A first and second placing at the 6 Hour Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday, gave Toyota Gazoo Racing the perfect foundation for their 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship campaign.
A debut victory for the team new recruit Fernando Alonso and a repeat successive WEC win at the Belgian circuit for Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima in the No8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid.
Toyota’s impressive WEC history reveals 17 wins from 49 races, its fourth consecutive victory and its third at Spa. Toyota is leading both the team and drivers' World Championships as it prepares for Le Mans 24 Hours on 16th -17th June.
Alonso reflected on his debut WEC outing, he said: “I am delighted to get this result. The whole weekend has been amazing in terms of team performance. We executed the race in the best way we could and I am extremely happy to win my first endurance race. Sébastien and Kazuki made my life a little bit easier, so thanks to them.”
Toyotas’ No7, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López finished with an amazing comeback in the race, finishing second by just 1.444 seconds after a pit lane start due to a qualifying penalty.
Buemi made a seamless get-away from pole position, increasing an advantage over the Rebellion LMP1 cars. Conway had brought the No8 car through the field to sixth place. Buemi had a 30 second advantage before a safety car came out at around the one-hour point and brought the field back together.
Within the 30-minute delay, Kobayashi switched with Conway in the No7 car and Alonso took on his first WEC race laps in the No8 car. His immediate task was to retain the lead once the race resumed, which he executed with sensational passing moves on numerous GT cars.
Alonso's round was disrupted by a full course yellow, however, once the track was clear he built a meaningful lead before handing over to Nakajima.
At the same time, the No7 car continued its progress through the field and maintained the second position past the halfway mark, running approximately a minute behind the leader as López took over from Kobayashi at the next pit stop.
As the last hour approached, Toyotas duo tightened their grip on the race with Alonso preparing to take the No8 to the chequered flag finale with a lead of around one minute over Conway. An additional safety car session closed the gap to only six seconds with 50 minutes remaining. Subsequent to the final refuelling, to avoid unnecessary risks in the final 25 minutes the team decided the cars should focus their hold on pole position.
6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps results:
1st #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing (Buemi/Nakajima/Alonso) 163 laps
2nd #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing (Conway/Kobayashi/López) +1.444secs
3rd #1 Rebellion (Jani/Lotterer/Senna) +2 laps
4th #3 Rebellion (Beche/Laurent/Menezes) +2 laps
5th #6 ByKolles (Webb/Kraihamer/Dillmann) +5 laps
6th #11 SMP (Aleshin/Petrov) +5 laps