Brendon Hartley claimed his second successive World Endurance Championship win as an orchestrated finish marred the 8 Hours of Portimao.
Hartley had put the No.8 Toyota Hypercar on the front row in Sunday morning’s qualifying session, but it was the pole-sitting Alpine ‘grandfathered’ LMP1 that led the race’s initial stages.
Throughout a relatively tame start to the race, it was soon apparent that the Alpine could not save fuel as efficiently as the two Toyotas behind it.
Thus, by having to complete more pitstops, the Alpine faded out of contention for the win.
A safety car with two and a half hours remaining regrouped the top trio, with the No.7 Toyota in the lead.
Once again, the Alpine had to make extra stops for fuel, leaving the battle for the win in the hands of both Toyotas.
As the race ticked nearer its conclusion, the fuel-saving efforts done by Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima meant that Sebastien Buemi could reach the chequered flag with one less stop than the sister Toyota.
However, a late full-course yellow meant the No.7 Toyota, driven by Jose Maria Lopez, completed its extra fuel stop without losing too much ground to the No.8.
Only a few seconds separated the duo in what was set to be an intriguing inter-team tussle for the overall victory.
However, Toyota instructed Buemi to allow Lopez past him and reclaim the lead.
Then, with Buemi staying in touch with Lopez, the team reversed its decision and ordered Lopez to give up the lead.
All the confusion unfolded over the last twenty minutes. It perhaps stripped fans of a chance to witness an exciting Hypercar duel.
Buemi crossed the line 1.8s ahead of Lopez, increasing his, Hartley’s and Nakajima’s championship lead.
The trio also becomes WEC’s first winners on the Portugal circuit.
The Alpine Hypercar finished third overall and on the lead lap.
Jaxon Evans’ strong weekend was curtailed 88 laps into the race when the No.77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche was involved in a three-car collision.
The next round of the WEC will be the 6 Hours of Monza on July 18.