FIA WEC

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Toyota takes second straight WEC win with dominant Spa display

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SPA, Belgium – Toyota swept to a dominant one-two finish in Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at Spa-Francorchamps, continuing its perfect start to the 2017 season as Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima took their second straight win.

After winning the opening race of the year at Silverstone two weeks ago, Toyota sent out a warning shot to its rivals by topping all three practice sessions, only for Porsche to snatch pole with its No. 1 919 Hybrid on Friday afternoon.

Andre Lotterer led the early part of the race for Porsche, only for tire management issues to cause the German driver to drop back, with Mike Conway blasting into the lead for Toyota in the No. 7 car.

Conway and teammate Kamui Kobayashi were in control of the race until a full course yellow was thrown in the fourth hour, with a mistimed pit stop allowing the No. 8 Toyota to move into the lead.

Conway put in a stunning stint to reduce the gap between the two TS050 Hybrids from 20 seconds to just two in just 40 minutes, only to be burned by another full course yellow that widened the gap once again.

Porsche managed to get its No. 2 car up into second place briefly before Conway fought back, with Kobayashi then putting in a blistering final stint to cut the gap at the front once again. Late traffic cost the ex-Formula 1 driver the chance to catch Buemi at the front, with the No. 8 trio finishing two seconds clear at the checkered flag.

Porsche was left to settle for third and fourth, the No. 2 finishing ahead of the No. 3, but has placed its focus on preparing for Le Mans by running its cars in low downforce aero packages for the opening two rounds of the year. Toyota’s third entry, the No. 9, finished two laps down in fifth place.

G-Drive Racing converted pole position into victory in the LMP2 class at Spa after a back-and-forth battle with Rebellion ended when the Swiss team was hit with a penalty and suffered a bodywork issue, leaving Alex Lynn, Pierre Thiriet and Roman Rusinov to sweep to the win in the No. 26 Oreca 07 Gibson.

GTE Pro offered up a fascinating fight between the two AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTEs that even made contact at one point, only for Sam Bird and Davide Rigon to emerge victorious in the No. 71 car. Aston Martin Racing took GTE Am victory with its No. 98 Vantage GTE courtesy of a convincing display from Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana.

The WEC season continues with the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Porsche beats Toyota to Spa WEC pole after stunning Jani lap

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SPA, Belgium – Porsche will start Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at Spa-Francorchamps from pole position after Neel Jani’s stunning lap saw it beat Toyota to top honors in qualifying.

Toyota led all three stages of practice at Spa in the lead up to qualifying, only for Porsche to strike back when it mattered and claim its first pole of the season.

Jani turned in a fastest lap of 1:53.756 during his first run in the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, with teammate Andre Lotterer adding his time to create a two-lap average of 1:54.097.

Toyota’s No. 9 car had been on provisional pole after Stephane Sarrazin went 0.098 seconds faster than Jani, but Nicolas Lapierre could not match Lotterer’s time, losing his first run after a spin for the ByKolles car caused yellow flags at the final corner.

The No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid emerged as Porsche’s closest rival for pole, finishing half a second back in P2. The No. 9 followed in third ahead of the No. 8 Toyota. Porsche’s No. 2 car was fifth overall, 1.3 secons off the pole time.

G-Drive Racing secured pole in LMP2 through Alex Lynn and Pierre Thiriet in the No. 26 Oreca 07 Gibson, heading up a closely-knit field. Signatech Alpine followed in second and third with its No. 36 and No. 35 cars respectively, while Manor finished fourth, with the quartet being separated by just 0.03 seconds.

GTE Pro saw AF Corse edge out Ford in a tight battle for pole, with the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE shared between Sam Bird and Davide Rigon recording a two-lap average of 2:15.017. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing followed in P2 and P3 with the No. 66 and 67 Ford GTs, finishing four-tenths of a second adrift, while the No. 51 Ferrari followed in fourth.

Pedro Lamy led Aston Martin Racing to pole in GTE Am behind the wheel of the No. 98 Vantage GTE, squeezing in a last-gasp effort as the checkered flag fell to improve the car’s average to 2:18.659 to edge out Dempsey-Proton Racing’s No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR by four-tenths of a second.

Toyota leads Thursday WEC practice running at Spa

Toyota Gazoo Racing
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SPA, Belgium – Toyota continued its impressive start to the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship season by leading the first two practice sessions for this weekend’s 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on Thursday.

Toyota kick-started its campaign with a narrow victory over Porsche at Silverstone two weeks ago, with the No. 8 TS050 Hybrid shared by Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima clinching victory.

Toyota’s Thursday at Spa started with a setback when Jose Maria Lopez was ruled out of the weekend on medical grounds, owing to a minor injury from his shunt at Silverstone two weeks ago.

Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi were left to continue as a two-man team for the day, yet they made the most of it as they led FP1 and FP2 respectively in the No. 7 TS050 Hybrid.

Conway edged out the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid by just 0.036 seconds in the first session, before Kobayashi was able to pull out a half-second gap in FP2, with the No. 2 car posing the stiffest competition once again. Kobayashi’s time of 1:56.369 was the fastest of the day overall.

In LMP2, the CEFC Manor TRS Racing team swept to a one-two finish, with recent Formula 1 driver Jean-Eric Vergne turning in a fastest lap of 2:02.662. The Chinese-backed team finished a second clear of the competition, with Signatech Alpine finishing as the best of the rest in third.

Aston Martin was fastest in GTE Pro as Marco Sørensen recorded a best lap of 2:16.458 in the No. 95 Vantage GTE, finishing two-tenths clear of Kevin Estre’s lap in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR. Estre crashed at Les Combes midway through the session, but still ended the session P2, with the No. 67 Ford GT following in third.

