Toyota earned back-to-back FIA World Endurance Championship victories with a commanding win in Saturday’s Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
Nicolas Lapierre took the No. 8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid to a 1 minute and 13-second victory over Loic Duval’s No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, in a race that saw an early challenge from Porsche until both of the 919 Hybrids ran into trouble.
Audi, meanwhile, struggled in the early stages but showed encouraging moments in the second half. But it wasn’t enough to derail the Japanese manufacturer from another near-perfect run, in the dress rehearsal to next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Lapierre shared the winning Toyota with Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi, whose middle stint solidified their advantage, just as the remaining contending Porsche faltered.
While the No. 14 Porsche stretched out into an early lead, the Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas-driven entry lost its advantage by the second hour due to Lieb stalling the car in the pits, which propelled Buemi to the lead.
The real trouble, however, struck with two-and-a-half hours to go when Dumas slowed on track with electrical issues. With the guidance of his crew, the Frenchman managed to solve the glitch on-board but dropped from second to fourth as a result and crucially one lap behind.
Porsche’s misfortunes opened up the door for the No. 1 Audi, which along with its sister diesel-powered prototypes, struggled for speed and fuel mileage, to finish second in the hands of Duval, Tom Kristensen and Lucas di Grassi.
Duval held off a hard-charging Stephane Sarrazin to deny another Toyota 1-2 finish, with he and co-drivers Alex Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima completing the podium in third. The No. 7 Toyota, which struggled with oversteer, lost time in the third hour when it attempted to double-stint its Michelin tires.
The No. 14 Porsche came home in fourth, ahead of the No. 2 Audi in fifth which, along with their FIA WEC season-long sister car, managed to double-stint early.
Porsche’s No. 20 entry, meanwhile, hit suspension trouble early and made repeated trips to the garage with related issues, resulting in a 23rd place finish overall.
Rebellion Racing got one of its new Toyota-powered R-Ones to the finish, with the No. 12 entry of Nicolas Prost, Nick Heidfeld and Mathias Beche completing the race in a respectable seventh overall after a steady run.
The team’s No. 13 car, meanwhile, retired in the fifth hour following multiple issues, culminating with a fire in the engine bay.
G-Drive Racing claimed LMP2 honors for the second consecutive race, with the Olivier Pla, Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal-driven Morgan-Nissan dominating the race.
Pla finished 1 minute and 10 seconds ahead of the No. 38 Jota Sport Zytek Z11SN Nissan, which was taken to the finish by Harry Tincknell. The Brit shared the wheel with Simon Dolan and Audi reserve driver on-loan, Marc Gene.
The class pole-sitting No. 47 KCMG Oreca 03 Nissan of Richard Bradley, Alexandre Imperatori and Matt Howson made it three different chassis on the podium with a third place run, with the two SMP Racing Oreca-Nissans completing the top-five in class.
Following a Porsche sweep at Silverstone, the Prancing Horses from Ferrari reigned supreme in Belgium, with AF Corse sweeping both GTE classes.
Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander translated a pole on Friday into their first GTE-Pro class victory of the season, taking their No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia to a one-lap win over the No. 91 Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR in second.
It was nearly a 1-2 result for the Italian factory squad, but a late-race pass by Patrick Pilet over the No. 71 Ferrari of Davide Rigon saw the Frenchman and co-driver Joerg Bergmeister take their second consecutive runner-up finish.
As a result, Rigon and James Calado had to settle for third in class, but still marking their first podium appearances of the season.
While Bruni led from the green, it was the pair of Aston Martin Racing entries that jumped out front by the second hour, thanks to the V8-powered Vantages double-stinting their Michelin tires early.
However, the No. 51 Ferrari re-took the lead shortly after, with solid stints by the defending GTE-Pro drivers’ championship and his longtime Finnish co-driver resulting in a dominant run for the Italian squad.
The No. 97 Aston Martin of Darren Turner, Stefan Muecke and Bruno Senna, which briefly led early, came home in fourth, while the No. 99 AMR/Craft-Bamboo entry completed the top-five in class.
Despite its sister car on the podium, the hopes of Porsche’s Silverstone class-winning No. 92 entry faded in the fifth hour when the Marco Holzer and Fred Makowiecki-driven entry lost nearly four laps with a mechanical issue.
AF Corse’s Marco Cioci, Mirko Venturi and Luis Perez-Companc, meanwhile, claimed top honors in GTE-Am, edging out the pair of Aston Martin Racing entries in what turned into a fuel mileage race.
While both the No. 98 AMR and No. 95 Young Driver-backed cars dominated through the middle portions, the No. 61 Ferrari made one less stop than the Astons, which proved to be the key of the race.
Cioci finished 32.241 seconds ahead of Richie Stanaway, who overtook teammate Christoffer Nygaard in the closing minutes to put he and co-drivers Kristian Poulsen and David Heinemeier Hansson on the second step of the podium.
Nygaard and co-drivers Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy had to settle for third in class.
Next up for the FIA WEC is the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 14-15, with LIVE coverage on the FOX Sports family of networks.
Click HERE for full results from Spa-Francorchamps.FIA WEC, Sports Cars