MONZA, Italy—Following their disaster last month at Lemans, Toyota Gazoo Racing returned with vengeance as the trio of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez extended their manufacturers championship by 22 points, taking Ferrari’s home race at the Autodromo di Nationale Sunday afternoon ahead of the Italian team of Antonio Fuocco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen. For the first time since their debut at this circuit a year ago, Peugeot took the final hypercar podium spot with Paul di Resta, Mikkel Jensen and Jean-Eric Vergne driving.

Lots of action began the race right from the first lights going out as the defending Lemans winners of Ferrari 51 got turned around at the first chicane as Antonio Giovinazzi was struck by Toyota Gazoo’s Sebastian Buemi, resulting in a penalty for the Swiss driver. However, things got much worse as Buemi was penalized for a full minute for striking the GTE AM car of Satoshi Hoshino of D’ Station Racing at the Ascari chicane. The Japanese driver spun around and went into the barriers, and although Hosino emerged unhurt, the car was damaged and much debris filled the track, which put out the first of two safety car periods.

Only an hour into the race, Peugeot had a comfortable lead, but as this is a six hour race, the French team had an unfortunate break midway through the race, as the 93 entry encountered transmission problems and had to give up the lead, giving the Toyota number seven first again, ahead of the Ferrari number 50, where it remained until the flag dropped, giving the group a revival following their disappointment at Lemans, when they crashed early in that race.

Peugeot scored their first podium finish since beginning their WEC challenge a year ago, taking third in the overall standings. WEC Photo

The other Toyota, which Buemi teamed with Brendon Hartley and Rio Hirakawa , came back late in the race, to take sixth, but two penalties hurt them and could not get them any further up the grid, despite challenging the number five Penske Porsche, which was promoted to fourth when the 51 Ferrari suffered a late penalty, which dropped the entry to fifth.

In the LMP 2 division, JOTA was always in the action all afternoon, and it battled the two United Autosports entries early in the race, holding the lead for the rest of the day, as the two challengers dropped back later in the race. This gave the chance for the French Alpine Elf Racing team of Matthieu Vaxiviere, Julien Canal, and Charles Milesi to move into second, which they held on well to place second, their best finish this season. Joshua Pierson, Giedo Van der Garde and Oliver Jarvis recovered and got their United Autosports number 23 back onto the final podium place in this class.

The second safety car period came out in this division when Prema Racing’s Doriane Pin hit a Vector Sport entry at the second Lesmos, putting the British car out of the race and having it stay in a dangerous area.

In the GTE AM class, the Iron Dames led early from pole, but dropped back, and making only one pit stop less than expected gave the Dempsey-Proton Porsche team of Christian Reid, Mikkel Pedersen and Julien Andlauer their first victory of the season, ahead of the home team Iron Lynx, driven by Claudio Schiavoni, Matteo Cressoni and Alessio Picariello. The GR Racing team Porsche took third, with Michael Wainwright, Riccardo Pera and Benjamin Barker at the controls.

But the main highlight of the day came when the Corvette Racing Team, led by Ben Keating took fourth, which clinched the GTE AM title for the American squad. Iron Dames ended up fifth.

The next round of the championship will be on Toyota’s home ground at Fuji, Japan on September 8th-10th.

By Mark Gero

Although they did not make the podium on Sunday in Italy, Corvette Racing took the GTE AM title with a fourth place finish. WEC Photo