Race Weekend Central

Toyota GAZOO Racing Wins Competitive 6 Hours of Monza

In one of the most competitive FIA World Endurance Championship events at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza in recent years, Toyota GAZOO Racing’s Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez won the 6 Hours of Monza on Sunday (July 9). It is their third win of the 2023 season.

“After Le Mans, it was important to bounce back,” Lopez said after the race. “The team really did a great job. Mike [Conway] did a great job at the start and Kamui [Kobayashi], he’s always [strong]. I’m very proud.”

The No. 7 Toyota was 16.325 seconds ahead of Ferrari AF Corse’s No. 50 Ferrari 499P for Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen. Peugeot TotalEnergies’ Paul di Resta, Mikkel Jensen and Jean-Eric Vergne were third, followed by the No. 8 Toyota of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa. Porsche Penske Motorsport’s Dane Cameron, Michael Christensen and Frederic Makowiecki were fifth.

UPDATE: The No. 8 Toyota was given a 50-second post-race penalty as a result of exceeding the maximum allowable horsepower output of 507 kilowatts (~680 horsepower) twice during the race. The first violation was simply a reprimand from the stewards, but the second resulted in the penalty.

The penalty drops the No. 8 Toyota from fourth to sixth in the final classification. Cameron, Christensen and Makowiecki are now considered to have finished fourth. The No. 51 Ferrari of James Calado, Antonio Giovinazzi and Alessandro Pier Guidi are fifth.

Conway started from the pole in the No. 7 with Molina giving chase. Di Resta was also quick early on and managed to get past Nielsen for second.

The early portions of the race were quite bunched up. 20 cars were on the lead lap at the end of the first hour. This was mostly due to a safety car period that was caused by the D’Station Racing Aston Martin of Satoshi Hoshino spinning into the wall, then the gravel trap at the Variante Ascari after being hit by the No. 8 Toyota of Buemi.

Buemi was judged to be responsible for the crash and was given a 60-second stop-and-hold in the pits. In addition, a previous clash resulted in an additional 10-second penalty. The result of those penalties was that the No. 8 Toyota was a lap down and out of the hunt for the win.

Di Resta was able to snatch the lead from Conway on the restart and led until he made his first stop. A series of divergent pit strategies put the No. 50 Ferrari in the lead, along with the Hertz Team JOTA Porsche.

The No. 7 Toyota shored up their lead position during Lopez’s stint in the car. However, their competition was never too far away.

In the final hour, Kobayashi had a 15-second lead over Fuoco, but was on tires that were significantly more worn. As a result, he made his final pit stop at the absolute earliest point that they could reach the finish from.

Fuoco stopped a couple of laps later and was able to gain some time in the pits due to not having to take as much energy. From there, the race was on.

Fuoco had a faster car than Kobayashi at first, but Kobayashi had traffic on his side. Fuoco was able to get the lead under eight seconds with 20 minutes to go, then got held up by a bunch of slower cars. That was all Kobayashi needed to hold on for the win.

The No. 51 Ferrari of Calado, Giovinazzi and Pier Guidi finished fifth on the road (later fourth after a penalty to the No. 8 Toyota), but was given a post-race penalty for a track limit violation. Giovinazzi made this move for position on Makowiecki in the closing laps.

The move was judged to be a violation by track officials. A drive-through penalty was assessed, but since it came after the checkered flag, it reverted to a time penalty that dropped the team to fifth.

LMP2 saw JOTA Sport’s David Heinemeier Hansson and United Autosports’ Giedo van der Garde (driving in place of Tom Blomqvist, who had IMSA commitments) battling early on.

Team WRT’s Robin Frijns was right in the hunt into the final hour, but smoke starting coming out of the No. 31 ORECA 07-Gibson. After a quick check by the crew, the car was wheeled into the garage and retired from the race.

The race ultimately came down to a fight between JOTA Sport’s Pietro Fittipaldi and Signatech Alpine’s Charles Milesi. However, Fittipaldi was able to run away to take the win.

Heinemeier Hansson, Fittipaldi and Oliver Rasmussen ultimately won by a full lap over Signatech Alpine’s Milesi, Julien Canal and Matthieu Vaxiviere due to the placement of the overall winners. With a couple of laps to go, they had a 36-second lead.

Team WRT’s Rui Andrade, Louis Deletraz and Robert Kubica were third, followed by van der Garde, Oliver Jarvis and Josh Pierson. Inter Europol Competition’s Albert Costa, Fabio Scherer and Jakub Smiechowski were fifth.

Corvette Racing entered Sunday’s race with a 74-point lead in the GTE-Am class. As such, they had a chance to clinch the championship with two races to go if they were to leave Monza with a 64-point lead.

The easiest way to do that would be to win the race. That wasn’t in the cards as Porsche came to play on Sunday.

Iron Dames’ Sarah Bovy started from pole and dominated the early portions of the race. Somewhat deficient pit strategy dropped them down the order.

While AF Corse did lead with their Ferrari early on, it was nearly all Porsche, all the time. GR Racing took their time at the front in the middle of the race, but Dempsey-Proton Racing’s Julien Andlauer took the lead for good with 80 minutes to go.

Andlauer had to deal with Iron Lynx’s Alessio Picariello for the final hour of the race. He was ultimately able to hold on to claim the first win of the year for himself, Mikkel Pedersen and team owner/driver Christian Ried.

Dempsey-Proton Racing won by 11.184 seconds over Picariello, Matteo Cressoni, and Claudio Schiavoni. Corvette Racing’s Nicky Catsburg, Ben Keating and Nico Varrone were third. This performance was good enough to clinch the GTE-Am championship as they finished ahead of the two closest championship-contending teams.

Bovy, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting contended for the lead early, but dropped back to a fourth-place finish. Richard Mille AF Corse’s Luis Perez Companc, Alessio Rovera and Lilou Wadoux were fifth in the best-finishing Ferrari 488 GTE.

FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Monza Unofficial Results

WEC teams will take a couple of months off before the season resumes in Japan with the 6 Hours of Fuji on Sept. 10.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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