New Zealand Brendon Hartley and driving partners Sebastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa have won this morning’s 6 Hours of Portimao to jump to the lead of the World Endurance Championship.
The podium was rounded out by the #50 Ferrari AF Corse 499P with Porsche Penske Motorsport’s 963 finishing third. Chip Ganassi’s Cadillac Racing entry – which features New Zealander Earl Bamber – finished fourth.
“I am really happy,” said Hartley. “It has been an awesome weekend right from the start of practice. It was a great race, and everything went perfectly; no mistakes by the drivers or on pit stops, we had the right strategy and the car was faultless.
“It was nice to drive from start to finish so a massive thanks to the team. I feel proud of their great work over the first two races. We have maximised our performance using all the experience we gained over the years because the competition is getting strong.
“I feel for car #7. They were pushing us hard and I am sure it would have been another close finish between us as it usually is.”
It was Buemi who started the race for the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Hypercar, although he was slow to get away off pole and passed by Mike Conway, in their #7 sister car, and the first of the Ferrars off the second row.
Conway went about building a 7-second lead as Buemi was forced to fight behind, the gap finally beginning to reduce once he had worked to second. It didn’t take long for the two Toyota to be line-astern, Conway eventually forced to let Buemi through to take the race lead.
From here, the race belonged to Hartley and co, with their teammates forced to box for a driveshaft change following a torque sensor alert.
Hirakawa was the next behind the wheel to continue to build the lead, Hartley handed the car for the final stints to earn a comfortable one-lap win over their closest competitor.
The gap between second and third place was 1min 6.5sec, while Cadillac Racing finished 2 laps off the leader’s pace. The first of the Peugeot came home in fifth after the #51 Ferrari, which had looked set to challenge for a podium, suffered a brake problem that forced them to switch off their hybrid system. They were still able to hold on for sixth.
The second of the Peugeot came home in seventh, while Glickenhaus performed well to take eighth, one spot ahead of the #7 Toyota which returned from its interruption to charge through the field over the final three and a half hours.
Porsche Penske’s second 963 was the 10th fastest Hypercar, although was 33 laps off the pace following power steering issues in the final hour.
Floyd Vanwall Racing’s Vandervell 680 was the only non-finishing Hypercar, triggering the race’s only Safety Car after Jacques Villeneuve spun into the Turn 10 barriers following a suspected brake failure.
The World Endurance Championship returns in two weeks for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, with a record 12th Hypercar also entering the mix as Porsche begins to deliver their first Porsche 963 customer cars.
Header Image: Toyota Gazoo Racing