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WEC Spa: Toyota Dominate as Ferrari star

toyota win spa

Toyota benefited a fortunate tyre choice and some handy safety ace and yellow flag periods to dominate the 6 Hours of Spa-Fancorchamps 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.

For Round 3 of the 2023 WEC Series, 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. The Ferraris 499P LMHs led early before an early safety car, by when 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.

Another combative victory for the World Champions

Kobayashi opened a slight advantage over Hartley at the final restart, but tyre changes 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 the end 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 he shared with Michael Christensen and Dane Cameron. Calado then hunted down the Porsche and passed it into Les Combes on the final lap. The Ferrari’s ominous pace appears to need now only find the necessary luck to deal with the Toyotas, too.

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 fourth, a lap down in the brand new privateer Jota Porsche 963, from LMP 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, and 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 driven by Michael Dinan, Ahmad Al-Harthy and Charlie Eastwood’s TF Sport Aston Martin.

And 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, where three more Hypercars join the fray with Gazoo Toyota clearly oncer Pressure from Ferrari, Porsche and Cadillac as the Japanese team searches for its sixth straight victory at the epic La Sarthe race.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WEC