#7 Toyota extended its FIA WEC points lead after 6 Hours of Bahrain win in the Hypercar class as the Japanese manufacturer sealed the teams’ title.
The No.7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid Hypercar driven by Jose-Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway won today’s Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain, the penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). It is the No. 7 car’s third consecutive victory.
Kobayashi took the Toyota Gazoo Racing Hypercar to the chequered flag 51s ahead of the sister No. 8 car driven by Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley. In doing so, the No. 7 crew has successfully extended its World Championship lead over the No. 8 car by 15 points, making the trio firm favourites going into next week’s season-finale.
The runner-up crew struggled with tyre wear in the sweltering conditions at the Bahrain International Circuit as temperatures seared to close to 35 degrees Celsius this afternoon. During the second half of the race, the team also lost time due to a slow pitstop as and felt the impact of a full course yellow – putting an end to their chances of catching their team-mates.
Toyota’s 1-2 finish today sees the Japanese manufacturer secure the first-ever Hypercar World Endurance Championship title and marks Toyota’s 34th WEC victory. Alpine Elf Matmut claimed the third podium spot in the Hypercar cateogory with the team finishing one lap down on the Toyotas after losing time in the opening stint following contact with the No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche.
The Alpine A480 Gibson, which was shared by Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre and Matthieu Vaxiviere, also suffered from a throttle pedal issue which hampered the trio’s times out on track.
In what is their debut FIA WEC season, Belgian squad Team WRT continued its fine run of form with a superb victory in the highly-competitive LMP2 field which saw plenty of action from start to finish. Drivers Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg and Charles Milesi executed brilliant tyre preservation strategy to lead home LMP2 field in their Oreca 07 Gibson by nearly a minute.
It is the No. 31 car’s second straight victory after triumphing at Le Mans back in August and sees the team move ahead of the No. 28 JOTA car in the fiercely fought LMP2 title-fight as both crews are now separated by just five points. British squad JOTA claimed a double podium with the No. 28 car driven by Stoffel Vandoorne, Tom Blomqvist and Sean Gelael making an impressive comeback after a difficult start and a spin which saw the pole-sitting car drop down the running order.
Meanwhile, the sister No. 38 car is still in contention for this year’s title after Anthony Davidson, Antonio Felix Da Costa and Roberto Gonzalez finished third – the trio 12 points adrift of their team-mates in the standings. Anglo-American squad United Autosports USA enjoyed a close fight for third as Filipe Albuquerque battled alongside fellow countryman Antonio Felix Da Costa in the race’s closing hour.
Albuquerque was eventually passed by Da Costa, however, with 18 minutes to go and was forced settled for fourth – 15s adrift of the No. 38 JOTA car. It is still mathematically possible for United Autosports to win this year’s LMP2 championship but P4 today has made it more difficult as they now lie 25 points adrift of category leaders, Team WRT.
As has been the case all season, the LMP2 battle provided plenty of on-track action from the outset, which included a spectacular opening stint from Giedo Van Der Garde in the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland entry who briefly led the category. The team eventually finished fifth place and secured the Pro/Am honours, which they now lead by nine points over DragonSpeed USA going into the final race of the year.
Richard Mille Racing equalled its best result of the season after a solid run from Beitske Visser, Sophia Floersch and Gabriel Aubry to finish in sixth place. Floersch also did an impressive job of keeping Realteam Racing’s Norman Nato behind her in the final laps, the two cars separated by just 0.234s at the finish line.
Realteam Racing and High Class Racing claimed P7 and P8 respectively while Polish squad Inter Europol Competition finished ninth after a succession of issues including a spin on track after impact from another LMP2 car. The team lost further time as they had to return to the pits with a damaged left door. ARC Bratislava finished P10, while DragonSpeed USA finished last after the team was knocked out of contention when Juan Pablo Montoya lost a wheel after coming out of the pits.
LMGTE Pro, LMGTE Am:
Kevin Estre and Neel Jani took a third LMGTE Pro win of the season after a faultless display in searingly hot conditions at today’s Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain. The No. 92 Porsche GT Team crew dominated proceedings taking a rare WEC lights-to-flag victory virtually unopposed after converting Estre’s fourth pole position of the season.
The win means that Estre and Jani are now just a point behind James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi in the LMGTE Pro title fight with one round to go. Equally Ferrari has the same margin over Porsche in the GT Manufacturers FIA World Endurance Championship.
Porsche enjoyed its pace advantage throughout the race with the No.91 Porsche driven by Richard Lietz and Gimmi Bruni riding shot gun in second place for most of the race, largely as protection for their sister car and the drivers 2021 title quest. The Porsche 911 RSR-19 cars managed its tyres expertly to lead all the way and set up an intriguing title finale showdown on the same track, over eight hours, next Saturday afternoon and evening.
Calado and Pier Guidi took third position but also kept their slender lead in title fight which will go down to the wire but is expected to see the Ferrari 488 GTE Evo’s quicker in the cooler conditions in the final race Miguel Molina and Daniel Serra claimed fourth place in the No.52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.
In the LMGTE Am category TF Sport scored its and Aston Martin’s first win since the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans after a finely judged victory. Ben Keating, Dylan Pereira, and Felipe Fraga built a fine race after only starting sixth on the class grid.
But Keating, who ultimately took his second win in Bahrain, was able to make immediate headway through the highly competitive field and hand over the No.33 Aston Martin to Pereira who rested the lead from the No.98 Aston Martin Racing entry.
When Fraga took over for the final two hours he was able to first extend the lead and then defend it against first the No.56 Project 1 Porsche of Matteo Cairoli and then the No.77 Dempsey Proton Porsche driven by Matt Campbell.
The Brazilian took the chequered flag five seconds ahead of the chasing Porsches to delight the TF Sport team and reduce the LMGTE Am title chase gap to the No.83 AF Corse Ferrari trio of Francois Perrodo, Niklas Nielsen and Alessio Rovera to 21.5pts with 39 to play for next weekend.
Campbell sealed second place in the car he shares with Christian Reid and Jaxon Evans, while Cairoli came home third in the Porsche 911 RSR-19 he shares with Egidio Perfetti and Riccardo Pera. Ferrari entrants featured in the opening exchanges at the front with the No.60 pole-sitting Iron Lynx entry driven by Rino Mastronardi leading the first 25-minutes until a gearbox issue forced the Italian to pit.
Francesco Castellacci took over at the front, but damage sustained from run over debris delayed the No.54 AF Corse later in the race. Both of the other Aston Martin cars of D’Station and the No.98 Aston Martin Racing entered car had spells in the lead, but the former hit mechanical issues while the latter ultimately took fourth place. Points leaders Perrodo, Nielsen and Rovera came home in fifth position and were the highest placed Ferrari 488 GTE Evo contender.
Here’s WEC 6 Hours of Bahrain results: http://fiawec.alkamelsystems.com/Results/10_2021/05_BAHRAIN%20INTERNATIONAL%20CIRCUIT/396_FIA%20WEC/202110301100_Race/Hour%206/03_Classification_Race_Hour%206.PDF
[Note: The above is as per press release from FIA with no edits made]