6H Spa: Alpine leads after TGR pit cycle, LMP2 lead battle tenses up at 2-hour mark

After two hours of action so far, the #36 Alpine Elf Matmut leads the overall field at the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

Conditions were dry and cold with an air temperature just under 10 degrees-celsius ahead of the opening round of a six-race long Season 9 calendar.

The #86 GR Racing retired after crashing on the formation lap whilst the debuting #44 had a leaking fuel cell thus pitting on that parade lap and were yet to return to the race.

The start was eventful but controlled for the whole field with the leading Toyotas initially challenged by the #22 United Autosports of Phil Hanson.

The #22 initially split the two Toyota Hypercars whilst the #36 Alpine Elf Matmut of Andre Negrao fell from 4th to 6th overall as they struggled behind Hanson.

Down in GTE-Pro, the #52 locked up behind Kevin Estre in the #92 on pole.

After starting on the back row, Tomonobu Fujii made a strong debut in his #777 D’station Racing GTE-Am WEC debut after starting on the back row and made it into 5th in-class after eight minutes of running.

Phil Hanson continued to defend off the #36 Hypercar in the jostle for 3rd and 4th overall.

Further LMP2 mid-class battles commenced with Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne in the #28 fending off the #20 High Class Racing and their sister of #38 JOTA of Roberto Gonzalez.

Also on the back row of the grid was the #77 of Porsche works driver Matt Campbell but made his way to the front row of the category alike Fujii who were battling for the class lead only 15 mins into the race.

After 19 minutes, the #36 finally passed the #22 at the La Source hairpin who would go onto do a 45 minute stint as opposed to the 51 mins of the Toyota GR010 Hybrids.

The #98 of Paul Dalla Lana later received a driver-through-penalty after spinning around the #47 at the entry of the bus-stop chicane, but the Celitar Racing spun later that lap.

Meanwhile, the #29 of Guido van Der Garde hunted down the #22 as they were 30 seconds and above the rest of the class field.

Ben Keating of the #33 was nudged off the track at the entry to Pouhan as Juan Pablo Montoya in the #21 battled roughly with the #25. The Columbian later received a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for causing a collision.

The #29 cut down a three-second gap to the #22 after the first pit stops and had their jostle for the lead.

Frits van Eerd and reigning LMP2 drivers’ champion Filipe Albuquerque made themselves the key protagonists in the category.

GTE-Am battles heated up in their mid-field but it was GTE-Pro pole sitter Kevin Estre who pitted early after a right-rear puncture on his Porsche.

The pit cycles then commenced at the hour in GTE-Am.

With Alpine putting in 45 minute stints and Toyota carrying it 52 minute stints, the battle remains at the front. The #8 was shortly penalised after staying six seconds short of the mandated refuel time at their pit stop.

1 #36 Alpine Elf Matmut [HYPERCAR]
2 #7 Toyota GAZOO Racing [HYPERCAR]
3 #8 Toyota GAZOO Racing [HYPERCAR]
4 #22 United Autosports [LMP2]
5 #31 Team WRT [LMP2]
6 #28 JOTA [LMP2]
7 #26 G-Drive Racing [LMP2]
8 #29 Racing Team Nederland (Pro/Am) [LMP2]
9 #38 JOTA [LMP2]
10 #34 Inter Europol Competition (Pro/Am) [LMP2]
11 #20 High Class Racing [LMP2]
12 #21 DragonSpeed USA (Pro/Am) [LMP2]
13 #1 Richard Mille Racing [LMP2]
14 #25 G-Drive Racing (Pro/Am) [LMP2]
15 #24 PR1 Motorsports (Pro/Am) [LMP2]
16 #70 Realteam Racing (Pro/Am) [LMP2]
17 #51 AF Corse [GTE-PRO]
18 #92 Porsche GT Team [GTE-PRO]
19 #91 Porsche GT Team [GTE-PRO]
20 #83 AF Corse [GTE-AM]
21 #52 AF Corse [GTE-PRO]
22 #63 Corvette Racing [GTE-PRO]
23 #33 TF Sport [GTE-AM]
24 #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing [GTE-AM]
25 #54 AF Corse [GTE-AM]
26 #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing [GTE-AM]
27 #85 Iron Lynx [GTE-AM]
28 #98 Aston Martin Racing [GTE-AM]
29 #777 D’station Racing [GTE-AM]
30 #47 Cetilar Racing [GTE-AM]
31 #60 Iron Lynx [GTE-AM]
32 #44 ARC Bratislava (Pro/Am) [LMP2] *DNF*
33 #86 GR Racing [GTE-AM] *DNF*