Toyota showed at Silverstone that it will be the dominant force of the FIA World Endurance Championship, and confirmed at Spa-Francorchamps with by monopolizing first and second places as it had Porsche on control during most of the time. Aside the Japanese show in LMP1, the other classes showed that the competition is open ahead of Le Mans and the rest of the season.
During the first 20 minutes the No. 1 Porsche was basically holding the much faster Toyota assault, and with two cars against one, there will be a time when an opening will be found, and it was enough for the No. 7 Toyota to go through at the Bus Stop chicane, and a few laps later the No. 8 Toyota took second spot in another late brake maneuver as tires took the toll in the No. 1 Porsche at that point.
While the No. 26 G-Drive Oreca led the LMP2 class, Vaillante Rebellion, Signatech Alpine and Manor were in fierce battle for second in class, with the No. 36 Signatech Alpine having it the hard way for Romain Dumas as a slight tap in the rear sent him to and off-track trip near Pouhon, although his quick comeback kept him in the fight. Eventually the pit stops bunched everybody together and the No. 26 lost its lead to the No. 31 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca with Bruno Senna at the wheel before the end of the first hour.
Out of the first hour the No. 67 Ford GT appeared to be having trouble to leave the pits and once the car hit the Eau Rouge, it simply limped due to fuel priming problems until everything get right again. The No. 66 Ford on the other side was keeping both AF Corse Ferraris at bay, holding the lead as much as possible. Both the No. 51 and 71 Ferraris overtook the No. 66 Ford in the Eau Rouge-Radillion-Kemmel section, only to see the incoming No. 8 Toyota mess up things for them at Les Combes, resulting in both Ferraris trading paint in front of the Ford and almost taking themselves out of the race with 4 hours and a half to go.
Everything was under green flag running and the classes were seeing some solid leads but then with 3 hours to go the No. 86 Gulf Racing Porsche spun at the exit of the Bus Stop and then came to a halt at the main straight, bringing the first yellow flag of the race, which lasted for about 15 minutes.
The LMP2 fight was open wide, but then the No. 31 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca suffered with a loose data logger antenna, so they had to stop to fix it and lost around 30 seconds in the process. The car came back in third in the class, but the distance meant they would hardly fight for class honors.
Another yellow flag was brought with an hour and 40 minutes to go as Tristan Gommendy lost control of his No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca at Eau Rouge and lost the rear wing after a crash. Somehow damage was limited to this so Gommendy just limped back to the team garage where repairs were done.
The No. 2 Porsche was the only one that could ruin the Toyota party and it was doing fine in keeping second place. With an hour to go The Nos. 7 and 8 Toyotas had their scheduled stops for fuel and tires, and in what should be the opportunity for the No. 2 to secure the lead the car got into a weird contact with the No. 36 Signatech Alpine Oreca, and the tap that sent former Porsche LMP Team driver Romain Dumas to a spin left noticeable damage in the No. 2, forcing it to go to an extra pit stop to substitute the crashed front end.
The final part would be used for any gambles that could be done, and while the No. 7 Toyota continued its normal route, the No. 8 Toyota went for a somehow expected splash and go, which handed the second place to the No. 2 Porsche, which then jumped to the lead as the No. 7 stopped. With 15 minutes to go, the pressure was all over the Porsche to either splash or go full economy mode and finish it on track, and finally Brendon Hartley opted to bring the No. 2 for a splash, which left him with a 26 second gap to the leading No. 8 Toyota, ruling out any victory hopes in normal conditions.
With the resisting Porsche out of the victory battle, Kamui Kobayashi started to push like crazy in the No. 7 Toyota, reducing the gap to Sebastien Buemi in the No. 8 car to 2 seconds. In the final lap it appeared that there would be a final position change, but traffic at Fagnes almost led to a crash for the No. 7 car, but secured everybody in their respective places.
The open LMP2 fight turned into domination for the No. 26 G-Drive Oreca, returning to its initial top position. In GTE-Pro prevailed the Ferrari 1-2 as the Nos. 71 and 51 AF Corse cars kept the battle clean until the end, and in GTE-Am, Aston Martin Racing overcame its issues at Silverstone to score a lights to flag win without any opposition for the No. 98 car.
The focus is now totally on June 17th and 18th as Le Mans awaits the sixty competitors for the top event of the FIA WEC, with the Journée Test to be held on June 4th at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
PHOTOS: Toyota WEC Team, G-Drive Racing, AF Corse, Dunlop Motorsport