Toyota one-two in Portimão as team orders mar finish

Toyota Gazoo Racing secured its second victory of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship season win a hard-fought win in Portugal. The win eventually went to the #8 crew of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley.

As in the first round Spa, the Hypercar class gave fans and viewers an exciting race as the raw pace of older #36 Alpine A480 went up against the frugality of the Toyota GR010 Hybrid. It was an age-old endurance racing match-up, playing out over eight hours of racing at the Algarve International Circuit as both teams attempted to make the most out of their relative advantages.

The #36 Alpine A480 began the race from the pole and quickly established an advantage over the pair of works Toyotas on account of its superior out-and-out pace. By the end of the first stint, Nicolas Lapierre in the #36 had eked out a 12-second lead ahead of the chasing hybrids.

Longer stints give Toyota the advantage

The Toyotas tended to be able to run between six and seven laps longer, so the Alpine crew knew they would have to make at least one additional stop. Lapierre, pole-setter Mathieu Vaxiviere and André Negrão went about the task admirably and were aided by a safety car period at around the halfway stage, which bunched the field back up.

As the race progressed, it became clear that the #8 Toyota crew had been able to save fuel in the early stages of the race and would be able to run to the finish on one fewer pit stop. In the end, a late full-course yellow allowed the #7 car to complete its final “splash and dash” under yellow.

Team orders make for messy end

The #7 emerged just a handful of seconds down on the leading #8 and soon closed up. Then, some controversial team orders somewhat marred the finish of what had appeared to have been a fair fight. Sébastien Buemi in the #8 was asked to let José Maria López in the #7 through with just 20 minutes of the race remaining. A few laps later, López pulled aside himself to let Buemi retake the lead and run to the finish line.

Subsequent information from the team suggests that López was given a chance to overtake Buemi and pull away. With Buemi able to stay with the Argentine, the #7 was then told to pull aside and let the #8 retake the lead. It was an unfortunate, unnecessary and ignominious end to what had been a topsy-turvy, hard-fought battle.

Glickenhaus finish in maiden appearance

Glickenhaus Racing marked their first ever appearance in the FIA World Endurance Championship but it was a day of learning for the US-entered Hypercar. Ryan Briscoe damaged the car attempting to overtake lapped traffic, resulting in a replacement clutch having to be fitted. The crew got the car back out and the #709 completed the race and took home some valuable data ahead of Glickenhaus’ first tilt at Le Mans in August.

JOTA one-two in LMP2

JOTA scored a memorable one-two finish in the LMP2 class after a rollercoaster ride of a race. The British team held a clear advantage throughout the weekend and were able to convert their strong pace into race victory.

Things didn’t go entirely to plan though, as Tom Blomqvist in the #28 car was tipped into a spin by the #38 car in the second corner of the first lap. This incident relegated the pole-sitting machine to the back of the field and kicked off an excellent recovery drive for Blomqvist, Sean Galael and Stoffel Vandoorne.

Indeed, it looked like the #28 crew had done enough for the win, if not for a final-stint push by Antonio Felix da Costa in the #38 machine. The Portuguese driver caught and passed the #28 car with a daring manoeuvre into turn 6 with just 10 minutes of the race remaining, providing an intriguing counterpoint to the team orders in the Hypercar class. Rounding out the top three in LMP2 was the #22 United Autosports USA Oreca, which had started on pole.

Ferrari dominant in GTE Pro and Am

After another blinding qualifying by Porsche in GTE Pro, it appeared for all intents and purposes that the German squad would secure a routine victory come race day. However, over full race distance the tides turned completely as Ferrari and AF Corse completed a relatively simple one-two result.

The key to success appeared to by tyre wear, or lack of it in Ferrari’s case. Porsche still appeared to enjoy an advantage on pace, but over the course of the stint the Ferraris were able to take much better care of their rear rubber. Ultimately the win went to the #51 AF Corse crew of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi, who finished 25 seconds ahead of the sister #52 car and 45 seconds up the road from the #92 Porsche.

Ferrari were victorious in GTE Am too, as Cetilar Racing recorded their first ever class win in the WEC. The Italian squad were made to fight for it, however, as the #56 Project 1 Porsche finished just 5 seconds down the road following the late-race safety car period. Third was another Ferrari, the #54 AF Corse entry.