The #7 Toyota of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and José María López won the 2022 6 Hours of Spa ahead of Alpine but once again the weather dominated proceedings at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
The race began in balmy early summer sunshine, with Glickenhaus on pole, Alpine second and the works Toyotas on the second row. Glickenhaus led away for the first stint, but it wasn’t long before the pair of Toyotas hunted down the US-entered car.
It also wasn’t long before the bright weather was replaced by leaden skies. After two hours of the race and Toyota and Glickenhaus engaging in a close battle, the heavens opened.
Shortly before the deluge, an incident for the #34 Inter-Europol LMP2 car had led to a safety car being called out onto the track. Since the damaged car wasn’t able to be recovered with the others still circulating, the race director then decided to wave a red flag. It was at this moment that the track became almost undriveable.
#8 Toyota with terminal issue
The restart some 40 minutes later brought the cars back out behind the safety car, but soon the #8 Toyota would be brought to a standstill yet again. An issue that was evidently hybrid-related caused Sébastien Buemi to park his GR010 Hybrid at the side of the track – much to the frustration of the Swiss driver.
The retirement left the #7 as the sole dog in the fight for the Japanese manufacturer – against the hard-charging Alpine and Glickenhaus who clearly felt comfortable in the treacherous conditions.
The weather had barely improved as the race reached the halfway stage, with numerous off-track incidents leading to full-course yellow periods, safety cars and another red flag with around two hours remaining. The situation was exacerbated by the addition of gravel traps at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, which resulted in cars frequently becoming stranded and requiring rescue.
The full wet conditions were certainly beneficial for Alpine and also the LMP2 runners, who held an advantage on pace over the Toyotas when the track was wet. For Toyota driver José María López, watching from the pits as teammates Kobayashi and Conway battled the conditions was “hard to watch” and “like a horror movie”.
López would soon get his chance behind the wheel, fortunately with improving weather. The drying track allowed the #7 car to assert its dominance again, allowing the Argentine to establish a relatively comfortable 30-second lead ahead of the Alpine in the final stint. In the end it was a solid win for the #7 crew that went some way to make up for the disappointment of Sebring.
It was the 10th victory for Kobayashi, Conway and López as a threesome and the first for Toyota this season.
Ferrari and Porsche in yet another battle for the ages
GTE Pro saw yet another battle going down to the final lap as Ferrari and Porsche waged a race-long war at the 2022 6 Hours of Spa. Victory ultimately went to the #51 Ferrari of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi by just half a second ahead of the #92 Porsche. The #52 Ferrari came through in third, only a couple of tenths behind.
“The first part of the race was quite tricky,” said Pier Guidi after the race. “In the end we are in Spa and we expect weather like this. We know that we lack performance in the dry conditions, but in the wet anything can happen.”
Pier Guidi spent almost four hours in the car before handing over the reins to Calado. The Brit was forced to begin his stint with cold slick tyres and brakes after a red flag period, which was by no means an easy task.
Calado spent much of the final hour trying to keep Dane Michael Christensen at bay, who was pushing hard in his Porsche 911 RSR-19. “I gave it my absolute all at the end there, sometimes going over the limit,” Calado said. “I nearly crashed the car three times on the final two laps.”
Despite the pair’s proximity – and no lack of history in final lap battles –, the racing was clear and once again Ferrari came out on top.
Wins for WRT and Dempsey-Proton Racing in LMP2 and GTE Am
WRT took a convincing win in the LMP2 category and even finished on the overall race podium due to the Hypercar travails. Drivers Robin Frijns, René Rast and Sean Galeal kept a cool head as others around them lost theirs and ended up winning by over 30 seconds.
Second went to the Realteam by WRT crew to make it a one-two for Vincent Vosse’s Belgian squad in their home race. Rounding out the podium was the #38 JOTA car.
GTE Am was another category that remained close right up to the final stages. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche emerged victorious despite fellow Porsche team Project 1 leading for quite a chunk of the six hours. Following close behind were the pair of Aston Martins, with the #33 TF Sport machine finishing second and the #98 Northwest AMR car in third.
A full list of results from the 2022 6 Hours of Spa is available from Alkamel Systems.
Image © WEC-Magazin (David Tunnicliffe)