It’s an intense, if short and sweet Toyota Gazoo Racing Week 29 on Auto!
With no local motorsport to speak of as lockdown continues to pause the SA race season, it was up to live action from abroad to keep local fans happy over the past Toyota Gazoo Race Week 29 on Auto. It was another great world motorsport weekend for Toyota Gazoo Racing, but the biggest news was at Silverstone where a simmering Formula 1 rivalry boiled over on Sunday afternoon.
ROVANPERA IS YOUNGEST EVER WRC WINNER
Most impressive perhaps, Toyota Gazoo Racing youngster Kalle Rovanpera became the youngest ever WRC winner. The 20-year-old son of former WRC winner Harri dominated Rally Estonia. He snatched the youngest winner honour from his Toyota team boss Jari-Matti Latvala. He won in Sweden at 22 years old in 2008.
Rovanpera beat Craig Breen by a minute with his Hyundai teammate Thierry Neuville third. Toyota men Sebastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans were third and fourth. Ogier still leads the Championship on 148 points from Gazoo Toyota teammate Evans’ 111. Thierry Neuville is next up with young Rovanpera in a Hyundai sandwich ahead of Ott Tanak. Tatsumi Katsuda sits sixth making it four Toyotas in the WRC top six. Toyota is yet to be beaten in the 2021 WRC.
It was a little trickier for Toyota Gazoo Racing at the first-ever World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Monza. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez number 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid led most of the way. But there was drama at the beginning of the penultimate hour when Kobayashi stopped to allow Romain Dumas’ Glickenhaus 007 LMH to take the lead.
GAZOO TOYOTA FIGHTS BACK AT MONZA
The Glickenhaus however had to stop for a brake service to hand the Toyota a reprieve. Conway made a fuel stop to keep the combative Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre and Matthieu Vaxiviere’s Alpine A480 at bay. That maintained another unbeaten 2021 Gazoo Racing record. LMP2 winners Hanson, Scherer an Albuquerque’s Oreca was third from the much improved Dumas, Mailleux and Westbrook Glickenhaus. Kevin Estre and Neel Jani’s Porsche held the Guidi-Calado Ferrari off in GTE Pro. The Perrodo-Nielsen-Rovera Ferrari took GTE AM.
The biggest action of the weekend was however at Silverstone’s British Grand Prix. Max Verstappen’s Red Bull Honda beat pole man Lewis Hamilton to victory in the first-ever F1 qualifying sprint. Verstappen and Hamilton then banged wheels in the opening lap of Sunday’s main race. Before more contact saw Verstappen dusting himself off en route to hospital for observation following a massive accident.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was the surprise leader of the restarted race red flagged after that accident. Hamilton held a watching brief and was docked ten seconds and two penalty points for his contact with Verstappen. But the seven-time world champion mounted a huge comeback. He took 12 seconds out of Leclerc through the second half of the race to passing the Ferrari for a popular home win.
FORMULA 1 SOCIAL MEDIA FIRESTORM
Leclerc ended second from Bottas in the other Mercedes, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren Mercedes and Carlos Sainz’ Ferrari. Once the dust had settled, Hamilton had closed his championship deficit from 33 to 7 points. Amid a social media firestorm fuelled by an angry Red Bull team.
Also at Silverstone, Robert Shwartzman, Richard Verschoor and Guanyu Zhou shared out the Formula 2 wins to see Zhou close on championship leader Oscar Piastri. And Alice Powell passed Fabienne Wohlwend to take the ladies’ W Series win.
Moving across to the US, weather delays saw both mainline races shortened. Ford man Aric Almirola fought his way back into the NASCAR Cup Chase. His New Hampshire playoff win was curtailed by darkness. Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia led a Corvette GT Le Mans 1-2 in a lightning-shortened IMSA GT Northeast Grand Prix. Roman de Angelis and Ross Gunn’s Aston Martin topped GT Daytona.
NAIL-BITING JAPAN, AUSSIE ACTION TOO
Elsewhere, Cam Waters’ Ford Mustang won an entertaining Aussie V8 opener at Townsville. Shane van Gisbergen beat Holden teammate Jamie Whincup to the second heat win. And Waters beat van Gisbergen in a nail-biting finale. Honda duo Naoki Yamamoto and Tadasuke Makino took their first All Japan Super GT win of the season at Motegi. Yamamoto held charging Toyota man Ritomo Miyata off.
With South African motorsport still treading lockdown water around very few regional events likely to go ahead. Local race fans will be looking forward to international highlights. Including DTM from Lausitzring, Formula E in London. And World Rallycross Barcelona and World Superbikes from Assen in the forthcoming Toyota Gazoo Race Week 30.