Bahrain 8h WEC: #7 Toyota wins title, clash ruins GTE Pro battle

Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway clinched the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship title after finishing second to Toyota squadmates Kazuki Nakajima, Brendon Hartley and Sebastien Buemi in Bahrain, as Ferrari took the GTE Pro title in a controversial finish.

Having extended their lead in the championship to 16 points with pole position in Friday’s qualifying, the crew of the #7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid only needed to take the chequered flag as a classified finisher to become the first-ever champions in WEC's Hypercar era.

Although victory remained out of reach in the season-closing Bahrain 8 Hours, a runner-up result was enough for Kobayashi, Lopez and Conway to complete the Le Mans 24 Hours/WEC title double for the first time in their WEC careers.

Conway led the early stages of the race from pole position after the fast-charging #36 Alpine A480-Gibson dropped out of contention, but was asked by Toyota to hand over the position to a faster Buemi at the start of the second hour.

The two Toyotas would not be involved in a wheel-to-wheel fight for the remainder of the eight-hour contest, with the gap between the two cars seven seconds at the finishing line.

The retiring Nakajima took the chequered flag in the winning #8 Toyota, bowing out of the championship in style with three overall successes at Le Mans and the 2018/19 LMP1 title.

Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Andre Negrao finished six laps down in third in the #36 Alpine, with early technical woes preventing the French manufacturer from putting a consistent challenge to the Toyotas.

Although Lapierre was able to pass both Conway at Buemi at the start with a breathtaking start from third on the grid, his lead turned out to be short-lived with both the Toyotas repassing him before the end of lap 10.

Lapierre had fallen nearly 30 seconds behind the leading Hypercars when he suddenly slowed down on lap 25 with what was diagnosed to be a gearbox issue. A lengthy trip to the Alpine garage followed, ensuring Toyota ended the season with a perfect run of six victories in as many races.

Ferrari wins GTE Pro title after controversial finish

Ferrari duo Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado provisionally clinched the drivers title in GTE Pro in controversial fashion after the Italian driver refused to follow race direction’s order to let Porsche’s Michael Christensen through following a late clash between the two.

After a topsy-turvy battle between the only two marques in the class, the #91 Porsche 911 RSR-19 of Christensen, Neel Jani and Kevin Estre was leading the race going into the final hour.

But Pier Guidi nudged Christensen into a spin at the final corner moments after they were lapped by the United LMP2 car, leaving the Porsche down in second position.

Race Control ordered Pier Guidi to hand the position back to Christensen within a few laps of the incident, but he took the chequered flag in first position to provisionally secure Ferrari both championships in GTE Pro.

Prior to Ferrari and Porsche’s late-lap clash, Calado and Estre traded positions multiple times in the first two stints of the race, before the German manufacturer took the advantage by pitting a lap under the first Full Course Yellow in the second hour.

Ferrari struck back just before the halfway point of the race with a quicker stop during another FCY period, but Estre was able to charge past Calado under braking for Turn 1 in the sixth hour. Christensen and Pier Guidi took the battle to the final hour after taking over from their respective teammates.

Daniel Serra and Miguel Molina finished third in class in the second of the two Ferraris, while Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz and Frederic Makowiecki rounded out the class in the #91 Porsche.

WRT takes LMP2 title with victory

WRT’s dream first year in prototype ranks continued as it clinched the title in WEC’s ultra-competitive LMP2 class, adding to its success in the European Le Mans Series.

Ferdinand Habsburg, Charles Milesi and Robin Frijns secured the crown following their third successive victory of the season in the #31 Oreca 07-Gibson.

WRT qualified poorly for the second race in a row but Habsburg was able to charge through the field from seventh on the grid in the opening stages, before Frijns passed Racing Team Nederland’s Frits van Eerd for the lead in the third hour en route to WRT's third win of the season.

The two JOTA Orecas finished second and third in the LMP2 class, with Antonio Felix da Costa, Anthony Davidson and Roberto Gonzalez having the advantage at the end of the eighth hour in the #38 entry.

This was after da Costa passed Tom Blomqvist with a bold move at Turn 1 in the final 10 minutes of the race.

Blomqvist, Stoffel Vandoorne and Sean Gelael headed to the final Bahrain race second in the standings in the #38 JOTA, but needed to finish ahead of WRT to have a shot at the crown.

The Pro-Am title went to Racing Team Nederland and its owner van Eerd after it finished first in class and sixth among all LMP2 entrants.

Van Eerd was sharing the car with ex-Formula 1 driver Giedo van der Garde - who took the overall LMP2 lead at the start - and Job van Uitert, but neither of his teammates were in contention for the title having missed July's Monza round.

AF Corse triumphs in GTE Am

AF Corse successfully defended its GTE Am title after Nicklas Nielsen, Francois Perrodo and Alessio Rovera eased to a fourth victory of the season in the #83 Ferrari.

TF Sport Aston Martin was the only team that could have denied AF Corse the crown in Bahrain, but a puncture on the opening lap - caused by contact with the #98 Vantage GTE - left Ben Keating, Dylan Pereira and Felipe Fraga with a mountain to climb in the remainder of the race.

