Toyota Gazoo Racing crowned a dominant season in the FIA World Endurance Championship with a one-two finish at the 8 Hours of Bahrain. Brendon Hartley, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, competing in his final race before retirement, took the victory in the #8 GR010 Hybrid at the Bahrain season finale.
The Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) once again featured just three cars as the inaugural season f the new regulations came to a conclusion. As a result, there was a distinct lack of on-track battling in the top class of the race.
The #36 Alpine began the race well and led in the early stages. After suffering from a number of difficulties during the first part of the Bahrain double-header, the French squad made a rapid start to the eight-hour race. However, gear selection issues led to an unscheduled stop and eliminated them from the battle for the overall win.
Barring disaster, the drivers’ title was all-but secured for the #7 crew of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López. And so the front of the race was a leisurely affair as the two Toyotas battled for supremacy – albeit at arm’s length.
With neither car having to push, the stage was set for Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 car to bow out of professional motorsport on a high. The gap at the front of the field was never greater than 30 seconds in the second half of the race, suggesting that the #7 may have been able to push for the win if circumstances had allowed. However, no-one in the FIA WEC paddock would have begrudged the man of the hour as the Toyota stalwart celebrated his 16th overall race victory.
Final-hour drama GTE Pro
The GTE Pro category more than made up for the lack of excitement up front. The race win – and with it the championship – went to the #51 AF Corse squad of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi, but there was plenty of drama as the season drew to a conclusion.
The two cars in with a chance of securing the title – the #51 Ferrari and the #92 Porsche – were neck and neck throughout the eight-hour race distance, with no quarter being asked or given. It became increasingly clear that it would all come down to the final stint.
Michael Christensen led for Porsche as the clocked ticked down to 30 minutes remaining, but the Dane’s gap ahead of the hard-charging Alessandro Pier Guidi was never more than a handful of seconds.
The battle looked to be coming to a head with just minutes of the race remaining, but a collision between the two cars into the final corner sent the 911 RSR careering into the run-off. Race control asked Pier Guidi to give the place back to Christensen, but the Porsche pitted for a final “splash and dash” before he was able to.
Following the Ferrari’s own pit stop for a splash of fuel one lap later, the gap had been extended to two seconds and Pier Guidi was able to guide the car home for the win. The reactions from the Porsche garage after the race suggest there may be an epilogue to this epic battle, but for now Ferrari, Calado and Pier Guidi are FIA World Champions.
Im Kampf um die LMP2-Trophäe lieferten sich das Team WRT, die JOTA-Mannschaft und United Autosports USA einen sehenswerten Dreikampf über die volle Renndistanz. Gleich zu Beginn geriet die US-Mannschaft unter Druck und musste sich nach hinten verteidigen. Jeder der drei Titelanwärter ging bis an seine Grenzen und nutzte jeden Millimeter auf der Strecke aus.
Mehre spannende Kopf-an-Kopf-Duelle, unterschiedliche Boxenstopp-Strategien und ein völlig unvorhersehbarer Rennausgang machten das LMP2-Finale extrem spannend. Den Sieg und auch den Meistertitel holte im ersten WEC-Jahr das Team WRT. Die Plätze zwei und drei in Bahrain fuhren die beiden JOTA #38 und #28 ein.
Race win and championship to Team WRT in LMP2
Team WRT wrapped up a dream maiden WEC season with the LMP2 drivers’ and teams’ title at the Bahrain season finale, to go with the Le Mans class victory earlier in the year.
The three-way battle for the championship was perfectly set up going in to the final round, but in truth the spark was lacking. In the end it was a relatively comfortable victory for the #31 crew of Ferdinand Habsburg, Charles Milesi and Robin Frijns and a well-deserved championship title.
Second and third were the two JOTA Orecas, followed by the #22 United Autosports USA machine in fourth.