Toyota hits a century
Over in Europe, the second round of the World Endurance Championship arrived at Portimao in Portugal, with Toyota marking its 100th start in a race counting for a global sportscar series. No surprise, it won, just as the Japanese marque’s new GR010 Hybrid Hypercar did at the season opener at Spa – but the two Gazoo Racing entries were at least pushed hard by Alpine’s grandfathered LMP1, which actually proved faster on pace under the Balance of Performance rules.
The French car took pole position, with Nicolas Lapierre leading the early stages of the race, but its smaller fuel tank, which means lighter fuel loads but shorter stint lengths compared to the GR010s, ultimately pushed the Alpine back to third because it needed an extra pitstop. As usual, there was little between the #7 and #8 Toyotas, honours this time falling to the latter driven by Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley who made better use of strategy. Jose Maria Lopez needed a splash and dash of fuel in the final hour, although he made his stop under a full course yellow, ensuring a tight finish. Toyota then made a meal of its team orders protocol, allowing Lopez back through to see if the Argentine had extra pace, then rightfully allowed Buemi to resume his lead when that proved not to be the case. Not the sort of actions WEC needs with such a poorly supported top class at the moment.
The good news was the new Glickenhaus SCG 007 added to the new Hypercar entries and the solo effort driven by Ryan Briscoe, Romain Dumas and Richard Westbrook at least passed the chequered. The bad news was it finished 54 laps behind the leader after Briscoe tapped a GTE-Am entry and spun, leading to a long delay for repairs. Still, the car needs race mileage to be competitive at the Le Mans 24 Hours in August, and at Portimao the team at least managed 246 laps to learn much more about what they have to work with.
Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.