Sebastien Buemi, Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima, Toyota, Spa-Francorchamps, WEC, 2018

Toyota confirms Alonso and Conway were told to hold position at Spa

World Endurance Championship

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Toyota confirms it called off the fight for victory between Fernando Alonso and Mike Conway in the closing stages of yesterday’s Spa Six Hours.

The number eight car of Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima led the team’s one-two finish in the first round of the World Endurance Championship yesterday. The result gave Alonso his first sportscar victory.

However a pre-race arrangement meant the number seven car of Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez was not to challenge for the lead in the latter stages of the race.

“We told the drivers they could race until the last pit stop,” a Toyota spokesperson confirmed to RaceFans. “After that they were told to hold positions and Mike was instructed to leave a safety gap to Fernando.

“It’s worth adding that we would have issued exactly the same instruction if car seven had been leading after the final stops,” the spokesperson added.

The Alonso/Buemi/Nakajima car inherited pole position after their team mates’ entry was stripped of its qualifying times and given a one-lap penalty for running with an incorrect fuel flow meter. Toyota said the mistake was due to an “administrative error” and it did not give the car a performance advantage.

A series of Safety Car periods helped the number eight car catch up to the sister machine, which led most of the race. Team radio during the race revealed Alonso was running without hybrid boost at one stage and also had to manage high gearbox temperatures.

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47 comments on “Toyota confirms Alonso and Conway were told to hold position at Spa”

  1. I hate these kind of team orders, especially in the first race of the season. Porsche doing this all the time with their LMP1 cars the last two seasons is a big reason why I don’t watch the WEC outside of Le Mans anymore, and seeing Toyota cruise to victory doesn’t really make me want to tune back in.

    1. FlatSix (@)
      6th May 2018, 15:17

      @forrest At least Porsche did it the final stages of the championship. About Spa, well, the Ginetta cars missing made it worse but the field was actually quite competitive, and the GTE Pro races are a treat every single time.

      1. FlyingLobster27
        6th May 2018, 15:43

        @flatsix If you call more than half the season “the final stages”, then that’s your choice of words. Thank you @forrest, I’m not alone in feeling the team orders made the WEC utterly pointless after Le Mans.

        I’m less shocked at “hold station” orders than “give up your first place” orders personally, because it doesn’t give the win to someone who wasn’t leading. It’s still ridiculous at round 1.

      2. @flatsix Yeah but for proper GT racing there’s Blancpain. LMPs receive the majority of broadcasting time and TV director’s attention, which spoils the GT racing for me in WEC. Can’t wait for 24H of Spa.

        1. FlatSix (@)
          7th May 2018, 7:07

          @huhhii I don’t think I agree with that. I find the GT racing in both IMSA (both GTD and GTLM) and GTE of much higher level. The Blancpain is often quite predictable bar some outliers. Even the British GT, ADAC GT or 24H series delivers more exciting GT3 racing.

          Both races this weekend for example at Brands Hatch weren’t that good, neither were the two at Zolder, even from trackside you saw the race position wise was rather boring. Whereas Mid Ohio yesterday saw the BMW M8 come up to 1.4 seconds from the Porsche for the victory after some stellar strategic battling.

          1. @flatsix I don’t think there’s huge amount of difference in driving standards between IMSA/WEC vs. Blancpain. Skilled drivers all of them. I missed Brands Hatch race, but Monza was awesome. It’s incredibly difficult to overtake at Zolder in any series so I wouldn’t blame the Blancpain for the lack of entertainment there.

          2. FlatSix (@)
            8th May 2018, 8:19

            @huhhii I agree the Monza race was awesome, but that’s again the endurance format and not the sprint format. I find the sprint format lacking in many ways and going to the wrong tracks. Except for Misano this year none of the tracks really are that great for these kind of cars.

            I don’t think there’s huge amount of difference in driving standards between IMSA/WEC vs. Blancpain.

