Alexander Wurz, Mike Conway and Stéphane Sarrazin took their first win of the season in the #7 Toyota after a thrilling six hour race at Bahrain, while their teammates in the #8 took the overall WEC crown. Technical woes hampered the Sébastian Buemi and Anthony Davidson’s chances of a good result, but Audi’s continued lack of pace helped seal the deal for the duo.
“We were really unlucky with the alternator issues. If we didn’t have the problem we would have been fighting at the front,” said a jubilant Buemi. “It’s not the best way to win it but we are really happy! We have to focus on the manufacturers title now in Brazil.”
The GTE Pro and Am titles were also decided in the desert. Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander won the 2014 GT Drivers’ World Cup in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari, while David Heinemeier Hansson, Nicki Thiim and Kristian Poulsen in the Dane-train #95 Aston won the GTE Am title with their class victory.
Porsche led the race from the start, Romain Dumas in the #14 taking control with the sister #20 919 of Brendon Hartley climbing to second place at turn 1 to make it a 1-2 for the German marque.
Their stranglehold on the top two positions wouldn’t last long however, as the pair of Toyotas soon fought their way to the front of the field. Buemi’s pace was very strong, and after snatching the lead from Dumas, he immediately created a comfortable margin.
An early full-course-yellow for debris on circuit shuffled the strategies of the top runners in LMP1. Toyota once again brought both their cars in for early stops, while Porsche kept both their cars on track. In the end it would be the difference between the two manufacturers, as Porsche never made up for the time they lost.
“We have to pray for another safety car, we made the wrong call on strategy,” admitted Dumas during the race.
It seemed like the #8 would once again take a commanding victory, but just under two hours into the race the the car was brought in to fix a mechanical issue which cost the team over 30 minutes in the garage. They finished 11th overall, but lucky for them, the #2 Audi didn’t have the pace to profit from the #8’s issues, handing them the title anyway – Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benôit Tréluyer came home a lowly fourth.
“It’s racing it happens,” said Toyota’s Rob Leupen. “There was a problem with the alternator, and the guys worked really hard on it to get it out. We had to monitor it very carefully.”
With the championship contending Toyota out of the picture, the lead of the race was taken over by the #7 crew, who fought off both Porsche’s until the end of the race – Mike Conway proving to be especially rapid during his stint.
Both the #14 and #20 had a chance to catch Davidson during the final two hours. But Mark Webber and Neel Jani couldn’t find the pace, Jani complaining of a lack of hybrid power, and Webber struggling for grip towards the end of his stint. The winning margin was under a minute, but it seemed like an eternity for the Porsche squad, who in their best all-round performance of the season, still couldn’t claim that elusive first WEC victory.
“All of the bad luck we’ve had this season has ended here. Congratulations to my team mates too, a perfect day for us,” said Wurz after the race.
Rebellion Racing won the LMP1 L class once again, the #13 coming home ahead of the #12 after late race electrical issue ruined an excellent run from the #12. Their only rivals from the Lotus team retired on lap 2 with a gearbox issue.
LMP2 was won by KCMG for the second time this year. Matt Howson, Alex Imperatori and Richard Bradley fought hard against the two SMP Orecas throughout after the G-Drive Ligier suffered a wishbone failure after contact with the #37 SMP entry of Kyril Ladygin on lap 1. The Ligier never recovered, hurting their chances of winning the championship going into the final round.
“We’ve been a little bit fortunate, the Ligier would have been the car to beat. But that’s racing, we had similar fortunes in Shanghai.” said Howson.
The #27 took the fight to KCMG for much of the second half of the race, after the sister Oreca lost time after the front end came loose and flew off in the middle portion of the race.
Disaster struck for the #27 in the final hour though, as Nic Minassian brought the Oreca into the pits, a gearbox issue forcing the team to retire the car. The #27 came home second, with the #35 Oak Racing Morgan having a solid run to third.
Bruni and Vilander won GTE Pro, but only just! A great battle for almost the entire race with the #97 Aston Martin of Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke went down to the wire with Turner catching Vilander at a rate of knots, reducing a gap of over 20 seconds down to just over 2 in his final stint.
The pair ran bumper-to-bumper for what seemed like hours, but the #97 needed to make one more stop than the AF Corse, which created the gap at the end. It was frustrating for the British team, who given just another couple of laps would have had a chance to snatch the win in what was clearly the faster car.
AF Corse’s #71 458 of James Calado and Davide Rigon came home third. Porsche’s continue struggle for pace, meant they were unable to challenge for a podium as the race wore on.
Aston Martin did win the Am class once again however, clinching the title in the process. The #95 was untouchable, coming home a lap ahead of the #81 AF Corse Ferrari and the #98 Aston Martin which recovered well from an early penalty. A well deserved title was handed to the Danish trio who have been the best of the Am runners all-season long.
The final round of the season will see the teams head to Sao Paulo at the end of the month, where there’s still plenty to be decided.