A broken steering rack, result of a separate collision with the #54 AF Corse Ferrari in the fifth hour, dealt the final blow to the title hopes of the #33 crew.

With TF Sport on the backfoot from the very beginning of the race, Matt Campbell, Christian Ried and Jaxon Evans finished second in the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche, with Egidio Perfetti, Matteo Cairoli and Riccardo Pera completing the podium spots in the #56 Project 1 Porsche. 

Bahrain 8 Hours - Race results:

Cla Drivers Car Class Laps Gap Pits
1 Switzerland Sébastien Buemi
Japan Kazuki Nakajima
New Zealand Brendon Hartley
Toyota GR010 - Hybrid HYPERCAR 247 8
2 United Kingdom Mike Conway
Japan Kamui Kobayashi
Argentina Jose Maria Lopez
Toyota GR010 - Hybrid HYPERCAR 247 7.351 8
3 Brazil Andre Negrao
France Nicolas Lapierre
France Matthieu Vaxiviere
Alpine A480 HYPERCAR 241 6 Laps 8
4 Netherlands Robin Frijns
Austria Ferdinand Habsburg
France Charles Milesi
Oreca 07 LMP2 240 7 Laps 11
5 Mexico Roberto Gonzalez
Portugal Antonio Felix da Costa
United Kingdom Anthony Davidson
Oreca 07 LMP2 240 7 Laps 12
6 Indonesia Sean Gelael
Belgium Stoffel Vandoorne
United Kingdom Tom Blomqvist
Oreca 07 LMP2 240 7 Laps 11
7 United Kingdom Philip Hanson
Switzerland Fabio Scherer
Portugal Filipe Albuquerque
Oreca 07 LMP2 240 7 Laps 11
8 Poland Jakub Smiechowski
Netherlands Renger van der Zande
United Kingdom Alex Brundle
Oreca 07 LMP2 238 9 Laps 10
9 Netherlands Frits van Eerd
Netherlands Giedo van der Garde
Netherlands Job Van Uitert
Oreca 07 LMP2 238 9 Laps 10
10 Switzerland Esteban Garcia
France Loic Duval
France Norman Nato
Oreca 07 LMP2 238 9 Laps 10
11 Denmark Dennis Andersen
Denmark Anders Fjordbach
Poland Robert Kubica
Oreca 07 LMP2 237 10 Laps 12
12 Colombia Tatiana Calderon
Germany Sophia Flörsch
Netherlands Beitske Visser
Oreca 07 LMP2 237 10 Laps 9
13 Sweden Henrik Hedman
Colombia Juan Pablo Montoya
United Kingdom Ben Hanley
Oreca 07 LMP2 236 11 Laps 10
14 Slovakia Miro Konopka
United Kingdom Olli Caldwell
France Nelson Panciatici
Oreca 07 LMP2 235 12 Laps 10
15 Italy Alessandro Pier Guidi
United Kingdom James Calado
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE PRO 233 14 Laps 8
16 France Kevin Estre
Switzerland Neel Jani
Denmark Michael Christensen
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE PRO 233 14 Laps 9
17 Brazil Daniel Serra
Spain Miguel Molina
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE PRO 233 14 Laps 9
18 Italy Gianmaria Bruni
Austria Richard Lietz
France Frédéric Makowiecki
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE PRO 231 16 Laps 9
19 France François Perrodo
Denmark Nicklas Nielsen
Italy Alessio Rovera
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 230 17 Laps 9
20 Germany Christian Ried
Australia Jaxon Evans
Australia Matt Campbell
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE AM 229 18 Laps 8
21 Norway Egidio Perfetti
Italy Matteo Cairoli
Italy Riccardo Pera
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE AM 229 18 Laps 9
22 Italy Roberto Lacorte
Italy Giorgio Sernagiotto
Italy Antonio Fuoco
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 229 18 Laps 9
23 Japan Takeshi Kimura
Denmark Mikkel Jensen
Australia Scott Andrews
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 228 19 Laps 9
24 Italy Claudio Schiavoni
Italy Andrea Piccini
Italy Matteo Cressoni
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 228 19 Laps 9
25 Switzerland Thomas Flohr
Italy Francesco Castellacci
Italy Giancarlo Fisichella
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 227 20 Laps 8
26 Japan Satoshi Hoshino
Japan Tomonobu Fujii
United Kingdom Andrew Watson
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE AM 227 20 Laps 8
27 Switzerland Rahel Frey
Belgium Sarah Bovy
United Kingdom Katherine Legge
Ferrari 488 GTE EVO LMGTE AM 225 22 Laps 8
28 United Kingdom Michael Wainwright
United Kingdom Benjamin Barker
United Kingdom Tom Gamble
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE AM 224 23 Laps 7
29 Canada Paul Dalla Lana
Brazil Augusto Farfus
Brazil Marcos Gomes
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE AM 223 24 Laps 8
United States Ben Keating
Luxembourg Dylan Pereira
Brazil Felipe Fraga
Aston Martin Vantage AMR LMGTE AM 128 119 Laps 7
United Arab Emirates Khaled Al Qubaisi
Zimbabwe Axcil Jefferies
France Julien Andlauer
Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE AM 90 157 Laps 3
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