The 8 Hours of Portimão witnessed a 1-2 for the Toyota Gazoo Racing team after the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hypercar driven by Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima took a thrilling last gasp victory.
The win is even more iconic as this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship race in Portugal marked Toyota’s 100th World Championship sportscar start since its Group C debut in the 1983 Fuji 1000km race.
The winning No. 8 car run an early fuel save strategy which paid dividends at end of race with one less pit stop. This looked set to enable Buemi to lead home sister No. 7 GR010-Hybrid Hypercar driven by Jose-Maria Lopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi.
However, a late Full Course Yellow enabled Lopez to catch Buemi with less than 20 minutes of the race remaining and Toyota implemented a race management plan. The sister cars then swapped positions again and Buemi led Lopez home to take victory by just 1.8 seconds.
Today’s win is Buemi’s 19th victory and makes him the joint most successful driver in the WEC alongside Pedro Lamy. Meanwhile, it was Hartley and Nakajima’s 16th victory. The trio currently lead the Hypercar drivers’ standings with 63 points – twenty points ahead of the sister No. 7 car who leave Portugal with 43 points
Alpine Elf Matmut, who started today’s race in pole position, placed third after taking the fight to Toyota and leading large sections of the race. It marks Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Andre Negrao’s second consecutive podium for the French outfit. The team are 22 points adrift of Toyota in the team standings.
Elsewhere, WEC debutants Glickenhaus Racing finished fourth after a mighty effort from the American flagged team. Richard Westbrook started the race for the team but suffered heavy time loss during a tough opening stint with tyre overheating problems.
Ryan Briscoe was next to take over at the wheel of the Glickenhaus 007 Hypercar but was involved in three car incident alongside two LMGTE Am cars after two hours, forcing the car into the pit for repairs. Romain Dumas re-joined the race but the car was shortly back in the pits to fix a slipping clutch. The team successfully got the car back on the track so the brand-new Hypercar could continue to gather data ahead of the next event at Monza.
JOTA takes memorable 1-2 result as Da Costa wins on home soil
The LMP2 category saw an epic battle as there were a number of lead changes throughout today’s 8 hour race, which was held in warm and sunny conditions.
However, it was JOTA who took a memorable 1-2 result as the No. 38 Oreca-Gibson belonging to Antonio Felix da Costa, Anthony Davidson and Roberto Gonzalez made a well-calculated overtake on the team’s sister car in order to move into the top spot, just minutes from the chequered flag.
Tom Blomqvist, Stoffel Vandoorne and Sean Gelael finished second after epic fightback in race to the line, with the trio eventually finishing just three seconds adrift of their team-mate’s car. Blomqvist, who was spun around on the first lap, looked like he would keep da Costa at bay in final stages but local hero made a sensational move to edge ahead when it mattered most.
Pole-sitters United Autosports USA looked competitive throughout today’s race but the reigning LMP2 Champions’ advantage dissipated early on following a safety car development. Paul Di Resta, Wayne Boyd and Phil Hanson all put in sensational stints but lost out on a top two position as different tyre strategies played out. The Anglo-American team eventually finished third.
Fourth place was awarded to Team WRT who had a drama-filled race, which saw the team fight back after taking two penalties – one for pitlane speeding and a later one for a blue flag infringement. All three drivers – Charles Milesi, Ferdinand Habsburg, Robin Frijns – put in stellar stints but the time lost from the penalties proved too much to be able to fight for a podium spot.
Fifth in category was Polish-flagged squad Inter Europol Competition with its drivers Alex Brundle, Kuba Smiechowski and Louis Delétraz. It was the team’s second fifth place finish in a row. In the first two hours of the race, the car ran as high as second but due to tyre problems in Delétraz’s second stint, the team were forced to settle for fifth.
After a solid race, the Richard Mille Racing Team trio belonging to its all-female line-up of Tatiana Calderon, Sophia Floersch and Beitske Visser took a credible sixth place – one spot ahead of RealTeam Racing who finished seventh.
The Pro/Am honours go to the Real Team Racing squad as Esteban Garcia, Norman Nato and Mathias Beche.
Text from FIA WEC - Rachel Cavers