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WEC Battle in the Ardennes

Spa-Francorchamps racing circuit on 05/05/2018 at the Spa 6h, 2018

WEC Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hours, 5 May 2018
WEC Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hours, 5 May 2018: The calm before the storm – conditions were perfect for the opening race of the 2018 WEC season

The first race of the 2018 WEC season certainly didn’t disappoint. From the starter’s green lights, right up until the chequered flag, the excitement hit a high point and didn’t once wane. This was truly a WEC battle in the Ardennes.

#7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid
WEC Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hours, 5 May 2018: The #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid (Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez) in Parc Ferme on Friday 4 May 2018 while the team’s paperwork for this car is checked by the FIA Technical team

The start

Under bright sunshine, the race got underway at 13h30 sharp. The starting grid was altered as late as Friday night when the pole sitting #7 Toyota had its qualifying time cancelled due to an infringement in the paperwork. Quite how one set of paperwork for two identical cars has an error on it when they get filled out and submitted together was the source of some discussion in the press room. But the penalty for this was that the #7 car had to start the race from the pit lane after the first lap had been completed, and the #8 Toyota was promoted to pole position in its place.

Ford GT - #67 & #66; Porsche RSR - #91 & #92
WEC Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hours, 5 May 2018: The start of the race, and the #67 Ford GT is tailed by the #66 sister car, while the #91 and #92 Porsche RSRs follow closely behind

The safety car was already called into action on the first lap when the #70 Ferrari spun at Les Combes and in the ensuing kerfuffle, the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche driven by Michael Wainwright, was shunted into the tyre barriers. Only two marshals were available to push the Porsche that was wedged into the rubber barrier that held the tyre wall together. As they couldn’t push the car very far, the crane was brought in to assist. The Porsche was lifted over the barrier and about to be put onto the recovery truck, but fortunately Wainwright had remained in the car, and he told the crew to put the car down on the service road. Once on the road surface, he proceeded to scuttle down the service road and back onto the circuit through an opening at the next marshal’s post. All of this of course took an age to carry out, and this set the #86 team back right at the start.

#86 Gulf Racing LMGTE Am Porsche 911 RSR
WEC Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hours, 5 May 2018: The #86 Gulf Racing LMGTE Am Porsche 911 RSR driven by: Michael Wainwright, Ben Barker and Alexander Davison. The car is showing the damage caused by the opening lap incident

At the end of the first hour, the #91 Porsche RSR (Lietz/Bruni) was lying down in sixth place in class, with their team mates in the #92 car (Christensen/Estre) in ninth place. Both cars seemed to be performing well enough, although early in the race the #92 was fitted with a plaster on the front left splitter. This superficial damage was the result of some light contact with another competitor, and the precaution was taken to tape it up to prevent further delamination of the carbon fibre splitter. This didn’t affect the car’s performance in any way.

#92 Porsche 911 RSR
WEC Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hours, 5 May 2018: The #92 Porsche 911 RSR driven by: Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre, showing the temporary fix plaster after a minor skirmish with another competitor

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