Toyota froze Spa WEC battle in Alonso's favour

Toyota has revealed it froze the top two positions in Saturday's FIA World Endurance Championship opener at Spa in favour of Fernando Alonso's car at the final pitstops.

Toyota froze Spa WEC battle in Alonso's favour
Race winners #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso
#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso
Race winners #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso
Race winners #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi
Race winners #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi
#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050: Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso

Technical boss Pascal Vasselon explained that a pre-race agreement with the team's six drivers meant that the two TS050 Hybrids were not allowed to race each other to the end of the six-hour event. 

The final round of stops with 25 minutes of the race remaining coincided with Mike Conway arriving on the tail of teammate Alonso in the winning Toyota shared with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. 

"The agreement was that the cars could race until the last pitstop and actually the two cars joined [came together on track] at the last pitstop," Vasselon told Motorsport.com.

"We told the drivers they could race only to the last pitstop because we did not want to have the last laps with a lot of tension."

Conway and teammates Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez came back to finish just 1.4s behind the winning Toyota after starting one lap down from the pitlane.

This was the result of the car's exclusion over an administrative error concerning the Toyota's fuel flow meter. 

Conway was approximately 55s behind Alonso with an hour to go when the safety car was deployed for the third time following Matevos Isaakyan's high-speed crash at Eau Rouge in the #17 SMP Racing LMP1.

The Briton was just five seconds down on Alonso when the race went green with 49 minutes left on the clock and closed down on the leader before the two Toyotas headed for the pits.

Conway spent 10s longer in the pitlane than Alonso during his stop, during which the nose section of the #7 Toyota was changed. 

"This did not change anything, because it was always the plan to freeze the positions," said Vasselon, who conceded the second-placed TS050 was the faster of the two Toyotas during the race. 

"The lap times show that car #7 was marginally faster, by just one or two tenths, but it came back basically because of the safety car," he added.

Conway said he believed the #7 "was clearly the quicker car, especially when it was hooked up", adding an aerodynamic inconsistency was the reason for the change of nose at the car's final pitstop.

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