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FIA World Endurance Championship Spa 6 Hours 2013

4th May 2013

Race day report

Warm Up

Saturday started under very nice weather with the WEC warm up. Greaves Zytek was left in the garage. The team did not take part in the session and will not take any further part in the race meeting after yesterday qualifying session crash, which caused a red flag during the prototype part of the evening session. The other qualifying non-started, Gulf Lola Coupe was now back on the track so we are likely to see 34 cars on the grid.

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Toyotas were still lagging on Audis but at least it was the first session a Toyota broke into the top 3 and easily beaten Rebellions. Warm Up session usually does not say much but a fact that the fastest Audi no.2 ran under two-minutes per lap while none of Toyota manage that even during qualifying, it is pretty unlikely Toyota can keep the pace during the race.

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In LMP2 the fastest were Oreca no.26 G-Drive, OAK Morgan no.24 and remaining Zytek entered by Jota. In GTE it was Ferrari ahead of two factory Porsches and other Ferrari, but it is needed to say that most Aston Martins did not set any time at all, running only in and out laps. And we believe it will be race strategy and luck, not the speed in the GTE Pro class, since the speed differentials were really minimal.

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The race starts in less than two hours and we will be back with reports and later photos after the race.

Race

The first half of the race saw a surprising battle of Toyota no.7 with the Audis. Audi number 1 was quicker but Toyota no.7 initially kept second, later was passed by Audi no.2. Unfortunately, at the end of the first hour one of Oreca LMP2 cars, the Delta-ADR spun in the Eau Rouge. The result was destroyed car and a safety car period. During it Audi no.1 was caught by different safety car than the rest of the factory cars. So at the end of hour 1, the leading Audi was ahead by 50 seconds. But then different pit stop strategies and longer stints by Toyota (unlike last year) helped the 2013 model Toyota top the provisional positions in hours 2 and 3. The other Toyota was 5th and 4th respectively, having its own battle with Audi no.3.

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Rebellions Lolas ran then behind the five factory cars and also the only other private LMP1 team in the field had a nice race, running 8th. Unfortunately for Toyota and for entire race after three and half hours, the car number 7 was suffering with brake problems and after two unscheduled pit stops the car was packed in the garage and never re-appeared on the track again.

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The race then settled with the Audi no.1 usually leading the Audi no.2 except for shorter periods because of different pit stop strategy. The same was valid for Audi no.3 usually running ahead of remaining Toyota no.8 except for some pit stops. In the end Audi took entire podium in the order 1, 2, 3 and it was a celebration. Audi no.1 dominated the race, topping the hourly sheets in hour 1, 4, 5 and 6. Perhaps the safety car at the beginning of the second hour may have helped them but nevertheless the victory was quite deserved. Toyota finished one lap behind the Audis, Both Rebellions were another two laps back, which was really a great achievement for the great private team.

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Strakka team with HPD-Honda could be also happy with finishing almost trouble less race though they had nobody to fight with. Rebellions were simply quicker and finished four laps ahead, while the following LMP2 teams were four or more laps back. LMP2 was a nice battle between Jota Zytek no.38, Pecom Racing Oreca no.49 and fastest of the three OAK-Percarolo-based Morgans. Late race pit stops decided the victory went to Pecom ahead of OAK followed by Jota-Zytek, which nearly spun in an attempt to catch the Morgan.

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GTE battles were very close until the end. In the Pro category Ferraris and Aston Martins were changing in the lead until the last minutes, mainly as they visited pits. The final result was Ferrari no.51, Aston Martin no.98, Ferrari no.71 and Aston Martin no.97. Fifth in the class was the only surviving factory Porsche (no.92).

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In the Am portion of the GTE class, it was a great race for a 8 Star Ferrari in a bit strange orange colour. But the combination worked perfectly and they led almost entire race. They finished 21st overall and ahead of Aston Martin and Larbre Corvette, which had a visible fan base at the main grand stands. 31 cars out of 34 starters were classified. All three retirements were already mentioned in the report. It was a nice race though it seems that Toyota struggles to fulfil promises set by the last season victories. We will see in the next round at Le Mans. At the moment Audi is leading the World Championship by a huge margin ahead of Toyota. Unfortunately no other manufacturers are classified for the World Championship title.

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