toyota imola winners wec

WEC Imola 6 Hour: Toyota beats Porsche, rain beats Ferrari

toyota imola WEC Imola 6 Hour: Toyota beats Porsche, rain beats Ferrari wec

World Endurance Champions Gazoo Toyota Racing bounced back from a disappointing start to its 2024 season with an epic second-round Imola 6-Hour win on Saturday.

Mike Conway, Nyck de Vries and Kamui Kobayashi’s number 7 GR010 Hybrid Hypercar overcame dominant Ferrari as rain hit later in the race.

They then fought the rampant Laurens Vanthoor, Andre Lotterer, and Kevin Estre Penske Porsche 963 LMDh off in a grandstand finish for the German-based Japanese squad’s delighted first win of the season. The second Campbell Christensen Makowiecki Penske 963 number 5 made it a Porsche 2-3.

Porsche Came Close to Imola Double Win

WEC Imola 6 Hour: Toyota beats Porsche, rain beats Ferrari Porsche Came Close to Imola Double Win

The number 50 Fuoco Molina Nielsen 499P redeemed a little honour for home heroes Ferrari by passing the second number 8 Buemi Hartley Hirakawa Toyota for fourth on the final lap. It was a great showing for BMW Sheldon van Der Linde Frijns Rast number 20 topped an impressive run with a best yet sixth overall from the second red Pier Guidi Calado Giovinazzi 51 Ferrari and its yellow 83 Kubica Shwartzman Yifei sibling.

The new winged 93 Jensen Müller Vergne Peugeot 9X8 24 and lone two-man Bamber-Lynn Cadillac V-Series.R LMDh closed off the top ten. They were followed by the 38 Jenson Button Hanson Rasmussen Hertz Team Jota Porsche, an improving Bortolotti Mortara Kvyat 63 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Hypercar.

Ferrari started on the front foot, leading a dramatic 1-2-3 early on, once the track was cleared following a first lap pileup. Triggered by Matthieu Vaxiviere’s Alpine tagging di Resta’s Peugeot. It also involved teammate Milesi’s Alpine, Wittmann BMW, the Isotta Fraschini, and others. Vaxiviere took a minute stop-go penalty for his efforts.

Imola Rain Thwarted Fast Ferraris

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The green flag running saw the Ferraris maintain the advantage, at or close to the front as split strategies blurred the real running order once pit stops started. The Conway 6 Porsche was on the move and soon emerged at the head of the Ferrari chasing pack. It then gained two places, overcutting Kubica’s yellow Ferrari and benefiting Nielsen’s leading red version slowed by a left-rear tyre change.

Nielsen was however soon back to second behind team-mate Giovinazzi’s in a red Ferrari 1-2 approaching half-distance, with codrivers Calado and Molina soon stalked by the de Vries 7 Toyota. It soon found itself in the lead in Kobayashi’s hands as the strategies played out.

Then the rain came and Kobayashi’ 7 Toyota and Estre’s 6 Porsche made a crucial call to dive straight into the pits for wet tyres. All three Ferraris and the 6 Porsche stayed out. That call proved decisive as those on slicks struggled in the wet. Campbell reacted first before the home cars finally stopped for the correct rubber.

BMW Fast becoming a WEC Factor

WEC Imola 6 Hour: Toyota beats Porsche, rain beats Ferrari BMW Fast becoming a WEC Factor

It proved too little too late, leaving the Ferraris out of touch and the loyal Tifosi Ferrari fans wondering how their beloved team failed to split strategy in those unpredictable conditions. And what could have been? Ferrari however took a late gamble to keep only Pier Guidi on wets as the rest went back to slicks.

Porsche used a similar tactic to see Campbell gain ground as the rest initially tiptoed around on the drying track. All of which ultimately left Kobayashi’s Toyota leading Estre’s Porsche on better tyres. Campbell’s Porsche was up to third on even better rubber, but Hirakawa’s 8 Toyota was under pressure from Fuoco in the 50 Ferrari.

Kobayashi somehow held Estre off for the win in their epic fight through the traffic to the finish, with Campbell ultimately a distant third. Even further back, Fuoco finally gained a little reprieve from Ferrari’s late tyre gamble when he used his fresher slicks to overcome a defenceless Hirakawa for fourth on the final lap.

Valentino Rossi in Imola BMW M4 GT3 1-2

valentino rossi bmw wec imola

They were handed a reprieve when the van der Linde BMW was slapped with a late drive-through penalty on a pit infringement after a most impressive run. Still it landed up a fine sixth ahead of Pier Guidi’s red Ferrari, which passed Ye’s similar yellow car for seventh, as the lead Peugeot and the Cadillac closed off the top ten.

Behind the Hypercars, BMW made it a LMGT3 class day to remember. Darren Leung, Sean Gelael and Augusto Farfus beat Valentino Rossi, yes, that Valentino Rossi, Maxime Martin, and Ahmad al Harty to a fine M4 GT3 1-2. The team timed its driver changes to perfection to keep its pro pilots behind the wheel for the maximum time and keep the Malykhin Sturm Bachler Porsche 911 GT3 back in third.

All of which leaves Porsche crew and Qatar winner Laurens Vanthoor, Andre Lotterer, and Kevin Estre Conway leading Toyota trio Conway, de Vries and Kobayashi and Porsche three Campbell, Christensen, and Makowiecki in the driver’s title race. And Porsche in a handy manufacturer’s lead from Toyota, Ferrari, BMW, Alpine, Peugeot, Cadillac, and Lamborghini.

The Road to Le Mans now makes one more visit to Spa Francorchamps for its traditional dress rehearsal 6 Hour on Sunday 12 May. Then its’ all eyes on the most exciting 24 Hour in many a year 15-16 June. Diarise it now! Your Road to Le Mans is Powered by Toyota Gazoo Racing

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