The FIA World Endurance Championship got their fairy tale kick-off to the 2018-2019 Super Season with the overall winner while GT battles kept us glued to the screen throughout the whole six-hour-long fight in the Ardennes. This promises to be a very interesting season.

Prologue

TOTAL 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps - Race Highlight

Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps WEC: relive the sensational Super Season Opener with this highlight video again! Huge congratulations to all of the winners! Next stop: 24 Heures du Mans, the 2nd round of FIA WEC Super Season.

Posted by FIA WEC on Saturday, May 5, 2018
As expected, the privateer non-hybrid LMP1 cars played second fiddle to the Toyotas

It was a strikingly sunny and hot season opener at Spa-Francorchamps, very much unlike the weather we’re accustomed to at the Belgian Grand Prix track but this meant that interruptions were only a few although it’s still hard to draw some conclusions for Le Mans.

As expected, the privateer non-hybrid LMP1 cars played second fiddle to the Toyotas and, what is more, some didn’t even take the start, while others bit the dust in or after the race. Meanwhile, Toyota didn’t have it all its way but still got away with the perfect result.

The P2 class was, still, an ORECA fest although the lone Dallara had some speed but not the luck. The Ligier, however, was marred by team mistakes and incidents and never played a part in the fight at the sharp end of the class which, at times, was slightly ahead of the back of the P1 group.

The GTE machinery fought hard all across the race, but the BoP isn’t, as of yet, where it should be as Ford and Porsche were, at times, a step ahead of the others. Ferrari stuck with the leaders through strategy, but luck wasn’t on the side of the defending world champions. BMW ticked a positive debut with the M8 while Astons had their way in the Am class because nobody else kept their noses clean.

2018 Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps - Race Report
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It was always going to be a difficult debut for the brace of privateer entries at Spa, but the latest changes in EoT and stint length made it even harder

It was always going to be a difficult debut for the brace of privateer entries at Spa, but the latest changes in EoT and stint length made it even harder. What is more, some didn’t even make it to the grid. In fact, only five LMP1 cars headed the field as the flag was waved and everyone tackled La Source for the first time.

Concerns first clouded CEFC TRSM’s Ginettas as early as practice, the two Mecachrome-powered prototypes only going out for one installation lap in both practice sessions on Friday. There were already talks in the paddock about the cars not racing at all due to funding issues. While key figures within the Manor operation denied comment, the worst case scenario was confirmed a day later when Ginetta announced that they would not allow the cars to race because the Talent Racing Sports (TRS) company from China did not deliver the funds needed for the team to compete.

The situation should, however, clear up as TRS officials announced it’s just a case of a “short-term cash flow problem.” Details also emerged pointing to the team’s other key sponsor, China Energy (CEFC), which is in the heat of an investigation, the company’s chairman being detained by the Chinese government due to the potentially illicit nature of a recent $9.1-billion deal with Rosneft. All this doesn’t mean the team won’t return for Le Mans – if it will have secured all necessary funding by then – although Vincent Beaumesnil chose not to respond when asked if Manor’s DNS will affect their Le Mans entry, stating instead that the entries are at the discretion of the ACO Selection Committee.

2018 Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps - Race Report
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Another car that took no part in the race was the No. 10 Dragonspeed BR1 which crashed heavily on the way up through Raidillon in qualifying

Another car that took no part in the race was the No. 10 Dragonspeed BR1 which crashed heavily on the way up through Raidillon in qualifying. Pietro Fittipaldi suffered a failure of some sort and hit the tire wall head-on, breaking both his legs as a result of the ferocious impact that actually cracked the carbon tub of the car. The Brazilian, who arrived at Spa s a substitute for Ranger Van Der Zande who’s racing at Mid-Ohio in the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship for Wayne Taylor Racing, was also slated to drive in the Indianapolis 500 with Dale Coyne but he will most likely miss the race due to the lengthy recovery time required.

The aforementioned accident happened only minutes after the No. 17 BR1 of SMP Racing stopped on track with suspected electrical maladies. This meant the car started from the back of the pack while the sister No. 11 car qualified fourth overall almost two seconds shy of the fastest Rebellion. That car managed to delve down to a 1:56.425, still some 1.5-seconds behind the pole-sitting No. 8 Toyota of Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi, and Kazuki Nakajima.

The gap was, originally, almost up to two seconds but the No. 7 Toyota of Jose-Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway which managed an average time of 1:54.583 was excluded due to an incorrect declaration of the fuel flow meter. This meant that McLaren’s Alonso was gifted a pole position on debut while the sister car started from the pit lane, a lap down from the rest of the field.

The Alpine was quickest in LMP2, all of the ORECA chassis rounding the Spa circuit in the 2:02-2:03 bracket while the lone Dallara and Ligier could do no better than 2:04 and 2:05 respectively.

