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.

Kyle Busch happy with first stint: ‘Put me in the car, there’s excitement!’

AP Photo/Terry Renna
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Rolex 24 at Daytona debut of the “KB Show” was cut short by a strategy maneuver but still delivered drama and a positive result.

Kyle Busch got the No. 14 RCF GT3 Lexus back on the lead lap and back in contention for a GTD victory at Daytona International Speedway.

“It was good,” Kyle Busch said with a broad smile after a 42-minute stint. “Just, uh, shit, put me in the car, and there’s excitement around! Drove all my way back to the lead lap and everything.

“Overall, we’ve had a good experience and hell I only got one stint in, so I’m ready for more. Sign me up, coach!”

The two-time Cup champion was expected to drive for at least 90 minutes, but the first full-course caution of the race (with 19 hours and 16 minutes remaining) caused AIM Vasser Sullivan to change up its drive plan. Busch was called to the pits in favor of Parker Chase.

“With all the strategy and the way the wave-bys work here, it’s quite different than what we’re accustomed to (in NASCAR),” said Busch, who likely will drive longer now later in the race. “That wasn’t bad. To get ourselves back on the lead lap and back to a position where we can start scrapping again hopefully is what we needed.

“So I got one stint in, but I’m trying to save myself and (teammate) Jack (Hawksworth) for a little later.”

Busch climbed into the car shortly after 6 p.m. as the last of the No. 14’s four drivers. He complained a few times on his radio about traffic, which he said was his biggest challenge.

“There were a couple of instances we ran down a smaller car, and (it was) just mirror driving in front of us,” he said. “That was pretty bad. We lost probably 2 seconds on that. Overall, I guess that’s road racing.

The yellow flag was exactly what Busch’s team needed after being forced to start from the rear of the field when it missed qualifying because of an engine change. Hawksworth, who started the race, said the car was “quick in the wrong places and slow in the right places” after struggling with handling and speed in the first stint.

“I don’t feel we’re out of it,” Hawksworth said. “It’s a very long race. Still early days. We need to work on having speed for the end of the race. The position right now doesn’t really make any difference. We’ll need to find some performance at the end of the race to fight for the win.”