** Following post-race scrutineering, the #1 Rebellion Racing Oreca R13 was excluded from the race for an inconsistency in the skid block. See report below for further details. **
Toyota Gazoo Racing took a 1-2 finish in today’s incident-filled Total 6 Hours of Spa with double Formula 1 World Champion and Sportscar ‘rookie’ Fernando Alonso earning the top spot on the podium in his debut event.
The Spaniard, driving the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid along with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima took the chequered flag 1.44 seconds ahead of Mike Conway at the wheel of the sister #7 car.
Right from the start the race was packed with thrills and spills with the #67 Ford GT running very wide at La Source leading to the overall start being under investigation. Before we were even half-way around the first racing lap a yellow flag was up at T5-6 as Mike Wainwright threw his #86 Gulf Racing GB Porsche 911 RSR into the tyre barriers at Les Combes. This lead to the Safety Car being deployed and we also saw the #70 MR RACING Ferrari 488 GTE spin; the race was green flagged 7 minutes later with us seeing the first full racing lap at 13:41, 11 minutes after the start.
The first of the LMP1 pit stops came just 12 minutes into the race for the #11 SMP RACING BR Engineering BR1 AER with the first of the Toyota Hybrids, the #8 driven by Sebastien Buemi coming in at 14h10 right on schedule 40 mins after the race start. Five minutes later the No 4 ByKolles Racing Team ENSO CLM P1/01 Nismo pitted for fuel and treated us to a huge fire-show as it left ……
By this time the #86 Porsche had been repaired and Wainwright was back out on track trying desperately to regain time and claw into the six lap deficit to the back of the GTE AM pack.
In the LMP2 class, Giedo Van Der Garde, driving the #29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara P217 Gibson, who started 12th on the grid was flying and soon took the LMP2 class lead. However, 1h17 into the race Van Der Garde had to pit the car to replace a failed alternator costing the team 24 minutes.
Harry Tincknell was now flying in the #67 Ford GT setting a 2.15.795 to take the fastest lap in GTE PRO; only moments later, in what looked like a rear tyre failure or brake lockup, the Ford speared into the tyre barriers at Eau Rouge at virtually full racing speed, destroying the car. Tincknell exited the car himself and, following checks at the medical centre tweeted he was bruised but OK – a testament to Ford for the strength of the car!
During the inevitable following Safety Car period the majority of the teams brought their cars into the box for fuels and tyres etc. and we saw the #3 Rebellion of Mathias Beche, Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes take the race lead.
With the tyre barriers repaired racing was again underway when at 15h36 the first FCY of the race was shown after Giorgio Roda’s #88 Porsche 911 RSR went into the tyre barriers at turn 13. Once again the cars used the opportunity to pit and the #50 Labre Competition Ligier JSP217 earned itself a stop-and-go penalty for wheel spinning out of the pits!
Both the 17 and #92 pit stops showed as under investigation with SMP and Porsche earning a reprimand each for not stopping their cars parallel to the pitlane.
Four hours into the race, AF Corse learned that the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari had been handed a 5 second penalty (to be added to it’s next stop) for speeding under the earlier FCY.
The next (and final) Safety Car period came in the final hour of the race as fourth-placed Matevos Isaakyan in the #17 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 AER suffered a huge crash at Radillion, FIA footage showing the wrecked car stationary at the top of the hill with Isaakyan out of the car.
Moments before the accident Isaakyan had been battling with Thomas Laurent in the #3 Rebellion Racing R13 for the final podium position, loosing out to the Frenchman when he made a rookie mistake behind a slower GTE car allowing Laurent to slingshot past him into third.
With both the #10 DragonSpeed and #17 SMP Racing chassis now heavily damaged/destroyed BR Engineering and Dallara have a mammoth task ahead of them to get the new vehicles ready for the Le Mans test weekend a few weeks away.
At the same time the battles for podium places in both GTE PRO and GTE AM were on fire; the final few minutes of the race seeing the two older Aston Martin Vantages of the factory team and TF Sport battling hard for first place in the category; Euan Hankey in the #90 pressuring Pedro Lamy solidly over the final few laps forcing errors and over-runs but the experience of the #98 crew held out and they took the flag with just a 0.221 second advantage!
In GTE PRO the battle was for third place with the #92 Porsche 911 RSR coming under pressure from a hard charging Davide Rigon in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO; as with the GTE AM battle the cars traded speed (and paint in places) with the Ferrari finally forcing the Porsche wide on the exit to the Bus Stop and taking the spot on the final lap.
The final podiums showed Toyota in first and second place (#8 and #7 respectively) and the #1 Rebellion in third in LMP1.
In LMP2 the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 Gibson of Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne and Andrea Pizzitola took a dominant win, 21 seconds ahead of the #38 Oreca of Jackie Chan DC Racing. The podium was rounded out by Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negro and Pierre Thiriet in the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 – Gibson.
GTE PRO was a run-away win for the #66 Ford GT of Stefan Mucke, Olivier Pla and Billy Johnson, the trio finishing nearly 14 seconds ahead of the #92 Porsche of Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni. Finally, the last spot was heroically taken by #71 AF Corse Ferrari of Davide Rigon and Sam Bird after edging out the #91 Porsche at the Bus Stop.
In GTE AM, Aston Martin took home the cream with the #98 Vantage V8 of Paul Dalla, Lana Pedro and Lamy Mathias Lauda just holding off the hard charging #90 TF Sport Vantage V8 of Salih Yoluc, Euan Hankey and Charlie Eastwood. Final spot went to the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari of Weng Sun Mok, Keita Sawa and Matt Griffin, a lap down on the winners.
There were a slew of pre and post race fines and penalties, some of the most significant being a 250,000€ fine to Michelin for failing to bring the required amount of tyres, a 5000€ fine to Jackie Chan DC Racing for changing a homologated part without notice (the seatbelt), a 1500€ fine to Kazuki Nakajima for failing to attend the podium ceremony (!!!) and, possibly the hardest pill to swallow, the #1 Rebellion Racing Oreca R13 of Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Bruno Senna was excluded from the race due to the car’s skid block being thinner than regulation. The Steward’s decision reading:
“the car’s skid block was measured with 18.8mm, which is 1.2mm under the tolerance of the measurement of the skid block (25-5mm).
“The competitor accepted the measurement, and according to Art. 12.18 of the International Sporting Code, the Stewards decide that all of the following cars are moving up in the classification.”
This promoted the sister #3 car of Mathias Beche, Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes into third spot.