2018 Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps - Race Report
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Domination was in order in GTE-Pro as well, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK locking up the front row of the grid

Domination was in order in GTE-Pro as well, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK locking up the front row of the grid. The No. 67 car shared by Harry Tincknell, Andy Priaulx, and Tony Kanaan was less than 0.3-seconds quicker than the sister No. 66 driven by Stefan Mucke, Olivier Pla, and Billy Johnson. Porsche filled the second row of the grid while the top BMW was fifth with the fastest Ferrari next to it in sixth and the fastest Aston-Martin Vantage in eighth. Finally, Porsche qualified first, third and fourth in GTE-Am, the old generation Vantages coming in second and fifth to relegate the three Ferraris to the back of the class.

The situation in GTE-Pro with the implementation last year of the automatic BoP system saw Aston-Martin and BMW call for a tweak before the regulated change at the fourth round of the season. The automatic system uses baseline performance data from the previous two WEC races while the Le Mans race has a more specific BoP, but even that will not be too different from the base BoP. Changes will be made for Le Mans, but it’s unclear how will the BoP stand for the third round of the season at Silverstone considering Le Mans is not taking into account when the BoP is done.

LMP1

2018 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps - Mid race highlights

Toyota Motorsport GmbH and Porsche lead LMP1 and LMGTE Pro at halfway stage. Less than 3 hours to go! 💥

Posted by FIA WEC on Saturday, May 5, 2018
Toyota was able to get their two cars in first and second before entering in the second half of the event

The race got underway fairly clean, and Andre Lotterer was able to stay close to the rear wing of Buemi’s No. 8 Toyota for just about a lap, the Swiss then stretching a gap that reached 35 seconds by the end of the first hour with the first round of stops already in the books. The sister car was close behind in third with Sarrazin’s recovering BR Engineering SMP Racing-entered prototype in fourth after the sister car suffered a freak puncture. The ByKolles was following suite while the No. 7 Toyota was gaining ground to the leaders bit by bit.

The first 60 minutes were marked by a crash, the No. 67 GTE-Pro pole-sitting Ford crashing as it climbed Raidillon behind the sister No. 66. Harry Tincknell suffered a puncture and went straight into the wall, the crash being similar to that of Fittipaldi. However, the Briton walked away unscathed. The following two hours ran essentially caution-free, and Toyota was able to get their two cars in first and second before entering in the second half of the event. The No. 7 pursuing TS050 has been quicker during the second hour and unlapped itself while Alonso was driving his first stint in the No. 8. The Spaniard put a stout defense, but no incidents occurred between the two Gazoo Racing cars. Thereafter, Alonso pitted in lap 39 to hand over to Kazuki Nakajima.

The Japanese driver tried to extend the gap but, instead, spun on the exit of La Source. This meant that the gap was down to under a minute at the end of the third hour. The two Rebellions were behind, running faultlessly in third and fourth overall followed by the No. 17 SMP Racing prototype and the ByKolles in sixth overall, the first of the LMP1 cars to be one lap down.

2018 Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps - Race Report
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As the race wore on, the gap between the two Toyotas grew smaller and so did that between the two Rebellions and the No. 17 BR Engineering

As the race wore on, the gap between the two Toyotas grew smaller and so did that between the two Rebellions and the No. 17 BR Engineering. So much so that, with one hour and a bit left to go, the Russian prototype was up into third by-passing both Rebellions which lost some pace in the second half of the race. What is more, the No. 1 had to pit a couple of times to fix the GPS receiver that’s used to send data to race control. The car lost over one-and-a-half minutes and was running behind the No. 3 Rebellion which was close to Matevos Isaakyan’s BR.

The Russian fought for a number of laps to stay on the final podium place but was finally disposed to fourth by Thomas Laurent. Minutes later, the No. 17 car went off at the top of Raidillon in spectacular fashion. It was the second BR wrecked in just one racing weekend and, while it’s unclear as to what caused the incident, Isaakyan walked away without injuries. The safety car period that followed was the third and final of the day, the first being deployed after a shunt in the first lap that involved GTE-Am cars.

As the six hours were coming to a close, the No. 7 was only three seconds behind Alonso in the No. 8. In spite of that, the should-have-been pole-sitter was ordered to stay put, and Alonso crossed the finish line to claim victory by just 1.4-seconds. Thus, the two-times F1 World Champion claimed victory on debut writing the perfect headlines for the FIA WEC and Toyota Gazoo Racing. The No. 1 Rebellion came home third after all that adversity, but they would have to pass the trophies to the sister No. 3 after the race. That’s because the car failed the post-race tech check-up with the floor plank being found 1.2-milimiters too thin. The penalty for the car running too low is disqualification, so every car behind it gained one spot. As such, the ByKolles team claimed an unexpected fourth place overall after a clean race but a lackluster race as well, the ENSO Nissan-powered car never showing that it had the pace to even fight the other non-hybrid sports cars.

