2021 is a new era for the World Endurance Championship. The top group is now called the Hypercar class with Toyota and Alpine duking it out. The first race of the new season was held in Belgium at the 6 Hours of Spa. It was Toyota that won the race, but it wasn't a cakewalk like previous seasons. Alpine came relatively close to snatching it away from Toyota.
It was the number 7 Toyota GR010 of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and Jose Maria Lopez that led the pack at the start of the race. Following them closely behind was the number 8 Toyota of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, and Kazuki Nakajima. Despite the 1-2 start, the Alpine of Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao, and Matthieu Vaxiriere were hounding the Toyotas.
The early parts of the race made it seem like Toyota was set for another 1-2 finish. However, the first round of pit stops kicked off several events that made the round exciting. Car number 7 had a slow stop, but car number 8's service was disastrous. They incurred a penalty for a refueling infraction that resulted in a 30-second penalty. For the first time in many rounds, Toyota was on the backfoot as the Alpine team cruised to the front.
Past the halfway point, the two Toyotas were still behind the Alpine. Car Number 7 was gaining ground on the French outfit until they suffered a collision with a GT car. If that wasn't enough, they slid off the track and got stuck in the gravel trap. This put car number 7 out of contention for the win.
Toyota's only hope for a victory was car number 8. With a few hours remaining, they reclaimed the lead from the Alpine crew and bagged the win. They were over one minute ahead of the French team, a close finish in terms of endurance racing. Meanwhile, the drivers in car number 7 salvaged a third-place finish.
If anything, the race showed the new regulations are effective in giving us close racing. It also shows that the Hyperclass cars are on a relatively even playing field. That means it can be anyone's race at the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans.