Jose Maria Lopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi led home a Toyota Gazoo Racing 1-2 finish in the FIA World Endurance Championship 4 Hours of Silverstone.
Lopez, driving the No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, resisted a late challenge from Kazuki Nakajima in the sister No. 8 car to claim victory by 1.901 seconds.
Toyota dominated the opening round of the 2019-20 season, which was the first-ever WEC race to be held over a four-hour format.
The Japanese manufacturer’s cars settled into an early 1-2 rhythm after locking out the front row of the grid in qualifying, but dropped behind the two Rebellion Racing R13 Gibsons during a Full Course Yellow period.
However, they were quick to regain their control of the race, with Sebastien Buemi in the No. 8 and Mike Conway in the No. 7 working past each of the Rebellions before the end of the opening hour.
The lead positions switched around again shortly after a safety car period near the halfway mark, with Rebellion’s No. 3 car of Pipo Derani emerging out front after a round of pit stops.
But the Brazilian was caught and passed by both Toyotas in the following laps, with Kobayashi taking the lead and Brendon Hartley slotting the No. 8 car into second.
Kobayashi’s gap over Hartley was reduced over the next half-hour, until the Japanese driver was overtaken at Brooklands, but a slower final stop when Hartley handed over to Kazuki Nakajima gave the No. 7 car an advantage it would maintain until the end.
Lopez, in for Kobayashi, almost hit trouble when he put four wheels on the grass exiting Chapel, but the Argentinian did enough to keep Nakajima at bay through to the checkered flag.
Rebellion’s challenge faded in the second half of the race, with the team’s No. 3 car of Derani, Nathanael Berthon and Loic Duval completing the podium one lap down.
The No. 3 received a stop-hold penalty for a technical infringement, while Rebellion’s No. 1 machine had a much tougher race, finishing six laps down in 10th overall after a series of setbacks.
A late trip to the garage for an unspecified technical issue resulted in the car tumbling out of the main block of LMP1 finishers.
Four laps off the winners in fourth place was the No. 5 Team LNT Ginetta G60-LT-P1 AER of Ben Hanley, Egor Orudzhev and Charlie Robertson.
It fared best of the two Ginetta entries, on the British constructor’s return to LMP1 competition after just over a year on the sidelines.
Team LNT’s No. 6 machine incurred damage in an incident at Maggotts between Oliver Jarvis and the No. 71 GTE-Pro class Ferrari, and also picked up a drive-through penalty for not adhering to stewards’ instructions.
This caused the second of two safety car interventions, with the first coming right at the start of the race when the United Autosports LMP2 Oreca stopped on the pit straight on lap two.
Cool Racing Wins on WEC Debut
Swiss outfit Cool Racing claimed victory in its first-ever appearance in the WEC LMP2 ranks courtesy of Nico Lapierre and Antonin Borga, who tackled the race as a pair.
This came after an accident in Saturday’s European Le Mans Series race ruled their co-driver Alexandre Coigny out of the WEC event.
The move of the race occurred in the third hour, when Lapierre successfully lunged underneath Job van Uitert in the Racing Team Nederland Oreca 07 Gibson, which led most of the way.
Borga then managed the rest of the race, building up a large gap to RTN’s Bronze-rated driver Frits van Eerd to the point that he . could pit the Cool Oreca for a late left-rear tire change without losing his lead.
Second place went to the Signatech Alpine Elf squad, after Thomas Laurent overtook van Eerd on the final lap.
Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Oreca finished fourth as the best of the Goodyear-shod LMP2 runners, on the tire manufacturer’s first international sports car race appearance since 2006.
RESULTS: 4H Silverstone