Toyota arrived at the 6 Hours of Portimão as the hot favourites off the back of a dominant performance last month in Sebring. The #8 GR010 Hybrid of Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa more than lived up to that favourites tag, lapping the entire field to win comfortably after six hours of racing.
“The team did a perfect job, and I am very happy with this win today,” said driver Ryo Hirakawa after the race. “Our car felt good, and it was very satisfying to win for the first time this season after missing it in Sebring by two seconds.”
A solid early stint by Buemi established a gap of around 30 seconds ahead of the chasing Ferraris, before Brendon Hartley took over in the middle portion. Hirakawa then extended the advantage to more than a lap in the final two hours of the race.
However, things didn’t go entirely to plan for the Japanese manufacturer: issues with a torque sensor befell the #7 GR010 Hybrid, costing the team some 20 minutes in the pits. Despite some rapid lap times in the closing stages, the sister car could only finish 9th overall, denting the championship hopes of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José Maria Lopez considerably.
Ferrari and Porsche battle for podium
Ferrari once again proved to be the fastest of the new-for-2023 manufacturers, finishing a comfortable second by just over a minute. Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Niklas Nielsen in the #50 Ferrari 499P secured their second podium finish in succession after an impressive drive with no major issues.
The same cannot be said of the sister car, which suffered a brake-by-wire failure at around the halfway point. The #51 machine also contested much of the race without a functioning hybrid system, which resulted in excessive energy usage and more frequent pit stops. Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Antonio Giovinazzi battled hard but ultimately could only finish in sixth position after a number of brake-related off-track moments in the final hour.
Porsche Penske Motorsport celebrated their maiden podium finish at the 6 Hours of Portimão after a battling display by the team. Kevin Estre, Andre Lotterer and Laurens Vanthoor.
The #6 crew had been in the running for a good finish throughout the race, but a final-hour safety car will have certainly caused some jitters on the pit wall. A fuelling error required an additional stop, but the Porsche team still managed to secure the third-placed finish due to the #51 Ferrari’s brake issues.
Cadillac and Peugeot improving
Cadillac marked their first race on European soil in over twenty years with a solid fourth-place finish in Portimão. The US squad will be intensifying their preparations for their Le Mans return by adding a second works entry for the next round in Spa-Francorchamps. A total of three Cadillacs will run in the Hypercar class at the centenary running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Peugeot came away from the 6 Hours of Portimão in good spirits after a positive performance in Portugal. The #94 9X8 of Duval/Menezes/Müller was running well in fourth position, at times with a shot at a podium finish, before it – like the #7 Toyota – was impacted by a faulty sensor and ultimately came home in 5th.
The #93 machine of Paul di Resta, Mikkel Jensen and Jean-Eric Vergne also performed well, but was forced to start the race from the pit lane due to a power-steering change. It would go on to finish in 7th.
Mixed fortunes for privateers
Glickenhaus Racing put together a solid race in Portugal but often found themselves battling with the LMP2 field in a car that appears to be some distance off works Hypercar pace. Despite the performance issues, Roman Dumas, Ryan Briscoe and Olivier Pla completed an error-free drive to take 8th position.
Floyd Vanwall Racing were the cause of the only caution period of the race following an incident for Jacques Villeneuve in the Vandervell 680. The Canadian lost all braking power and careered into the tyre barrier before fortunately emerging unhurt. The car was retired on the spot.
United Autosports close out one-two in LMP2
The LMP2 class once again provided plenty of close racing, particularly after the late safety car bunched up the field. The #23 United Autosports crew of Giedo van der Garde, Josh Pierson and Oliver Jarvis put their Sebring disappointment behind them to win by 5 seconds ahead of the sister car, despite radio issues costing the team time in the pits in the closing stages.
Second was the #22 United Autosports machine, with the #41 Team WRT edging out the #63 Prema Racing crew for third position.
Close finish in GTE Am
In GTE Am, the #63 Corvette Racing made it two wins out of two so far this season, but were made to work for it by the #83 Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari.
Bunched up by the final safety car, Alessio Rovera in the Ferrari set about catching Nicky Catsburg in the Corvette in the last hour but was unable to make his way past the Dutchman.
Third position went to Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting and Rahel Frey in the #85 Iron Dames Porsche 911 RSR-19.
A full list of results from the 6 Hours of Portimão is available here.