No 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid. World Endurance Championship Round 1. Spa Francorchamps, Belgium. May 2018. Image: John Stevens for JellyBaby.Media

As reported by Gary Watkins for Autosport yesterday, Toyota Motorsport GmbH boss Pascal Vasselon has admitted that Toyota froze the top two positions in Saturday’s World Endurance Championship opener at Spa in favour of Fernando Alonso’s car at the final pitstops. 

Vasselon explained that a pre-race agreement with the team’s six drivers meant that the two TS050 Hybrids were not allowed to race each other to the end of the six-hour event.

“The agreement was that the cars could race until the last pitstop and actually the two cars joined [came together on track] at the last pitstop,” Vasselon told Autosport.

“We told the drivers they could race only to the last pitstop because we did not want to have the last laps with a lot of tension”.

Image: Toyota Gazoo Racing.

After starting a lap down from the pitlane following an administrative infringement (Toyota filed paperwork late for the fuel-flow meter on the #7 car), Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez battled back, with the aid of the three safety cars, to finish just 1.4 seconds down on the #8 car. 

By the time the final pit stops came around the two cars entered the pits at virtually the same time; Conway spending 10 seconds longer in the pitlane compared to Alonso during his stop (48.745 vs 38.835), as the team changed the nose section of his car due to “an aerodynamic inconsistency”.

World Endurance Championship Round 1. Spa Francorchamps, Belgium. May 2018. Image: John Stevens for JellyBaby.Media

“This did not change anything, because it was always the plan to freeze the positions,” said Vasselon.

He conceded that the second-placed TS050 was the faster of the two Toyotas during the race at Spa.

“The lap times show that car #7 was marginally faster, by just one or two tenths, but it came back basically because of the safety car,” explained Vasselon.

Conway said he believed that the #7 “was clearly the quicker car, especially when it was hooked up”.