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Conway: Early WEC laps on slicks at wet Spa about "trying to survive"

Mike Conway has described the opening laps on slick tyres on a wet Spa track that anchored World Endurance Championship victory for the #7 Toyota were about “trying to survive”.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

Photo by: Paul Foster

The Briton, who secured a second WEC win of the season with Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez, explained that he knew the call to start their Toyota GR010 HYBRID on dry-weather Michelins was "the correct one even if we knew it was going to be a bit tricky".

"On the first lap, I looked at the cars around me on wets and thought, man, this is going to be hard," Conway told Motorsport.com.

"I had a real wiggle at the top of Eau Rouge [Raidillon] and thought, 'that was close'.

"It was difficult out there because from Eau Rouge to Turn 5 [Les Combes], it was pretty wet, so any tyre temperature you did have was gone by the time you got to the braking zone at the top of the hill.

"It was all about trying to survive at that point."

Conway dropped from the pole position Kobayashi inherited after Ferrari driver Antonio Giovinazzi lost his quickest lap for a track-limits infraction to seventh place on the first racing lap of the Spa 6 Hours.

He was up to sixth when the first of four safety cars was called before the end of lap four, moved up to fourth when the race went green four laps later and was leading by the end of lap 10.

"Once I'd got the settings sorted by playing with the traction control and things like that and the track started to dry a little bit, the tyres suddenly switched on," explained Conway.

"Suddenly the car was in the window and it was just about being patient and picking off the guys ahead when we could."

Conway held a lead of more than 15 seconds from Laurens Vanthoor in the best of the factory Porsche 963 LMDhs when he made his first fuel stop shortly after the one-hour mark.

The winning Toyota was one of only five cars on the lead lap, all of which had started on slicks, by early in the second hour.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

Photo by: Eric Le Galliot

Conway revealed that he fully trusted the decision of the Toyota Gazoo Racing squad led by Pascal Vasselon, who lives close to Spa and was formerly director of the Michelin Formula 1 programme, to start both its Le Mans Hypercars on slicks.

"Pascal lives 10 minutes up the road, so knows all about the weather here," he said.

"I was happy with the decision to go on slicks and was pretty sure it was the right one."

Toyota did not reveal which of the three specifications of Michelin slick its two cars started, Vasselon only calling it "the right tyre for the conditions".

But Conway intimated that it was the low-temperature soft, also known as the soft cold.

Vasselon stated the decision to start on dry-weather tyres was key to Toyota's 1-2 finish at Spa saying "the race was decided in this early phase".

The #7 Toyota ended up winning by 11s from the sister car shared by Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa after Kobayashi was docked five seconds after the chequered flag for passing #8 with four wheels off the track after the final round of pitstops.

The #51 Ferrari 499P that took a last-gasp third position in the hands of Giovinazzi, James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi was the highest-placed finisher to have started the race on the Michelin wet tyre.

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