For the second year running, Porsche drivers take the drivers title after a difficult Bahrain race. This time Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas complete the perfect season, with Le Mans victory, and the FIA LMP World Drivers’ Championship. However it was a perfect race for Audi, as they bow out of the WEC in style with a 1-2 finish.
The second half the race was the what seemed like the end of the race for Aston Martin. First, Paul Dalla Lana ground to a halt with an exhaust issue, sealing the championship for the AF Corse Ferrari team in GTE-AM. Then, after a pit stop for the #97 Aston, the front right wheel was not attached properly, which saw the wheel fall off and bring out the first full course yellow of the race.
Then it was a battle for the lead in LMP2 which grabbed the attention. Pipo Derani once again pulled off a fantastic move into turn one to take the lead of the class away from the 2016 champions.
By the end of hour number four Audi’s #8 and #7 were still in first and second respectively. The #1 Porsche still held third place in class. Rebellion Racing stayed leading the privateer class two laps ahead of ByKolles.
LMP2 had Pipo Derani leading the class ahead of the Signatech Alpine team. Remarkably, G-Drive had made their way back up to third position, with Alex Brundle at the wheel.
Marco Sorensen was leading in his Aston Martin in GTE-PRO. AF Corse had their Ferrari’s in second and third places after the #97 Aston Martin dropped down the order when their wheel fell off an hour earlier. James Calado’s #51 Ferrari led the #71 of Fellow Brit, Sam Bird.
Abu-Dhabi Proton continued to lead in GTE-AM with KCMG in second place. The new class champions in their Ferrari 458 Italia held third position.
As the race settled into it’s rythem, Audi continued to lead the race with their #8 R18 e-tron quattro. The #7 car remained in second place with Timo Bernhard sitting in third place, before he is due to hand over to Mark Webber for his final stint. Rebellion continued to lead in the priavteer class
Derani led LMP2 before handing over to Chris Cumming for the final time this year. Signatech Alpine were in second place with their #36 car. RGR Sport’s Ligier was third in class.
Nicki Thiim still headed the GTE-PRO class for Aston Martin as the Dane Trian edged closer to the drivers’ title. Bruni and Rigon had their Ferrari’s in second and third respectivley as they looked to taking the GTE manufactures title. GTE-AM remained a Abu-Dhabi Proton, KCMG, Porsche 1-2. AF Corse’s latest champions in third
The final hour set up a big challenge for the leading driver, Loic Duval. Rubber pick up on the front of the R18 e-tron quattro meant that the aero dynamics were compromised, and tires were used much heavier than needed, forcing Duval to preserve the tires and therefore loosing time to the rest of the pack. It was game on for one last time at Audi.
The Audi battle took a turn within the final 50 minutes, when Audi Sport Team Joest pulled of a sublime final pit stop, which saw new tires going on the #8 car, eradicating the issue Duval had at the start of the hour.
On the note of last times, a reflective Mark Webber clambered aboard his Porsche 919 Hybrid for his final drive a professional racing driver.
It was the perfect farewell for Audi as their R18 e-tron quattros crossed the line for the final time in first and second positions, proving that Audi are still at the top of their game. The #8 Audi of Oliver Jarvis, Loic Duval and Lucas di Grassi had the honors of standing on the top step ahead of Audi legends Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Beniot Treluyer. Third place went to the out going world champions Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber in his final race, repeating the feat of a certain Tom Kristensen, as a an outgoing world champion to get third in his final race.
Toyota’s #5 and #6 finished fourth and fifth, however despite beating them on the road, that was not enough to take the world championship. Porsche’s Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas and Neel Jani finishing sixth, but crucially claiming the drivers’ world championship despite not finishing on the podium since Le Mans.
Rene Rast stared for G-Drive taking the win from RGR Sport in the last 20 minutes. Remarkably, in Audi’s final race that finished 1-2 for them, their two manufacture drivers that have been placed in LMP2 finished first and second in their class. Rast ahead of Albuquerque. The years world champions in LMP2 gained third place in the race.
Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim wrapped up the drivers world championship in style with a race win in the GTE-PRO class. James Calado and Sam Bird finished the race in their #51 and #71 Ferraris in second and third respectively, which earned Ferrari the teams championship.
Abu-Dhabi Proton won their home race in GTE-AM ahead of KCMG and the GTE-AM World Champions at AF Corse Ferrari.
On a seperate note, WEC-Magazin would like to thank all the teams for a stunning year of racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Thank you Audi for a perfect 18 years of racing, and thank you Mark Webber for a stunning career. We have enjoyed it hugely. I’m sure we’ll see you soon.