Motorsport News

Toyota GAZOO Racing Stays Perfect In 2023 At Spa

Kamui Kobayashi during qualifying for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, 4/28/2023 (Photo: Marcel Wulf/Focus Pack Media)

Toyota GAZOO Racing’s Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez led 132 of 148 laps Saturday (April 29) to win the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. It is their second win of the year.

The margin of victory at the line was 16.637 seconds over the No. 8 Toyota of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa. However, the No. 7 was given a post-race five-second penalty for going outside track limits to make a pass after their last pit stop. As a result, the official margin of victory will be 11.637 seconds.

Ferrari AF Corse’s James Calado was able to get past Porsche Penske Motorsport’s Frederic Makowiecki on the final lap to take third for himself, Giovinazzi and Alessandro Pier Guidi. Makowiecki, Dane Cameron and Michael Christensen were fourth, while Chip Ganassi Racing’s Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook were fifth in the No. 2 Cadillac.

After Giovinazzi’s would-be pole lap was disallowed for a track limit violation, Conway started from the overall pole in mixed conditions. Teams were forced to chose between slicks or wet tires. Ferrari AF Corse chose to start Giovinazzi on wets, which gave him the grip to take the lead away from Conway on lap 2.

Shortly afterwards, Iron Lynx’s Claudio Schiavoni spun into the gravel trap at Les Combes to bring out an early safety car period. At this point, the track started drying, forcing a number of teams into an early pit stop for slicks. That allowed Conway to retake the lead.

With Ferrari AF Corse forced to make an extra stop, Chip Ganassi Racing’s part-time No. 3 with Renger van der Zande driving got all the way up to second overall. Then, disaster struck in the second hour. Van der Zande bottomed out in Eau Rouge. The result was a nasty crash.

Van der Zande was able to get out of his Cadillac VSeries.R on his own and appeared to be unhurt. Regardless, he was out on the spot and the safety car was back out.

A big story Saturday was the WEC’s rule change for 2023 that banned tire warmers. The move really hadn’t been much of an issue at Sebring and Portimao thanks to warm weather. However, at Spa, it never got above 55 degrees during the race. As a result, drivers had to carefully get temperature in their tires, while losing as little time as possible.

There were a number of spins and off-course excursions on cold tires that rarely happen in the Hypercar class. Ferrari AF Corse’s Antonio Fuoco was…

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