Toyota edge Porsche in Imola thriller

Toyota drivers Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Nyck de Vries in the pitlane at the 2024 6 Hours of Imola

The Toyota Gazoo Racing took a nailbiting victory in a weather-affected race at the 6 Hours of Imola. The #7 GR010 Hybrid driven by Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Nyck de Vries held off the charge of the #6 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963 in the final stint, despite having to save a significant amount of fuel.

The race was a tale of two halves in more ways than one. It began in bright spring sunshine and temperatures close to 20°C, but at the halfway stage blue skies gave way to clouds and rain showers.

Ferrari initially continued their strong qualifying performance into the race. The trio of 499Ps established a stranglehold on the race and held a comfortable lead – to the delight of the partisan crowd in excess of 75,000.

With the Ferraris out in front, the pair of works Toyotas remained just about within striking distance along with the two factory Porsches. When the rain arrived and temperatures plummeted, it was these cars that would come to the fore.

At the first sight of rain, both the #7 and #8 GR010 Hybrids pitted for wet-weather tyres immediately, with the Porsches not far behind. The Ferraris, on the other hand, continued on their slick rubber, in the belief that the weather would only be brief in nature. Ultimately, Ferrari’s gamble wouldn’t pay off, as both the #50 and the #51 ended up following suit but only after spending numerous laps losing time to the chasing pack.

By the time all of the Hypercars were on the right tyres, it was too late for Ferrari to mount a charge.

Toyota hold off Porsche in dramatic finale

As the cars began their final stints with one hour of the race remaining, attention turned to the battle on track between the first-placed #7 Toyota of Kobayashi and the #6 Porsche of Kévin Estre in P2.

The Japanese driver had pitted a little earlier than Estre, and would have to work hard to stretch his fuel allocation over the remaining laps. The Frenchman was in all-on attack mode, hunting the leading Toyota in a bid to make it two wins out of two for Porsche.

Estre’s task was made all the more difficult after he was handed a time penalty of five seconds due to overtaking under the safety car procedure. That meant that he would have to overtake Kobayashi and establish a lead of five seconds if he was to be classified as the race winner.

Despite running right on Kobayashi’s bumper at times, Estre was unable to overtake the Japanese driver. Toyota took its first win of the season by a margin of 7 seconds. The #8 car finished back in fifth after being overtaken by a recovering #50 Ferrari on the final lap.

Both second and third positions went the way of Porsche, meaning that the German manufactuerer still leads the manufacturers’ championship and Estre, Lotterer and Vanthoor have a 16-point cushion at the top of the drivers’ championship.

BMW with positive showing, Peugeot and Cadillac in the points

A coming-together on the first lap dashed several Hypercar teams’ hopes before the race was even one corner old. Contact between BMW, Peugeot and Alpine saw two cars end up in the gravel trap and three needing to pit for repairs. With the #15 BMW, the #93 Peugeot and the #36 Alpine all out of contention, it was left to the respective sister cars to take up the fight.

Of those remaining in the fight for points, the #20 BMW put in the most promising showing. The BMW M Hybrid V8 piloted by Sheldon van der Linde, Robin Frijns and René Rast was in contention for a podium finish at times, but had to settle for a more-than-respectable sixth-placed finish.

Peugeot and Cadillac rounded out the points-paying positions in Imola with ninth- and tenth-place finishes, but both will be looking to made major strides ahead of the next round of the season at Spa-Francorchamps.

BMW celebrate 1-2 in LMGT3

It was a race to remember for Team WRT and BMW in the LMGT3 category as the team secured a convincing one-two finish at the Circuito Enzo e Dino Ferrari. The #31 crew of Darren Leung, Sean Galael and Augusto Farfus took the win by a margin of 22 seconds ahead of the #46 with its driver line-up of Ahmad Al Harthy, Valentino Rossi and Maxime Martin.

Third-place finishers Manthey PureRxcing held a decent advantage for most of the first half of the race in a continuation of the #92 squad’s domination of Saturday’s Hyperpole. However, the Lithuanian-badged team fell behind when the rain came, but Austrian Klaus Bachler was able to secure third position and retain the team’s lead in the championship.

Click here for a full list of results.

Images © WEC-Magazin (Walter Schruff / Ton Kerdijk)