Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley won the 8 Hours of Portimao after Toyota switched the positions of its Le Mans Hypercars twice in the final stint.
Buemi, driving the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid, breezed past the No. 7 car of Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway coming out of the Turn 5 hairpin with 10 minutes to go and went on to take the checkered flag by a margin of 1.8 seconds.
The organized place change occurred seven minutes after Buemi allowed Lopez through at the same point on the 4.6 km Algarve International Circuit.
Buemi moved into the lead of the race with around half an hour remaining, when Lopez made a pit stop to take on enough fuel in order to reach the end. The No. 8 Toyota’s strategy throughout the race meant that it did not need an additional service.
Lopez made use of a Full Course Yellow period to complete his splash whilst Buemi was driving at the 80 km/h control speed, which left the Toyotas only four seconds apart.
Lopez rapidly closed that gap before Buemi was asked to cede the position, but the change only lasted a handful of minutes as the Swiss driver soon found himself back in front.
Alpine Endurance Team’s Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Matthieu Vaxiviere – who took pole on Saturday – finished a minute and six seconds back in third place.
The French team led the opening stages after a terrific getaway from pole-sitter Lapierre, but couldn’t match the longer stints of the Toyotas due to the ORECA-built Alpine A480 Gibson LMP1 car running with a smaller fuel tank.
Alpine ended up making an additional stop in the middle portion of the race, before a safety car early in the sixth hour for a beached ARC Bratislava Ligier LMP2 at Turn 8 brought Lapierre onto the tail of the Toyotas.
The former Toyota LMP1 driver overtook Nakajima for second into Turn 1 and piled the pressure on Kobayashi until he was required to come in for his car’s seventh pit stop.
The stop with two hours and 15 minutes to go dropped Lapierre to around 1m 20s behind the Toyotas, which reflected the margin at the finish after the remaining pits played out.
The Toyotas switched positions a handful of times during the eight hours. Conway overtook Hartley at Turn 5 in the third hour but the pair switched around at their next pit stops, before Conway performed a copycat move in the next hour of racing.
Kobayashi then extended the gap over Nakajima through the fifth hour and kept ahead despite his margin disappearing due to the safety car.
The No. 7 crew’s chances of victory slimmed as the prospect of an extra pit stop loomed but it was given late hope of a season-first win by the FCY and the first team orders call.
Glickenhaus reached the finish with its new SCG 007 LMH, albeit 54 laps down on the winner after a collision for Ryan Briscoe with two GTE-Am cars resulted in a replacement of the non-hybrid prototype’s clutch.
Antonio Felix da Costa made a late overtake on his JOTA teammate Tom Blomqvist to capture LMP2 class honors alongside Roberto Gonzalez and Anthony Davidson.
Da Costa, the only Portuguese driver in the field, used traffic to plot a braking move on Blomqvist at Turn 5 with just over five minutes to go and ran away from there.
It bookended a rollercoaster race for the JOTA Oreca 07 Gibsons, after da Costa tapped Blomqvist into a spin at the second corner which dropped the No. 28 car to last in class.
A smart recovery from the No. 28 crew of Blomqvist, Sean Gelael and Stoffel Vandoorne combined with consistency from their teammates netted an optimal result for JOTA.
Paul di Resta needed to make a late fuel splash but still finished third in the United Autosports Oreca he shared with Wayne Boyd and Phil Hanson.
Team WRT’s Robin Frijns, Charles Milesi and Ferdinand Habsburg were fourth, from Inter Europol Competion’s Louis Deletraz, Alex Brundle and Jakub Smiechowski.
Calado, Pier Guidi Return Ferrari to Top Step
GTE-Pro winners James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi dominated to chalk up Ferrari’s first victory in the class since the 4 Hours of Shanghai in 2019.
The Anglo-Italian duo’s No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo was the class of the field from the moment Calado overtook Neel Jani’s pole-sitting Porsche 911 RSR-19 in the second hour.
Miguel Molina and Daniel Serra completed a one-two for the AF Corse factory Ferrari squad ahead of Jani, Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen.
The No. 91 Porsche of Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz and Frederic Makowiecki finished over a minute adrift of its sister car in fourth after struggling on its tires throughout.
GTE-Am honors went the way of Cetilar Racing, which claimed its first WEC victory in only its second outing with the Ferrari GTE product.
Antonio Fuoco, who teamed up with Giorgio Sernagiotto and Roberto Lacorte, finished 5.8 seconds ahead of Riccardo Pera in the No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche that also featured Egidio Perfetti and Matteo Cairoli.
Francesco Castellacci crossed the line third in the Vistajet No. 54 AF Corse Ferrari despite incurring a late drive-through for an infringement during the FCY procedure.
RESULTS: 8H Portimao