Toyota Gazoo Racing clinched the FIA World Endurance Championship teams’ title in a dramatic and weather-affected 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday.
Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso delivered the points needed to claim the championship by winning the penultimate round of the 2018-2019 season. The trio in the No8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid also extended their lead in the driver’s title race to 31 points.
The No7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López controlled the race from pole position until just before half-distance, setting the fastest lap before a sensor issue dropped them back down the order, ultimately finishing in sixth place.
For the first time in the history of the championship, heavy snow fell shortly after the start. In spite of the conditions, the race was able to continue behind a safety car. Another safety car period following an accident triggered drama for Buemi who was forced to make a fuel stop while the pit lane was closed; WEC regulations meant the team was only allowed to add five seconds of fuel. When he was able to make his regular, full refuelling stop, he had lost around a minute and was running in 10th place, but a battling drive saw him up to second by the two-hour mark.
Further snow and a hailstorm added to the challenging conditions as the final third of the race got under way. By the last hour, López was up to sixth while Alonso had extended the No8 car’s advantage to more than a lap over the field. Again, the weather intervened, prompting further running behind the safety car before the race was brought to a halt a few minutes early because of the worsening conditions.
At that point, Alonso was one lap ahead of the second-placed No3 Rebellion car. The No11 SMP Racing car was third.
After the race, Alonso said: “That was definitely not an easy race, with a couple of issues in the first part in addition to the weather. So it was up and down in terms of emotions. The most important thing today was securing the teams’ World Championship. I am extremely happy that we scored enough points to become World Champion; a massive well done for everyone in the team. It has been an amazing season for us and hopefully in Le Mans we can have the final, nice touch with the drivers’ title.”
The team now head for France and the Le Mans 24 Hours, the culmination of the season on 15-16 June.