The #7 Toyota TS050 took the win at the WEC season finale in Bahrain, but there was title-based drama further down the field.
The extended 2019/2020 season finally drew to a close in the Gulf with WEC season finale at the 8 Hours of Bahrain. The race, and the drivers’ championship, was won by the #7 Toyota TS050 of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José Maria López by a comfortable margin. Second, and hampered by a 0.5s success ballast, was the #8 machine of Buemi/Hartley/Nakajima.
With all other LMP1 cars having withdrawn from the WEC season finale, Toyota Gazoo Racing were unchallenged at the front of the field. The only question was whether the #7 car could overhaul the seven-point margin at the top of the standings. As expected, the #7’s advantage was too great to provide close racing and Toyota were left to take a “lap” of honour to bring the curtain down on the LMP1 Hybrid era, ahead of 2021’s hypercar regulations.
GTE provides the drama
What LMP1 lacked in drama, GTE Pro and GTE Am more than made up for. In GTE Pro, it was an all-Aston Martin battle for the drivers’ championship as Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen (#95) held a small advantage over second-placed driver Maxime Martin (#97). Martin’s regular teammate Alex Lynn had been ruled out of the finale after returning a positive COVID-19 test.
The #95 crew looked to be converting their lead as the race began, but both cars soon dropped through the field with that turned out to be brake-related issues. At the halfway mark, the #95 Vantage AMR pitted for a brake change, which put it out of contention for the race win and also left the door open to Martin. However, with just one hour remaining and in position to secure the title as it stood, Martin too was forced to pit and ultimately finished fourth with the #95 in fifth.
The race was won by Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre in the #92 Porsche ahead of the sister #91 car.
GTE Am title down to the wire
The GTE Am title battle went down to the final hour of the season, and ended in bitter disappointment for the #90 TF Sport crew. Leading the championship by eight points going into the final round, Salih Yoluc and his team knew that they simply had to better the result of the chasing #83 AF Corse Ferrari crew to secure their maiden title.
However, come race day the GTE Am suffered from the same brake issues as the GTE Pro machines. The #90 machine would slip gradually through the field as the eight hours progressed but still appeared on course to take the championship. Then, with just one hour of the race remaining, the car underwent an extended pit stop while work was completed on the brakes – dashing any championship hopes in the process.
Victory went to the #56 Team Project 1 Porsche for its first win of the season, with the championship-winning #83 AF Corse Ferrari of Nielsen/Perrodo/Collard in second.
Race-long battle in LMP2 decided in final 10 minutes
In LMP2, the focus was solely on the race with all championships already decided pre-Bahrain. In a topsy-turvy battle that lasted for most of the race, the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing ended the season on a high by taking the win in the final 10 minutes of the race. Second was the #38 JOTA car, with Racing Team Nederland rounding out the podium.
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