Text: Rick Kiewiet
Pole position and a 1-2 victory. That would seem like a walk in the park for Toyota, but it turned out to be everything but that. The #6 Penske Porsche 963 of Laurens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre and Andre Lotterer led for the larger part of the race, only to be overtaken just before the fourth (of five) pit stop sequence. In LMP2, we witnessed a race long battle between United Autosports and WRT, with the #41 WRT emerging as winner. In the final stage of the race, it was Robert Kubica who managed to take the lead and steer the car clear of the rest of the field. Initially, Ferrari also scored a 1-2 finish, in the GTE Am category that is, if it wasn't for the after-race 10 second penalty for the #57 for FCY-infringements. The #54 triumphed but the #33 Corvette got promoted up to second.
At the start, Laurens Vanthoor catapulted himself past the Toyota's into the lead. Both Japanese hypercars went wide through the first corner and also had to give up their positions to both Ferrari's. By the time they had past the Prancing Horses, the #6 Porsche had already built a 16-second gap towards the first of the Toyota's, the #7. In the middle part of the race, Lopez caught up to Estre but couldn't get by, a job Hirakawa in the #8 did better after passing Lopes first. After that, the #7 also found his way past the Porsche and the race was more or less run. In the remainder of the race, Toyota had control and the Porsche lacked the pace to place an attack towards the Toyota's.
The Ferrari's finished a somewhat disappointing "best of the rest" at 4th and 5th, after a promising start. At the first track this season where they did not have any runtime during testing, the outfit struggled with the right tire choice and grip. Peugeot also struggled while it was expected that the 1.5km long straight and smooth asphalt would play into the hand of the 9X8. Unfortunately, the car didn't have enough pace to bring the fight towards Porsche and Toyota. On a positive note, the cars had a flawless drive without any issues, so the reliability issue appear to be somewhat solved. The next challenge is to get more speed out of the daring concept.
For Cadillac, it was a race to quickly forget. The #3 lacked a bit of pace and to make matters worse, it lost its left front wheel close to the end of the race.
The battle for victory in LMP2 was close until the end. Both WRT's (#41 and #31) and United Autosport (#22 and #23) cars were in contention for the win. In the last stint, Robert Kubica managed to take the lead and finish ahead of the #22. The second WRT finished 3rd ahead of the other #23 United Autosports.