            But I cannot agree with this though. I find the level of driving much higher in both WEC and IMSA than in Blancpain. That might be due to the factory teams too, and GT3 remains customer racing, but these days with so much factory influence it basically is next to the same.

    2. people to seem to be implying #8 didn’t deserve the win and wasn’t prepared to continue racing. They had no technical infringements were 50 seconds ahead before the safety car

  2. That is why #7 pushed so hard before final pitstop… And then it all ended…

    Alonso already in #1 status, putting himself up there.

    1. @jureo If the rules are the same for both cars I don’t see that #1 status in it. At McLaren too #1 status is not an absolute. For example Stoffel explained that the fastest one in Q1 serves the tow later in Q2, which looks fair to me. Getting new parts first is less fair so it depends. The problem with the #7 car is that penalty received even before tje race, that was the real blow to their chances. They would have won probably with Nakajima approximative drives and Alonso’s car problems.

    2. Archit (@architjain07)
      7th May 2018, 14:52

      Read this quote from article: It’s worth adding that we would have issued exactly the same instruction if car seven had been leading after the final stops!
      Please keep your biased mind aside while commenting!

  3. I think you need to swap 7 & 8 in the text of the article ;-)

  4. Seems fair given the safety car closed the gap.

    Reminds me of the Schumacher’s crying when Hill got Jordan their first win. Gap closed by safety car, Hil was prepared to still race, Eddie called it off.

    1. Seems unfair given #7 started the race a lap down. It was not clear to me why the #7 left the pit so late. (the arrived at the closed pit exit late) Would they have stayed in the lead lap if there had been no safety car in the first lap?

      1. @f1mre #7 penalty was starting from the pitlane, 1 lap down iirc, so they actually waited 1 lap befire joining I think and at that time SC was deployed.

    2. FlyingLobster27
      6th May 2018, 15:46

      Um, I believe Hill wasn’t up for racing @bigjoe, IIRC it was Hill who called pit wall to say “be clever, Eddie”.

      1. Why not? Hill was faster than Ralf and pulled out 6 second lead. In fact on the Semi wet track and not full wet track he was posting faster times than Michael. Given the unreasonable disdain the Schumachers had for Hill, I got the impression Hill would have defended his position ‘the schumacher way’ if needed, I guess Eddie knew this.

        1. FlyingLobster27
          7th May 2018, 14:19

          Ok @bigjoe, maybe saying Hill wasn’t “up to it” was a step beyond, but it’s as much to Hill’s advantage as you remember, and, the main point also made below, Hill did make the suggestion that he and Ralf don’t race.
          Here’s a reminder.

          1. FlyingLobster27
            7th May 2018, 14:20

            *it wasn’t as much to Hill’s advantage as you remember

    3. Thanks for the memory!

    4. @BigJoe Hill radioed in late in that race requesting team orders.

      1. @bookoi, exactly – Hill demanded that Ralf was ordered to back off, and I believe that, after the “be clever, Eddie” radio message, Hill sent another one which seemed to threaten that he would take both cars out of the race if Ralf tried to pass him.

        1. No he didn’t demand it he was prepared to race. He was way ahead in between safety cars

          1. Damon made it clear that if they raced they could end with nothing, I think he even said its up to you Eddie.

            It was common sense. Anyway they had to push because Jean was hot on their heels.

            It seems what Toyota did here is the same as what every F1 team does when dominating race until final pit stop then bring it home.

  5. Robert McKay
    6th May 2018, 15:41

    As I said in another thread, it seemed obvious to me just watching the race that there was some sort of team order thing going on. I’m more disappointed that the commentators chose not to discuss (or realise?) it.

    From my view Toyota might get the benefit of the doubt of this for the opening race of the season when you’re not sure how you stack up against the opposition, and also the Le Mans 24H given their travails in that in previous years, but given they have no real competition in LMP1 if their two cars aren’t generally fully racing each other the rest of the superseason then I’ll probably give WEC a miss.

