Toyota survives rain, snow and hail to take victory in Spa

#8 Toyota wins race dominant by lengthy spells under the safety car

The #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 of Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi have put themselves in a great position to take the FIA World Endurance Championship title after winning a rain, snow and hail affected 6 Hours of Spa. While the start was held under glorious sunshine, it took a total five minutes for the race to be turned on its head as a rain-and-hail storm turned the track into an ice rink and left teams scratching their heads over when the best time was to switch to wet tyres with elements of the track still dry. However, as the storm worsened, the choice became elementary and the first of four safety cars came out to avoid drivers risking throwing their race away on the worst of the ice.

With the race swapping between dry and wet on a regular basis, with snow and hail mixing things up as well, the race was dominated by safety car periods totalling more than 90 minutes as the race was eventually red flagged with eight minutes remaining and hail falling again. Calm through it all - despite a small spin for Alonso at Pouhon after running onto damp kerbing on slicks - was the #8 Toyota. As well as better dealing with the wet conditions - as the Hybrid system acts as a four-wheel drive system - their cause was helped by the sister #7 of Jose Mari Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway losing more than ten minutes in the garage with a Hybrid driver sensor failure. Recovering to sixth - four laps down on the winners - allowed them to score some drivers championship points but they are facing a deficit of 32 points to the sister #7 with only 38 available for winning the final round of the Superseason - the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Back in Belgium, the #7s demise promoted the privateer LMP1s onto the podium. Second went the way of Rebellion Racing as the #3 of Thomas Laurent, Nathaniel Berthon and Gustavo Menezes came out best in a race-long duel with the SMP Racing entries. The Russian cars came home third and fourth, with the #11 finishing a lap ahead of the #17 after a largely faultless run for the BR1s despite the #11 - of Mikhail Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov and Stoffel Vandoorne - receiving a drive-through penalty just after the halfway mark for not respecting the full course yellow procedure. Fifth went to the second #1 Rebellion, while ByKolles capped off a difficult weekend by finishing 38 laps down in last place overall after a lengthy spell in the garage to repair damage sustained by tangling with the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 at the entry to La Source. A combination of great pace in all conditions and perfect timing from the safety cars secured the LMP2 class victory for DragonSpeed and Roberto Gonzales, Anthony Davidson and Pastor Maldonado.

Picking their way through the field in the final third of the race, Pastor Maldonado pulled the Oreca up to third and when the penultimate safety car put the Venezuelan on the back of the Signatech Alpine and the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing cars, Maldonado took his chance. Passing both of them with brilliant displays of racecraft, he built up a healthy gap over the pair before the last neutralisation period. Despite seeing his lead shrink to nothing, Maldonado managed the final minutes of green flag running to secure the teams first win of the Superseason. Second went to polesitters G-Drive Racing as Jean-Eric Vergnes late pace moved the Aurus 01 up to second. Signatech Alpine rounded out the podium as Nicolas Lapierre demoted the #38 to fourth. Early pacesetters Racing Team Nederland, which Giedo Van Der Garde spectacularly navigated to the lead of the class following some blindingly quick opening laps, slipped to sixth in class by race end. Their fall down the order was caused by both a drive-through penalty for not respecting the FCY procedure, and a two-minute stop-and-hold penalty after Frits Van Eerd forced Aston Martins Nicki Thiim off-track at La Sources while trying to lap the Dane. Finishing in front of the yellow Dallara was TDS Racing, with Norman Nato, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Francois Perrodo not able to maintain a leading pace in their Oreca.

A thrill-a-minute GTE Pro was eventually decided in favour of the #97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of local favourite Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn after Martin passed AF Corses Davide Rigon with a great turn of speed in the wet following the penultimate restart. The Belgians cause was helped by alternating pit strategies relegating his nearest competition - namely Rigon in the #71 Ferrari and both BMWs - down the order. Late stops for all three allowed Rigons team-mate James Calado to snatch second for the #51 with Richard Lietz rounding out the podium. However, the latter #91 Porsche driven by Lietz - and shared with Gianmaria Bruni - was hit with a 17s post-race time penalty in lieu of a drive-through for causing a collision with the GTE Am Spirit of Race Ferrari. The penalty drops the #91 down to eighth in class, with the sister #92 of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen moving onto the podium. Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK struggled in the wet, with Harry Tincknell reporting early in the race that the Ford GT struggles to build up tyre temperature in the wet conditions. The best of the blue ovals was the #67 Tincknell shares with Andy Priaulx, which finished sixth.

GTE Am went the way of Dempsey-Proton Racing as the #77 of Christian Ried, Riccardo Pera and Matt Campbell pulled away from Charlie Eastwood in the TF Sport Aston Martin at the final restart to take yet another win for the Porsche team. Behind Eastwood, was the Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GTE. Matt Griffin, Matteo Cressoni and Luis Perez Companc putting a difficult Sebring round - in which Companc crashed in qualifying and the team failed to start the race - behind them.