Webber, Hartley and Bernhard claim drivers’ championship in Bahrain

posted in: LMGTE-Am, LMGTE-Pro, LMP1, LMP2, Race, Report, WEC, WEC-Magazin | 0

The final part of the race saw Audi in the lead and pro­vi­sion­al­ly in the lead of the cham­pi­onship bat­tle. Although, if the the first three hours of the race are any­thing to go by, there is a lot left to hap­pen before the cham­pi­ons are crowned, we take you to the check­ered flag of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Cham­pi­onship.

Porsche WORLD CHAMPIONSAudi began the hour with the #7 of Benoit Tre­luy­er lead­ing, but in a fierce bat­tle for the lead, and ulti­mate­ly the title with Marc Lieb aboard the ‘#18 Porsche. Although the #17 car was the one in with a shout of the title, in 5th place with two and a half hours to go it must fin­ish 4th if the #7 Audi wins to win the cham­pi­onship. Mean­ing if Audi win the bat­tle to win the race, Porsche would be forced to stop the #18 in order for the #17 to win the title.

In the mean time, dra­ma stuck in the GTE-PRO catago­ry, as the front left wheel fell off the #71 Fer­rari. This pro­mot­ed the sis­ter #51 car up to sec­ond place. With Bruni behind the wheel of the Fer­rari 458 in it’s final WEC race, he was left with the chal­lenge to hunt down a 41 sec­ond gap to Makowiec­ki for the lead in class.

As the traf­fic came into play, the #7 Audi got caught out into the final cor­ner and was passed by the #18 Porsche for the lead of the race, hand­ing the title back in favor of the #17 Porsche. How­ev­er, the Audi team aboard the #7 car kept the Porsche dri­vers hon­est, with the gap in and around ten sec­onds of a long time.

LMP2 was then to pro­vide an ele­ment of deja vu when the rear sus­pen­sion failed in an iden­ti­cal fash­ion to the #31 ESM ear­li­er in the race, this time on the #30 ESM, with Scott Sharp at the wheel. The Strak­ka was text to spin at turn four with the recov­er­ing #8 Audi spins so close behind Oliv­er Jarvis was forced to spin in avoid­ance.

Then it was time for rac­ing at the head of the class in LMP2 as Sam Bird closed down and passed Richard Bradley’s KCMG for the lead of the class into the final cor­ner. How­ev­er, Bradley  fought back down the main straight and in to turn one and make it stick through the first three cor­ners of the lap. How­ev­er, in an attempt to def­fend the inside line into turn four, Bran­d­ley lost the back end on the dirty line of his KCMG, which allowed Sam Bird to nip back into the lead in his G-Dri­ve Ligi­er.

KCMG Bahrain 2015With 90 min­utes to go, Andre Lot­ter­er jumped into the #7 Audi in an attempt to close the gap to the lead­ing Neel Jani to try and re gain a chance of win­ning the world cham­pi­onship. Jani how­ev­er had oth­er ideas and con­tin­ued to respond to Lotterer’s times with a lap record time of 1:41.9. In the mean time,  The ByKolles leader in the LMP1 pri­va­teer class went straight on at turn 1 and then pre­ced­ed for the rest of the lap to dri­ve slow­ly before pulling into the pits.

As the clock ticked towards one hour to go, the bat­tle in GTE-AM hot­ted up with just three sec­onds cov­er­ing the top three in class. Pedro Lamy led the way in the #98 Aston Mar­tin V8 Van­tage ahead of Mar­co Mapel­li in his Abu-Dhabi Pro­ton Porsche in sec­ond, and Chris­tain Reid in the sis­ter Dempsey Porsche in third.

Alex Wurz thirdDra­ma hit the #17 crew again, this time with Mark Web­ber at the wheel. The 919 Hybrid trun­dled into the pits with no front end hybrid pow­er which allowed the #8 Audi the chance to gain on the #17 car while the prob­lem was addressed with the Porsche in the garage. The shift in for­tune for the Porsche shift­ed the dimen­sion at the head of the field. The #18 Porsche now had to win the race in order for the #17 to win the dri­vers’ cham­pi­onship.

