Emotional 1-2 Sees Audi out

It was six hours of raw emotion during the 6 hours of Bahrain as Mark Webber and Audi Sport saw out their final races in the World Endurance Championship.

The overall podium could not have been more perfect as Audi placed both of their cars on their final podium with Webber and the #1 crew taking the bottom step. A flawless race from Loric Duval, Oliver Jarvis, and Luca di Grassi saw them go from pole to win in Audi’s final appearance. An incredible recovery drive saw the #26 G-Drive team, who had been stripped of their pole position after failing parc ferme with non-homologated brake cooling ducts, bring themselves from the back of the grid to take the LMP2 class win. They stood above #43 RGR Sport and LMP2 Champions #36 Signatech Alpine for the last race of the season.

LMGTE Pro saw Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen take their second class win of the season and take the GT Driver’s Championship title. They trumped over the two chasing AF Corse Ferraris, with the #51 ending ahead of the sister car #71. A retired Aston Martin saw the crew of the #83 retain the LMGTE Am Class title. Emmanuel Collard, Francois Perrodo and Rui Aguas came third, taking the title once their only rivals were out of the race. It was the Abu-Dhabi Proton Racing #88 that took the race win, with #78 KCMG completing the podium in second.

It was a strong win for the #8 Audi, crossing the line 16 seconds ahead of the sister Audi #7. Everyone was hoping for a clean race for the Audis in their final outing, and after their recent run of bad luck, it was a nervous six hours for all watching and the team. But Porsche had no answer to Audi’s pace as the German team secured a strong 1-2 for their final race. Duval lead from pole to the first stops. It was after the driver changes that saw #8 lose the lead. Andre Lotterer’s pace was too much for then leader Oliver Jarvis and the #7 took the lead. Audi #8 had no answer and could not close the gap enough to retake the lead. It was a slow third pit stop for the #7 that saw advantage swing back to the #8 crew and promoted them back to the front of the grid.

Audi split strategy in the third hour, putting Treluyer and the #7 Audi back ahead of the #8. But Duval was a man on a mission and he caught and passed the sister car on track before performing a double stint on used tyres in the fifth hour. It was this performance that gave Audi #• the advantage they needed to take their final race win.

It cannot be forgotten that Porsche #2 took the Driver’s World Championship. Like the sister car the year before, it was not handed to them easily. Neel Jani was ahead of Timo Bernhard after the first round of pit stops, but contact when he was hit by the #78 KCMG GTE Am Porsche 911 saw the Championship contenders encounter a broken left rear wheel. This forced them to take an extra pit stop and lost them a lot of time on track. The car was three laps down when it returned to the track, with everything to fight for between the beginning of the second hour and the chequered flag. They still managed to do what they needed to, with the car finishing in sixth place in class and taking the championship by 13.5 points.

Toyota’s Kamui Kobayashi, Stephane Sarrazin, and Mike Conway had an outside chance of taking the title from Porsche #2, but that chance never arose as Porsche #2 – even after their issues – never dropped low enough in the order to potentially be outscored by Toyota. Also, the Toyota team needed to finish second or higher to get enough points, something which Audi never made possible.

G-Drive #26 had an incredible race as they came from the back of the field to take the LMP2 win. It was the team’s third LMP2 victory of the season. This race saw the return of Rene Rast to the cockpit, who had been covered by Will Stevens as Rast sat out the last few races. It was a close race in the end as only four seconds split #26 from the RGR #43 car. The #43 had been leading the LMP2 field for most of the race. It was a last minute surge that saw Rast pass RGR driver Filipe Albuquerque for the lead with only 18 minutes of racing left. The duo tussled for the last few laps but it was Rast who had the superior pace and managed to take the satisfying win for his team.

Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen triumphed with a 12-second victory over the chasing AF Corse GTE Pro cars. Jonny Adam (returning to the Aston Martin #97 after his success in British GT) and Darren Turner had been leading for Aston Martin for the beginning of the race. When it lost a wheel straight after a pit stop Adam was lucky enough to be able to limp the car back to the pits to carry on. But the victory was now out of their reach and handed to the sister car of Thiim and Sorenson. Adam and Turner finished fifth behind the two Ferraris (completing the podium) and Ford #67.

The pressure came off the reining GTE Am Champions when their only title contenders retired from the race. It was a horrible ten minutes for Aston Martin as Adam and Turner lost their wheel and moments later the engine failed on Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, and Paul Dalla Lana’s Aston Martin. It was a shame for the Am Aston Martin team because they had had a long run of successful races and race wins.