, while Bruni and Richard Lietz completed the top five in the N. 91 Porsche.
Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina’s Ferrari came through in sixth, as all the GTE-Pro cars finished on the lead lap.
In GTE-Am, AF Corse’s points-leading trio of Nicklas Nielsen, Francois Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard boosted their title hopes with a second win of the campaign.
Nielsen crossed the line just under three seconds ahead of Matt Campbell in the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche that the Australian shared with Riccardo Pera and Christian Ried.
TF Sport’s Charlie Eastwood, Salih Yoluc and Jonny Adam rounded out the class podium in their Aston Martin, putting three different marques in the top three.
RESULTS: Total 6H Spa