The dra­ma con­tin­ued for the #17 Porsche even after it was back on track. After get­ting slow­er an slow­er towards 20 sec­onds off the pace, with 47 min­utes left on the clock, the car slowed sud­den­ly. But forced a more lap out of the #17 Porsche before it head­ed back into the garage. How­ev­er, 15 min­utes lat­er Mark Web­ber seemed to have adapt­ed to the prob­lem in his 919 Hybrid putting the #17 dri­vers in the posi­tion of being favorites once again.

In the final stops, the KCMG of Nick Tandy jumped back ahead due to a short­er stop. How­ev­er with 14 min­utes to go, Sam Bird’s hunt for Tandy came to an end as he took the lead at turn four.

A scary moment ensued in the final pit stop for the #17 Porsche as it had to re start again. After a big pop and a bang the 919 Hybrid splut­tered into pow­er and con­tin­ued on its way. Audi’s #8 car in the mean time had a 3 minute stop and go penal­ty for a tyre infringe­ment to con­firm it to not be Audi’s night in Bahrain.

7 Audi Second 2015 BahrainAs they crossed the line Mark Web­ber nursed the #17 to the fin­ish and despite the slow laps crossed the line to claim 5th place in the race and win the 2015 FIA World Endurance Cham­pi­onship for Mark Web­ber, Timo Bern­hard and Bren­don Hart­ley, thanks to a Porsche’s 6th win of the sea­son. The #18 Porsche won the final race of the year, as it did in Brazil last year. A valiant Andre Lot­ter­er, Mar­cel Fassler and Benoit Tre­luy­er came home sec­ond, only just miss­ing out on the cham­pi­onship. As for Toyota,they fin­ished the year as they start­ed it, in third place on the podi­um. Alexan­der Wurz mak­ing it to the podi­um in his final race as a pro­fes­sion­al rac­ing dri­ver. The #1 Toy­ota came home in fourth posi­tion over­all.

The pri­va­teer LMP1 cham­pi­onship went Nico­las Prost and Math­ias Beche while the #4 crew at Rebel­lion came home sec­ond. All three cars fin­ished the race with the #12 car fin­ish­ing in third posi­tion.

LMP2 Champion 2015LMP2 saw the #26 G-Dri­ve crew of Sam Bird, Romain Rusi­nov and Julien Canal win the race and the world cham­pi­onship for LMP2 dri­vers’ ahead of Nick Tandy, Matthew How­son and Richard Bradley for KCMG in sec­ond place. Third in the race went to the #28 G-Dri­ve sis­ter car after a great sea­son for the young team.

For the first time in the FIA WEC his­to­ry, the GTE-PRO dri­vers’ cham­pi­on was not Gian­maria Bruni. Richard Lietz won the cham­pi­onship on his own as Porsche team Man­they took the teams title. Fredrick Makowiec­ki won the race with Patrick Pilet for Porsche ahead of the out­go­ing cham­pi­ons, Toni Vilan­der and Gian­maria Bruni in the AF Corse Fer­rari 458 Italia for the final time. Dar­ren Turn­er shared third place with Jonathan Adam who picked up his first WEC podi­um.

LIETZ WORLD CHAMPION 2015Aston Mar­tin went two bet­ter in GTE-AM and won the race in the #98 Aston Mar­tin of Dal­la Lana, Lamy and Lau­da. The #88 Porsche by Pro­ton and Abu Dhabi came sec­ond in the race ahead of their sis­ter #77 Dempsey Pro­ton rac­ing car. Alek­sey Basov, Andrea Bertoli­ni and Vic­tor Shay­tar won the GTE-AM world dri­vers’ cham­pi­onship.

A sea­son of imense ten­sion and fan­tas­tic rac­ing see’s Mark Web­ber, Bren­don Hart­ley and Timo Bern­hard crowned World Cham­pi­ons. What will hap­pen next sea­son? Meet us at Sil­ver­stone in April next year to find out.

On a per­son­al note, I’d like to thank David Tun­ni­cliffe his con­tri­bu­tions to the site, Wal­ter Schruff for his pho­tos and Tobias and Dominic Krause for the chance to write on the site. Not to men­tion all my read­ers for shar­ing this fan­tas­tic sea­son with me, in this my 100th arti­cle for WEC-Magazin.com.

Images — Wal­ter Schruff (WEC-Mag­a­zin)