Spa 6

Toyota 1-2 as Ferrari fightback predicts a great Le Mans

Road to Le Mans
Dunlop Sort Maxx

Toyota benefited a fortunate tyre choice and some handy safety cars and yellow flag periods to dominate the Spa 6 Hour on Saturday afternoon. But Ferrari was the real star as it fought back from 30 seconds behind, 30 minutes from the finish, to steal third from Porsche on the final lap.

Toyota opted to put both its cars on slicks in the damp early laps, along with Porsche and one of the Cadillacs. Both Ferraris and the yellow Caddy were among the cars to start on wet rubber and the Ferrari 499P LMHs led early on, before an early safety car. By the time the safety car pulled back into the pits, the clearing track favoured the slick runners.

The Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi’s 8 Toyota then took advantage of two well-timed full course yellow periods mid-race, while two more safety cars later brought teammates Sebastien Buemi, Ryo Hirakawa and Brendon Hartley’s Number 7 car into play.

Spa 6

Another 1-2 victory for the World Champions

Kobayashi opened a slight advantage over Hartley at the final restart, but the final stops saw Hartley initially ahead on cold tyres as Kobayashi was forced off track to avoid contact with his teammate. That earned Kobayashi a 5 second penalty, which was not enough to prevent him from taking another combative victory for the World Champions.

Toyota n continued its unbeaten start to the 2023 World Endurance Championship with another comfortable 1-2. That was however only half the story. After losing the number 50 car when Antonio Fuoco crashed on cold slick tyres, Ferrari driver James Calado delivered an incredible fight back to steal the third podium step for Antonio Giovinazzi, Alessandro Pier Guidi and himself in the 51 Ferrari.

Over 30 seconds behind, with 30 minutes left to race, Calado first passed the Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn, and Richard Westbrook Cadillac V-Series for fourth, before setting off the third placed Fred Makowiecki in the 5 Porsche 963 LMDh that he shared with Michael Christensen and Dane Cameron. Calado relentlessly hunted the Porsche down and passed it into Les Combes on the final lap. All the Ferrari’s ominous pace appears to need now, is to just find the necessary luck to deal with the Toyotas, too.

Spa 6

Ferrari best of the rest again

So, Calado, Giovinazzi and Pier Guidi ended third from Ferrari from Makowiecki, Christensen and Cameron’s Porsche and the Bamber, Lynn and Westbrook Cadillac. Antonio Felix da Costa, Will Stevens and Ye Yifei were fifth, a lap down in the brand new privateer Jota Porsche 963, from LMP2 Oreca Gibson top three, Rui Andrade, Robert Kubica and Louis Deletraz, Josh Pierson, Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis, and Jakub Smiechowski, Fabio Scherer, and  Albert Costa.

Of the other Hypercars, Peugeot’s 9X8s had a day to forget as Paul di Resta, Mikkel Jensen and Jean-Eric Vergne held Romain Dumas, Olivier Pla and Franck Mailleux’s Glickenhaus 007 Hypercar off for 13th overall and sixth in the premier class. Loic Duval, Gustavo Menezes and Nico Müller were 17th overall in the second 9X8.

Kevin Estre, Andre Lotterer and Laurens Vanthoor’s factory Porsche 963 and Tom Dillmann, Esteban Guerrieri and Jacques Villeneuve’s Vanwall stopped shortly after Renger van der Zande suffered a huge accident at Eau Rouge in the brand new Cadillac he shared with Sébastien Bourdais and Jack Aitken.                

Luis Perez Companc, Lilou Wadoux and Luis Perez-Companc took an easy GTE Am victory in their AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo. But Ben Keating, Nico Varrone and Nicky Catsburg’s Carillac only just held Michael Dinan, Ahmad Al-Harthy and Charlie Eastwood’s TF Sport Aston Martin off for second.


Now for Le Mans!

The World Endurance Championship focus now sits squarely on the centennial Le Mans 24 Hour on the weekend of 10 and 11 June. Three more new Hypercars will join the fray there, with Gazoo Toyota clearly under Pressure from Ferrari, Porsche and Cadillac as the Japanese team searches for its sixth straight victory at the epic La Sarthe race on the Road to Le Mans.

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