Toyota Gazoo Racing concluded the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship season in style with a comprehensive victory at the final round of the 2023 WEC, the 8 Hours of Bahrain.
The #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid of Brendon Hartley,. Sébastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa claimed the overall win, and with it the drivers’ title for the trio of works Toyota pilots. Second was the sister car of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, who fought their way back through the field after an incident at turn one.
Third place went to the #50 Ferrari 499P of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Niklas Nielsen, despite the best efforts of the hard-charging #38 Hertz Team JOTA Porsche 963, who had to settle for fourth.
Chaos on lap one
The #8 Toyota began the race from pole position and emerged completely unscathed from another turn one incident that impacted multiple cars’ races. Starting from the second row, Earl Bamber in the #2 Cadillac V.Series.R locked up his front-left tyre and was unable to stop himself running into the back of Mike Conway in the #7 Toyota.
Conway was spun around and had to recover from the back of the prototype field – ultimately losing around 20 seconds to the leading car. The Cadillac received a one-minute stop-and-go penalty for the contact.
The pair of Ferraris benefited most from the contact, moving up to second and third positions from fifth and sixth on the grid through the first stint. However, as Conway made his way back through the field, it was clear that Toyota would have the outright pace to take the win.
Ferrari and Porsche battle for final podium spot
With drivers working hard to manage their tyres around the notoriously high-deg Bahrain International Circuit, the race fell into a familiar rhythm. But, with around three hours to go, the battle for third position exploded to life again as Ferrari and Hertz Team JOTA delivered a fantastic Hypercar battle.
The Hertz Team JOTA crew of Antonio Felix da Costa, Will Stevens and Yifei Ye continued to trouble the Ferraris throughout the final two stints, and eventually eked out a small advantage in third position. However, a minor mistake by Da Costa saw the Portuguese driver run wide and rejoin the track unsafely in the eyes of race control. A drive-through penalty was the result, putting the #38 back behind the two Ferraris in P3 and P4.
That setback didn’t deter Da Costa or his teammate Will Stevens, however, as the pair set about trying to recover the lost podium place. Spectacular driving by both privateer Porsche pilots saw the #38 machine overtake the #51 Ferrari for P4 expertly with just one hour to go.
Stevens then closed the five-second gap to third-placed Fuoco with ease, but was unable to edge past the Italian as the clock run out. It was a story of “what could have been” for the UK-entered Porsche team.
Iron Dames make history in GTE Am
The #85 Iron Dames Porsche 911 RSR went down in history as the final ever GTE Am race winner, with the class set to disappear for next year. After a brilliant drive by Sarah Bovy and Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting jumped in for the final stint and expertly defended against the hard-charging #777 D’Station Racing Aston Martin.
It was the team’s first win in the category in their second season of competition and a worthy way to bid farewell to the GTE category.
Team WRT celebrate title with 1-2 in LMP2
Team WRT put their qualifying travails behind them to take a convincing one-two finish at the season finale. The Belgian squad, who will be running the BMW Hypercar programme next season, sealed both the drivers’ and teams’ championships as a result.
A full list of results can be found here.
Images (c) WEC-Magazin / Walter Schruff / Ton Kerdijk