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Portimao Post-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s post-race news and notes from the WEC 8 Hours of Portimao…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

***No. 8 Toyota drivers Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley moved into a 20-point lead over their teammates Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway following their victory in the 8 Hours of Portimao. The drivers of the No. 7 Toyota climbed to second in the FIA World Endurance Championship standings by one point over Alpine’s Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Matthieu Vaxiviere.

***Toyota’s double swap for the lead in the final hour was the outcome of a new team orders strategy for the manufacturer this season. Having previously frozen the positions of its two cars at the final round of stops, Toyota is now allowing for final-stint position changes depending on whether the car behind is faster than the leader. It’s understood this rule is currently only in place for the shorter WEC rounds, and not Le Mans.

***In this team orders situation, the pace of the Toyotas is judged by traffic-free sectors. “In the first part of the stint Jose Maria [Lopez] was faster, so he passed,” said Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon. “But then unfortunately he was not faster anymore when he has been in front, so we swapped.”

***The second swap ensured that Buemi, Nakajima and Hartley claimed their fourth WEC victory together and their second of the season from two races. Toyota’s win was its 32nd in 100 world championship-level sports car race participations.

***James Calado celebrated his 32nd birthday with an eighth career WEC GTE-Pro class win, alongside his AF Corse Ferrari co-driver Alessandro Pier Guidi who has accompanied the Brit for all but one of his victories.

***The Ferrari pair seized the GTE world championship points lead from Porsche’s Kevin Estre and Neel Jani, who won at Spa. The two crews are separated by six points.

***LMP2 and GTE-Am also gained new leaders after wins for JOTA’s No. 38 Oreca crew and the Cetilar Racing Ferrari. The changes at the top of the leaderboards can be attributed to Portimao offering more points than Spa, due to it being a longer race.

***Despite struggling to challenge Ferrari due to tire degradation issues, Porsche was satisfied with how its three-driver approach worked out as a rehearsal for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. “It was exactly how we planned it,” said the team’s Head of WEC Operations, Alexander Stehlig. “It was physical and hotter than we actually thought. It was also very important for the team play.”

***Nicolas Lapierre changed his helmet at Alpine’s second pit stop after a microphone fault prevented the Frenchman from communicating with his team in the garage.

***Racing Team Nederland’s Oreca fell out of the LMP2 battle due to damage stemming from contact between Job van Uitert and a Ferrari. “We had to change some parts on the rear axle,” said TDS Racing team principal Xavier Combet. “Many parts were destroyed. It was not a big contact, but it was exactly at the point you cannot touch the other car.”

***Nederland returned to the track to claim fourth-place in the LMP2 Pro-Am sub-category, while Realteam Racing – also run by TDS – won after late battery trouble caused High Class Racing’s Oreca to stop on-track, bringing out the Full Course Yellow.

***Realteam had to manage slight damage to its Oreca throughout the race after Norman Nato was tapped into a spin by a GTE car in the early stages, according to Combet. Nato and Esteban Garcia took the lead of the Pro-Am classification with victory.

***D’Station Racing’s Aston Martin Vantage GTE retired after damage stemming from contact with the Glickenhaus SCG 007 LMH at Turn 5. “It looked like the damage had broken one of the radiator brackets,” said Tom Ferrier. “It was forcing the radiator up and caused one of the pipes to stop any water going into the radiator. It overheated, so we boxed and changed the radiator, bled the system and sent it out again. It looked like it got too hot and cracked the head, so we had to park it.”

***The other retirement was the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche, which was collected in the Glickenhaus-D’Station clash.

***Michelin gathered crucial race data on its rear-wheel-drive Le Mans Hypercar tire family through the debut of the Glickenhaus. Richard Westbrook said he could “barely make one stint” in the early stages, but Romain Dumas told Sportscar365 after the race that the SCG did manage a double stint, split between himself and Westbrook, after the car returned from a clutch replacement following its incident.

***A hot track surface was a key variable on Sunday. Michelin Pilot Sport Endurance range developer Aurelien Fabre said: “We dissected and analyzed a high number of tires to identify the correlation between the phenomenon of blistering, the high running temperatures, the cars’ setups and the different driving styles.”

***Sunday’s race was preceded by a Le Mans-style pre-grid before the formation lap, bringing back the standard WEC starting procedure that was replaced by a short two-by-two pre-grid at recent rounds including Spa and the 2019-20 finale in Bahrain.

***The third WEC round of the season is the 6 Hours of Monza on July 18.

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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