The #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Fernando Alonso, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima took overall victory at the 2019 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps – their fourth of the 2018/19 Super Season. Victory in GTE Pro went to the #97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn, marking the pair’s maiden FIA WEC victory for the British marque.
It was a race that saw all four seasons in just six short hours. The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps was bathed in spring sunshine as the green flag flew, but the blue sky soon turned a dark grey colour as weather front after weather front drew through the Belgian Ardennes.
Cold temperatures soon turned rain into sleet and snow, but drivers up and down the field did a masterful job keeping the race green. Race director Eduardo Freitas did an admirable job to neutralise proceedings through safety cars or full-course yellows as conditions worsened, but repeatedly got the race going again once conditions improved. A final show shower with fifteen minutes of the race remaining brought the race to a premature end.
Alonso, Buemi and Nakajima edge closer to title
Victory in LMP1 went to the championship-leading #8 Toyota crew, but it was the sister car of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José Maria López that led from pole and established a strong position in the early stages of the race. However, a sensor issue forced the TS050 into the pits for a lengthy repair, and the #7 crew were unable to finish higher than sixth.
The #8 machine managed to stay on track for the most part and secured a relatively comfortable victory ahead of the #2 Rebellion Racing R13 Gibson of Laurent/Menezes/Beche and the #11 SMP Racing BR01 of Aleshin/Petrov/Vandoorne.
The privateer LMP1s were able to keep pace with the works Toyotas for long periods of the race, particularly in damp conditions when intermediate or full-wet tyres were called for. Stoffel Vandoorne was particularly impressive for the Russian-entered SMP Racing team and was rewarded with third place on his FIA WEC debut.
Aston Martin prevail in GTE Pro
As is customary for the class, the GTE Pro battle was intense from start to finish. Various cars and drivers held the advantage in terms of pace over the course of the six hours, including those who had qualified poorly.
Victory ultimately went to the #97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn by just a handful of seconds over the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 Evo of Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado. The battle for the win, which often involved four or even all five manufacturers, culminated in a daring move by Martin on Calado with around one hour of the race remaining.
Martin edged away over the course of the final stint, eeking out his advantage to over 10 seconds, before Race Control decided to throw the red flag fifteen minutes from the end. It was Lynn and Martin’s first win, and indeed first podium, in GTE Pro and just reward for a tough season. Third went to the championship-leading pair of Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre in the #92 Porsche 911 RSR
Maiden LMP2 win for DragonSpeed
The #31 DragonSpeed Oreca 07 of Anthony Davidson, Pastor Maldonado and Ricardo Gonzalez picked up its first class victory in LMP2 after a stand-out performance from the experienced trio. The #31 machine was in striking distance for most of the first half, but made its decisive move during an inspired stint by the Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado with just over two hours of the race remaining.
Second position went to the guest-starting #26 G-Drive Aurus 01 of Rusinov/van Uitert/Vergne, boosting the team’s hopes ahead of their assault on the 24 Hours of Le Mans next month. The #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 of Lapierre/Negrão/Thiriet scored a valuable third-position to extent their lead in the championship.
All three manufacturers on GTE Am podium
The GTE Am class podium was shared by all three manufacturers, with victory going to the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR. Christian Ried, Matt Campbell and Ricardo Pera finished the race just five seconds ahead of the #90 TF Sport Aston Martin of Salih Yoluc, Euan Hankey and Charlie Eastwood, while the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 came home in third.
Full results are available here.
Images © WEC-Magazin (Walter Schruff / Ton Kerdijk)