SPA, Belgium – Spain’s Fernando Alonso and his #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid teammates, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, moved closer to the 2018-2019 World Endurance Championship (WEC) title by winning the Six Hours of Spa on Saturday.
They easily won the race contested in inclement weather at the seven-kilometer (4.352-mile) Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps after their sister car, the #7 Toyota driven by the trio of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez, blew a big lead due to a sensor problem in their hybrid system that cost them 11 minutes.
Conway started in pole position – just ahead of Buemi – in Saturday’s race, which was marred by rain, hail and snow at different junctures.
The #7 Toyota built a big lead of around 45 seconds over its sister car, with Buemi losing time due to an extra pit stop for a tire change amid the shifting weather conditions.
When Alonso got behind the wheel after about one-third of the race had been completed, that deficit has stretched to a full minute, but the situation changed drastically due to the #8 car’s sensor issue and lengthy repair time.
Lopez finally got his car back on the circuit, but by that time a full five laps had been lost and virtually all of his team’s hopes for a WEC title were gone as well.
Alonso, who completed nearly half of the race for his team, handed off to Nakajima but took the wheel again at lap 105 with about 1 hour and 45 minutes remaining.
Although the precipitation had subsided during part of the race, more heavy rain, hail and snow marred the final stretch.
The race featured a whopping four safety car periods and was finally red-flagged with just over 10 minutes to go, but in the end Alonso guided his team to victory with steady driving.
Alonso, Buemi and Nakajima won by a full lap over both the second-placed Rebellion R13 trio of Nathanael Berthon, Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes and the third-placed BR Engineering BR1 team of Mikhail Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov and Stoffel Vandoorne.
The #7 Toyota trio finished a distant sixth, four laps behind the winners.
The victory by Alonso and company means they have a 31-point lead over Conway, Kobayashi and Lopez heading into the eighth and final 2018-2019 WEC race – the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France, which will take place on June 15-16 and offer 38 points for the winner.
Their win also clinched the constructors’ title for Toyota Gazoo Racing.
Alonso, who teamed with Buemi and Nakajima to finish first in Le Mans in 2018, says his main goal this year is winning the Indianapolis 500 to complete the unofficial “Triple Crown of Motorsport.”
The former Formula One star is already two-thirds of the way to becoming only the second driver to triumph in the Indy 500, the F1 Monaco Grand Prix (which he won in 2006 and 2007) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, joining England’s legendary Graham Hill (1929-1975).