Toyota’s race-winning LMP1 hybrid entries have been stripped of their positions after Sunday’s 6 Hours of Silverstone. The team’s two cars failed skid block deflection tests in post-race scrutineering.
Having dominated the entire weekend, Fernando Alonso and teammates Sébastian Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima claimed their third consecutive victory this season while the sister #7 car – driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López finished just under twenty seconds behind.
The two factory cars took the chequered flag a staggering four laps ahead of the rest of the field with the #3 Rebellion Racing LMP1 entry crossing the line to place third, only to be subsequently awarded victory.
During post-race scrutineering, it was reported that the front part of the winning #8 car’s skid block “deflected 6mm on the right-hand side and 8mm on the left-hand side under the specified 2500 N load at the front of the skid block,” a stewards’ statement reads.
The runner-up #7 Toyota’s also had “the front part of the skid block deflected 9mm under the specified 2500 N load on both sides of the skid block.”
Toyota engineers argued that while their cars have passed previous skid block tests, the cause of these tolerance failures was due to the damaging nature of the Silverstone Circuit’s kerbs. The stewards did not deem Toyota’s response to be a valid excuse. Toyota may appeal the decision at a later date.
Their exclusion promoted #3 Rebellion Racing trio of Gustavo Menezes, Thomas Laurent and Mathias Beche into victory ahead of their sister #1 car piloted by Neel Jani and André Lotterer behind the wheel.
The #17 SMP Racing pairing of Stéphane Sarrazin and Egor Orudzhev also moved up to take the final place on the podium.
Toyota predictably locked out the front row in qualifying, with their #7 entry leading the race early on.
Carnage behind saw the #1 Rebellion car get caught up with the #17 SMP Racer at the first corner of Abbey. Both, however, managed to make their way through the field over the race’s six hours and eventually be classified second and third respectively.
A number of GTE cars also got caught up in opening lap incidents with several cars suffering front and rear bumper damage to nurse for the remainder of the race.
Having only recently announced his impending departure from Formula 1 racing at the end of the year, Alonso overtook Conway in the #7 Toyota in the third hour to take the lead of the race. The Spaniard created a five-second buffer to the sister car before it was wiped away by a Safety Car due to a bollard coming loose at Brooklands corner.
Nakajima took over driving duties from Alonso after the Safety Car but lost out to López – who replaced Conway at the wheel of the #7 machine – in the fourth hour, running away to build a 14-second gap.
Both Toyotas needed bodywork changes at their next stops with the #8 entry making a nose change. A rear-bodywork change on the #7 machine allowed Buemi on the closing stint in the #7 to make serious inroads on the leading sister car in the final hour.
Buemi was able to close in on Nakajima, overtaking the Japanese driver with 48 minutes to spare and going on to take victory by a margin of 19 seconds.
Former Formula 1 champion Jenson Button was once again struck by bad luck in his WEC career. His #11 SMP Racing engine gave up right before the one-hour mark, forcing he and teammates Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov into an early retirement.
That meant Jani and Lotterer looked on par for the final podium place until the closing stages when they also had to make a late, unscheduled pit stop to change rear bodywork. They fell back behind their teammates in the #3 Rebellion Racing, costing them a spot for victory after the post-race Toyota exclusion.
In the other classes, the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing machine of Ho-Ping Tun, Gabriel Aubry and Stéphan Richelmi had a great scrap with their sister car for the LMP2 class win.
While in the GTE Pro category the #51 AF Corse Ferrari was victorious swapping places with Ford and Porsche to finish 13th overall.
Finally, in the GTE Am class, Australian Matt Campbell in the #77 Porsche 911 RSR alongside Christian Ried and Julien Andlauer tasted success again, taking their second class victory in a row after their category win at 24 Hours of Le Mans back in June.
The next round of the WEC sees the endurance entourage arrive in Fuji for another six-hour bonanza in October later this year. It will be Toyota’s home race where they will be really looking to flex their muscles and bounce back from their Silverstone blunder.
Image via LAT
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