LMP2

2018 Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps - Race Report
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The G-Drive Racing ORECA 07 dominated much of the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

The G-Drive Racing ORECA 07 dominated much of the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, the French-built prototypes again proving head-and-shoulders above the competition. What is interesting, however, is that now we have a tire war in LMP2 with most of the cars running Michelins but a few utilizing Dunlop rubber.

Also interesting is that the Racing Team Nederland moved to the fore in the first hour, recovering from the back row of the grid. The Giedo van der Garde-driven car battled with the No. 26 G-Drive ORECA until it hit some alternator trouble and had to sit in the garage for repairs. That basically ended the non-ORECA threat for victory as the sole Ligier entered by Larbre Competition was off pace and involved in a few incidents that left their marks on the car’s race in the form of penalties.

In the end, the No. 26 of Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne, and Antonio Pizzitola won with a healthy 20-seconds gap to P2. The team will not, though, contest the whole of the FIA WEC Super Season and, as such, was rewarded no points for the win, full WEC points for a victory going to the car on second place. That was “Mighty 38” of Jackie Chan DC Racing driven by Tung, Aubry, and Richelmi. The former closed in to Andre Negrao’s Signatech Alpine with over an hour left to go, the two battling out on track before the final pit stops were on order. The No. 38 came in a few laps earlier, the undercut working for Tung who moved up to second place which he was able to defend until the end. The sister No. 37 car finished fourth ahead of the TDS Racing ORECA.

While victory lane is not where they ended up, Signatech was happy with third place after receiving a drive-through penalty. More frustrated was the No. 31 DragonSpeed crew which pretty much dominated in practice but came home a lowly sixth after slowing down on track a couple of times.

GTE-Pro

2018 Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps - Big LMGTE battle

Big LMGTE-Pro fight for the 1st place between Ford Performance #66 and Porsche #91. What a move by Olivier Pla!!! That's "huge corones" as Martin Haven said! 👊👊👊

Posted by FIA WEC on Saturday, May 5, 2018
Ford’s attack was down to one car by the end of hour one after Tincknell’s crash

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Ford’s attack was down to one car by the end of hour one after Tincknell’s crash but, at the end of the day, one car is all you need to claim the victory, and that’s exactly what Chip Ganassi Racing UK did on Saturday. The No. 66 crew of Olivier Pla, Stefan Mucke, and Billy Johnson clung to the back of the two Porsches – and sometimes was sandwiched between them – for the entirety of the race.

Earlier on, Lietz took the GTE-Pro lead following Tincknell’s crash, the No. 91 Porsche having the sister No. 92 right behind it. The order was shuffled between these three cars while Ferrari, Aston-Martin, and BMW tried to close the gap. AF Corse’s No. 51 car was, at one point, in with a chance to fight for podium before an unsafe release got the car in the way of a GTE-Am Porsche on pit lane. The shunt damaged Pier Guidi and Calado’s car which finished last in class.

The No. 66 moved to the fore with 45 minutes left to go, Olivier Pla passing Richard Lietz who was struggling with his tires. The German then gave up second to team-mate Michael Christensen so as to not hold the Dane up. In spite of this, Christensen was unable to reel in Pla who won by over 13 seconds.

There was yet another change of position before the end, Davide Rigon also going around Lietz in the dying minutes to claim third for the No. 71 Ferrari. The best of the BMWs was fifth while the two Astons followed suit to finish sixth and seventh in a positive weekend with no retirements.

GTE-Am

Aston-Martin finished first and second with the old generation Vantages after most of everybody else hit trouble.

Aston-Martin finished first and second with the old generation Vantages after most of everybody else hit trouble. The two Dempsey-Proton Porsches crumbled in the same lap during the latter half of the race while the Gulf Racing UK Porsche was already delayed because of a lap one crash.

Meanwhile, the MR Racing Ferrari was involved in a number of tricky moments so, at the end, it was all about Pedro Lamy and Euan Hankey who fought for the victory in spectacular but fair fashion. In the end, defending champion Lamy claimed the win for himself, Paul Dalla-Lana and Mathias Lauda. Hankey, Salih Yoluc, and Charlie Eastwood was second. Last step on the podium was filled by the crew of the No. 61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari – Mok Weng Sun, Keita Sawa and Matt Griffin.

Up next in the FIA WEC is the mythical 24 Hours of Le Mans race but, before that is the Le Mans Test Day. All cars that will take part in the 24-hour-long race will take part in the test day as well. The test day is scheduled for Sunday, June 3rd, while the 86th edition of the great race starts on Saturday, June 16th.

Results: http://www.dailysportscar.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/FIA-WEC-2018-Spa-Result.pdf

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