Kamui Kobayashi brought the #7 Toyota, which he shares with Mike Conway and José María López, to victory, beating its sister car by 2.168s at the chequered flag.
Taking its first-ever podium, and adding to Thursday’s maiden pole position, was the Ferrari 499P Hypercar crewed by Antonio Fuoco, Nicklas Nielsen and Miguel Molina.
Polesitter Fuoco ran in the lead early on until the Ferrari AF Corse team elected to pit both of its 499Ps under a safety car for a fuel top up.
As a result, Toyota quickly took command of the race. Initially it was Brendon Hartley aboard the #8 car who settled into the lead, but a pit-stops just as a Full Course Yellow was deployed meant that he had to complete an extra splash & dash, making an additional stop. This allowed the #7 to claim track position and move into the lead.
The #2 Cadillac Racing squad of Alex Lynn, Earl Bamber and Richard Westbrook challenged Ferrari for the final podium position in the final hour but eventually had to settle for fourth.
Porsche Penske Motorsport took fifth and sixth with the new Porsche 963 Hypercar as the #5 car of Frederic Makowiecki, Michael Christensen and Dane Cameron led home the #6 of Laurens Vanthoor, Andre Lotterer and Kevin Estre.
The #51 Ferrari AF Corse 499P came home a delayed seventh after it had to pit for repairs following contact with LMGTE Am cars, #54 AF Corse Ferrari and #56 Project 1 – A0 Porsche.
The sole Floyd Vanwall entry of Jacques Villeneuve, Tom Dillmann and Esteban Guerrieri sealed eighth place on its Hypercar debut, with the pair of Peugeot TotalEnergies entries rounding out the top ten in what has been a challenging day for the French manufacturer.
JOTA VICTORIOUS IN CLOSELY CONTESTED LMP2
2022 LMP2 title winners Jota kicked off its campaign with a victory owing to the Hertz-sponsored entry shared by Yifei Ye, Will Stevens and David Beckmann, having taken control in the second half of the race.
Beckmann was victorious on his FIA WEC debut while reigning champion Stevens took the win in what is set to be his penultimate LMP2 race of the season before he switches to the Porsche 963 Hypercar from Spa-Francorchamps onwards.
The #23 United Autosports Oreca-Gibson looked in control over the first portion of the race but a loss of power stranded the car on the track with Joshua Pierson at the wheel.
The sister United Autosports machine of Filipe Albuquerque, Frederick Lubin and Phil Hanson took second after a tense final hour battle with the #31 Team WRT car shared by Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg and Sean Gelael which eventually crossed the finish line fourth in class.
Albuquerque leapfrogged the #63 Prema Racing entry that was forced to do a penultimate lap splash and dash stop. Yet, Daniil Kvyat, Doriane Pin and Mirko Bortolotti completed their debut as a trio by rounding out the class podium.
CORVETTE WINS ON HOME SOIL
Nicky Catsburg, Ben Keating and Nicolas Varrone, sharing the #33 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, took the first LMGTE Am win of 2023 despite challenges from Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche entries.
Despite swapping an Aston Martin for a Corvette, reigning class champion Keating began his title defense in style.
Taking the runner-up position was the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche 911 RSR 19 of Julien Andlauer, Christian Ried and Mikkel Pedersen, while the Kessel Racing Ferrari squad of Daniel Serra, Takeshi Kimura and Scott Huffaker took the Swiss team’s best-ever FIA WEC result and made it three different manufacturers to fill out the class’ podium.
The pole-sitting Iron Dames Porsche 911 RSR 19 completed the race in eighth position after leading in the early stages before an off-track excursion for Rahel Frey resulted in a long pit stop for bodywork repairs.