GTE Am saw Spirit of Race lead in the No. 54 Ferrari 488 GTE courtesy of Miguel Molina, lapping 0.170 seconds faster than the No. 98 AMR entry.

Running continues on Friday at Spa with third practice and qualifying ahead of the race on Saturday.

Toyota emerges with first win of new FIA WEC season at Silverstone

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Toyota Gazoo Racing has won the first race of the post-Audi FIA World Endurance Championship era, albeit after a strategic battle with Porsche Team with a sprinkling of rain in-between spicing up the season-opening 6 Hours of Silverstone, and adding a gamble on tires to the equation.

The single Toyota TS050 Hybrid left running, the No. 8 car of past World Champions Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima took the victory following Buemi’s late pass of Brendon Hartley’s No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid. Hartley’s fuel only stop near the end of the race got the Porsche out front, but was unable to hold back the faster Toyota as the race neared its conclusion.

Buemi adds this win to his earlier wins in the current FIA Formula E Championship season to continue his recent top run of form, in what was his and Davidson’s first FIA WEC victory as teammates since 2014 at Shanghai.

Hartley shared the No. 2 Porsche with Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard to finish second, ahead of the No. 1 Porsche driven by Neel Jani and his new teammates, Andre Lotterer and Nick Tandy.

With Porsche running a low downforce kit and Toyota a high downforce one, Toyota had the pace edge all weekend but a shorter amount of time in the pits and different strategy helped keep Porsche in the game to even have a shot, and a double podium was a deserved result.

Toyota’s second car went out of the race after an accident for Jose Maria Lopez in the fourth hour. Lopez limped the wounded Toyota back to the pits and the damage was further compounded when he needed a quick hospital trip, although was later released. That car had the pole for the race as Lopez shared the No. 7 entry with Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi.

Jackie Chan DC Racing took the first win of the now-all Oreca 07 LMP2 class, the lone exceptions being the Alpine A470-badged Signatech Alpine entries, with its No. 38 entry driven by ex-Audi man and new “Bentley Boy” Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho-Pin Tung.

Vaillante Rebellion was second with the Nico Prost/Bruno Senna/Julien Canal trio in its No. 31 car with the No. 28 TDS Racing entry of Mathieu Vaxviere, Emmanuel Collard and Francois Perrodo in third.

The polesitting No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT entry of Harry Tincknell, Andy Priaulx and Pipo Derani, the latter in his debut with the team and the car, took GTE-Pro class honors, thus providing Tincknell and Priaulx a win on home soil.

With the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE of James Calado and new AF driver Alessandro Pier Guidi second and the No. 91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR of Richard Lietz and Fred Makowiecki in third, it made for three different manufacturers in the top three positions in this class. Defending GTE-Pro champions Aston Martin Racing had a race to forget on home soil, ending only sixth and seventh.

Last lap contact between Pedro Lamy’s No. 98 Aston and Miguel Molina’s No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari cost them both the GTE-Am class win and opened the door for series debutantes Clearwater Racing to win that class, its No. 61 Ferrari shared by Matt Griffin, Mok Weng Sun and Keita Sawa. The Aston was second with the Dempsey Proton Porsche in its new lineup of Matteo Cairoli, Marvin Dienst and Christian Ried in third.

Fillon and Todt. Photo: FIA WEC

The race capped a news-heavy weekend for the WEC. Winds of potential changes to the GTE-Pro class for 2018 emerged, as did more information about LMP1 privateers for 2018 with Ginetta having made a presentation about its upcoming chassis. This morning, as well, perhaps most importantly FIA President Jean Todt and ACO President Pierre Fillon announced the series’ formal extension of WEC’s next three-year contract through to 2020.

“I am delighted by this announcement of the extension of the cooperation agreement with ACO as promoter of FIA WEC. Endurance racing is a fundamental part of the history of motor sport and I look forward to furthering the strong cooperation between the FIA and ACO teams,” Todt said in a release.

Fillon added, “When we announced this partnership in 2011 a lot of people were sceptical. I think we can say today, after five successful seasons and at the beginning of the sixth, this partnership is a success. We have a strong championship, the teams at the ACO and the FIA work together in a very constructive spirit. I want to thank Jean Todt for all he has done to create this championship. It is with great pleasure that I sign the extension to this partnership on behalf of the ACO.”

Toyota dominates Silverstone WEC qualifying for first pole since 2013

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Toyota put its aerokit advantage to good use in qualifying for the FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener at Silverstone on Saturday afternoon, scorching to a one-two finish to mark its first pole position in over three years.

Entering 2017 after a tough year notable for its heartbreaking defeat at Le Mans, Toyota made a range of updates to its TS050 Hybrid car and tweaked its driver line-up by drafting in three-time WTCC champion Jose Maria Lopez.

With the rival Porsche team opting to run its Le Mans-spec aerokit for Silverstone, Toyota was able to make its high downforce setup advantage tell by romping to a one-two finish.

Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi combined to record a two-lap average of 1:37.304 in the No. 7 TS050 Hybrid, clinching pole by almost three-tenths of a second from Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima in the sister No. 8 car.

Defending champion team Porsche was left to settle for third and fourth for the start, finishing over a second adrift of the Toyotas with its No. 1 and No. 2 919 Hybrids.

G-Drive Racing picked up pole in the LMP2 class courtesy of Alex Lynn and Pierre Thiriet, edging just 0.046 seconds clear of the No. 36 Signatech Alpine entry.

Ford eased to pole position in GTE Pro as Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell finished eight-tenths of a second clear, leaving Sam Bird and Davide Rigon to settle for second in the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE. Aston Martin’s No. 98 entry will start at the head of the GTE Am field.