    1. Sounds like you won’t have to worry as they will race it out until the last pit stop.

  6. Standard.
    Its a team sport, dunno why folk are so surprised.
    A shame yes, because it robs the fans, but had Alonso not been competing (and the benefactor), there would be 90% less complainants.

    Slught tangent, but of the ex-F1 contingent, quite cool to see Buemi, Vergne and Pedro Lamy all class winners.

    1. Alonso and team orders. Two cases come to my mind instantly: Singapore 2008 and Germany 2010. I will always be critical with Alonso when it comes to team orders…

      1. @f1mre
        Singapore was to keep people in jobs as Renault were talking about pulling out so wasnt just about Alonso. Germany 2010 was only the 2nd time in 18 races Massa could have finished ahead of Alonso. They could have moved Massa over at Australia after Alonso won the previous race to earn him another 3 points but chose not to. Massa only got 5 podiums to Webber’s 10.

        1. exactly, Renault were walking and a win meant they didn’t. Flavio was out of a job so took a drastic approach.

          People really forget this very import point! People also should ask theirselves why would Alonso do that? he was leaving anyway, that Ferrari deal was most likely done and dusted already.

          1. Lol, at the moment Alonso had 3 years more of contract with Renault. He used the incident to break the contract and go to Ferrari.

        2. Thanks for the info Big Joe – I never realized it was about jobs.
          I doubt the Alonso bashers forgot it – they remember but want to discredit him in any way possible.
          Still blame him for the McLaren scandal when they clearly brought it upon themselves.

  7. Ted Eadman
    6th May 2018, 18:03

    Not all teams are Red Bull

  8. Mike, Fernado is faster than you!

    1. “Fernando, Mike is faster than you. And hold the position..”

  9. It was pretty obvious when Conway fell back 3 secs and just stayed there (much like in F1). On the one hand it’s a fairly typical tactic in endurance racing particularly, on the other hand there are only really two cars fighting for the win, so calling it off 20 minutes or so from the end spoils the race.

    Good job GTs were there as usual to provide some entertainment.

  10. Good on Alonso, hes finally found an competitive series where he can shine.

  11. Explains why Fernando was not looking too excited post race and on the podium. I think he was happier at Indy than here.

    1. His goal is to win the league man’s 24hrs, not the Spa 6hrs, this was a practice run for him essentially.

  12. PR wins it!

  13. It shows you the level of expectations on Alonso when he wins his first race by performing a high level and winning in an new category, and all people can talk about is team orders, or some other BS. I think the race and pace were being managed with the understanding that they were very likely to be ahead after the final pitstop. By the way, it was great to see Nakajima doing well. I always thought he had speed when he was at Williams, but was reckless, a bit like Maldonado

    1. FlatSix (@)
      7th May 2018, 7:12

      @ajpennypacker I’m very happy both Kobayashi and Nakajima found a top spot to race in. They are both very quick guys on their day and it’s somehow refreshing to have some non-European presence in those seats.

      1. @flatsix

        They’ve always used Japanese drivers. In both 98 and 99 Le Mans they had 3 Japanese drivers in one car

  14. Oh my! Such shocking news. Nothing more upsetting than a multi billion pound car company not wanting to lose a 1 – 2 finish.
    All tiers of motorsports teams do this, why is it so shocking to people? Sure we want to see a race but teams need to protect their investment.

    1. I agree, and the thing is they were allowed to race it out until the final pit stop, at which point their running order, barring unreliability or accident, would be held. That seems absolutely fair to me. An order that would have set their running order based on who got pole (ie. for the whole race), or an order that would have seen them swap places after the last pit stop just because, would have been far far more draconian.

  15. Good on Toyota for doing this, they need 1-2 finishes in every race e of this super season or will get ridiculed. They don’t need any drivers playing hero and bumper cars like verstappen.

  16. Mike Conway had one of the wildest Indy 500 crashes ever

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