#7 Toyota victorious in dramatic mixed weather race

The 2022 WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps may not have been an instant classic, but it certainly was a typical Spa sportscar race. At 1pm local time the race started in dry conditions, but soon enough the capricious Ardennes weather began to play a starring role.

In the #8 Toyota Sebastien Buemi led the early running after both Toyotas passed the polesitting #708 Glickenhaus 007 LMH of Olivier Pla.

But after the first of three red flags for the crash of Miroslav Konopka in the #44 ARC Bratislava LMP2 car, Buemi was forced to park his car after the restart with what the team described as hybrid issues.

A power cycle proving futile, Buemi retired the #8 car on the spot, handing over the lead to the #7 sister car. It was the second retirement in as many races for the Japanese giant, although its misfortune has been evenly spread across both entries so far.

Konopka’s off – just as it had started drizzling over one part of the Ardennes circuit but stayed bone dry on the other, a classic Spa-ism – was the first of many. During the first red flag teams were forced to gamble on whether the rain would persist, but soon enough the floodgates duly opened.

The refurbished and repaved circuit proved even more slippery than usual, and when cars started aquaplaning the race was red flagged a second time before the two-hour mark.

During the second red flag period Robin Frijns had cycled into the lead in the #31 WRT Oreca 07 LMP2, and as racing continued the Dutchman continued to impress with his wet weather prowess as he distanced Conway in the #7 Toyota.

The race’s third stoppage occurred after three hours and 20 minutes following a crash for Alex Brundle in the #34 Inter Europol Oreca LMP2 machine. Brundle slapped the Turn 9 barriers hard, which prompted repairs to the armco.

Other offs in that period included a scary moment for Antonio Felix da Costa in the #38 JOTA car, who barely managed to keep the LMP2 frontrunner out of the wall, as well as excursions for Prema’s Louis Deletraz and Vector Sport’s Sebastien Bourdais. Though in fairness to them it would be easier to list the cars that didn’t spin or go off track at any point.

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With little over two hours to go, racing resumed once again on a circuit that slowly but surely started drying.

On intermediates Toyota’s Lopez tried to build a gap on Matthieu Vaxiviere in the Alpine, while half a lap behind them WRT’s Rene Rast continued to circulate at a similar pace to the Hypercar class runners.

Lopez made his final pitstop for slicks with 30 minutes to go, safe in the knowledge that Vaxiviere also would have to pit. The Argentine brought the #7 to the chequered flag with a 27s lead, finding redemption after he crashed the car out of March’s Sebring 1000 Miles.

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