Cars > Redline

Toyota opens new WEC season with dominant 1-2 finish

A driver of the winning car is some guy named Fernando Alonso

In the end, the team forbade its two cars from aggressively racing each other. PHOTO FROM TOYOTA GAZOO RACING

In the first race of the 2018/2019 FIA World Endurance Championship season, Toyota Gazoo Racing emerged victorious at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. The pair of Toyota TS050 Hybrids competing in the LMP1 Class took first and second places in what was a drama-filled event for the Japanese team. The No. 8 car driven by Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and WEC newcomer Fernando Alonso seized the race win, closely followed by the No. 7 sister car piloted by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose María Lopez.

This kind of dominance would be the WEC equivalent of Kevin Durant teaming up with Steph Curry. PHOTOS FROM TOYOTA GAZOO RACING

The No. 8 car qualified in pole position and was driven by Buemi for the race start. He built up a substantial lead, but was eventually tailed by the chasing No. 1 Rebellion after the first hour due to a safety car. WEC rookie Alonso then took over driving duties and defended the lead with a spectacular overtaking move on the Kemmel Straight. The car was then handed over to Nakajima just before half distance, when it already had a sizable gap from the second-placed car.

Will Toyota Gazoo Racing be seriously challenged in the next rounds? PHOTOS FROM TOYOTA GAZOO RACING

Meanwhile, the No. 7 car was penalized with a pit-lane start after a post-qualifying technical infringement. Finishing strong now became a tall order for the team, but Conway had driven the car to sixth place around the time of the first pit stops. The car’s remarkable pace remained unimpeded as it started the second half of the race just a minute behind the leading TS050.

A job well done—by the team bosses. For ordering their drivers to play it safe. PHOTO FROM TOYOTA GAZOO RACING

The No. 8 car kept a steady lead of one minute over its No. 7 stablemate, but a safety car within the last hour closed the gap to just six seconds. It was decided that—to avoid unnecessary risks and preserve the team’s championship points—both cars would hold their positions until the race ended. The No. 8 car crossed the finish line and completed 163 laps. The No. 7 car finished in formation, 1.444 seconds behind the race winner.

Alonso's thought bubble: If you can no longer win in Formula 1, race in WEC. PHOTOS FROM TOYOTA GAZOO RACING

This was Toyota’s 17th WEC victory and its third at Spa. For Alonso, it was his first victory at this circuit after 18 years (since winning an International Formula 3000 race), and he became the first Spaniard to win a WEC race since Marc Gene’s triumph for Audi at the same track in 2012. Toyota thus leads both the drivers’ and teams’ championship standings going into the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 16-17.

Miggi Solidum

Professionally speaking, Miggi is a software engineering dude who happens to like cars a lot. And as an automotive enthusiast, he wants a platform from which he can share his motoring thoughts with fellow petrolheads. He pens the column ‘G-Force’.