Image credit: FIA WEC.
We take a look at the excitement from the final round of the FIA World Endurance Championship and the drivers and teams to raise the silverware.
So the Six Hours of Bahrain…. The question is where to start!
From the start of the race there were battles all through the 4 classes! Even from the first corner Audi and Porsche were battling, the #17 Porsche of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard having taken the season’s final pole and with their #18 sister car alongside it left Audi all the work to be done to win the driver championship.
In the first hour a mechanical problem for the championship leading #17 Porsche sent the car 4 laps down and to almost the rear of the field. A throttle actuator issue meant it was now down to the skill and determination of the drivers to get the car back into contention for the drivers’ championship.
These dramas and battles were not confined to the LMP1 class. With drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships at stake there were battles all through the four classes resulting in a lot of close but fair racing.
By the end of the second hour the #17 919 Hybrid had worked its way through the majority of the field and was now running in 6th place. At this point the Audi #7 car of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer was only 8 seconds off the lead, which was being held by the sister #8 – a swap in positions with the #7 would secure the drivers’ championship at this point as the #17 Porsche needed to finish 5th or better to overhaul the points advantage of the Audi trio.
At the start of the fourth hour the #17 had worked its way up to 5th, 3 laps down from the now leading Audi #7. If the flag had fallen now Audi would have taken the drivers’ championship by a slim margin of 2 points, however the only fly in the ointment would be the #18 Porsche in 2nd place – had they have needed a 3 lap pit stop this would allow their team mates to take 4th and the drivers’ championship – this meant Audi’s only strategy was to go flat out to retain the lead.
Sadly for Audi, this strategy did not pay off – on worn tyres during the 4th hour the #7 car, while battling with the #18 Porsche, ran wide allowing the #18 to pass for the lead. This now meant that on points the #17 would win handing the 2016 Driver’s title to Webber, Hartley and Berhnard.
Just as we all thought the dramas had calmed down, further problems saw the #17 head back into the garage for what were, according to team radio, failure of the hybrid system to the front wheels… the drama now was truly turned up to 11!!!
With the #17 car now running at a slower pace it was down to Audi to pass Porsche’s #18 to re-take the lead and potentially the championship. However, in the back of the minds of Fassler, Lotterer and Treluyer and their engineers there was always the possibility that the #18 would drop back to allow their sister car to gain the points required.
At the fall of the chequered flag the #18 Porsche took the win overall in LMP1, followed by the #7 Audi and the #2 of Toyota – driven by Sarrazin, Conway and on his last race in the series before his retirement Alexander Wurz.
Directly after the race Timo Bernard said “I don’t have words right now – a very intense season, a lot of pressure” I think that this sums up the 2015 World Endurance Championship – we look forward to 2016……
In LMP2 the final stint saw Bird in the G-Drive #26 Ligier JS P2 eat away at the 25-second gap to the leading #28 KCMG Oreca with each lap, to claim the lead in the last 15 minutes of the race. He took the win, securing the LMP2 championship title followed by the #47 Oreca of KCMG and the G-Drive #28.
“I’m very happy to win the 2015 LM P2 World Endurance Trophy.” said Roman Russinov “It’s been a great human experience for all of us. I’m happy to be a part of G-Drive Racing and driving the Ligier JS P2”
In GTE Pro the #92 Porsche Team Manthey finished in front of the #51 AF Corse Ferrari and the resurgent #97 Aston Martin of Darren Turner and Jonny Adam came in third. The drivers’ championship went to Bruni and Vilander in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari, followed by their teammates Calardo and Rigon. The result means that the Pro Team Championship also goes to AF Corse and the GT manufacturers goes to Ferrari.
As for GTE Am, the reinvigorated #98 Aston Martin took the class win bringing them up to 3rd in the Drivers’ Championship. A fantastic race from the Abu-Dhabi Racing Porsche saw their #88 second in class, but the #50 SMP Racing Ferrari took the Drivers’ Championship with their 5th place.