WEC Bahrain: #8 Toyota wins title; Ferrari hangs on to take GTE Pro crown
Toyota clinched the World Endurance Championship title for a fourth season in succession after Alpine struggled for pace in the year-closing Bahrain 8 Hours.
Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa were crowned the 2022 Hypercar champions in the #8 Toyota GR010 HYBRID after the trio finished second behind the race-winning #7 car of Jose Maria Lopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi in the finale.
The #8 Toyota crew sat only one point clear of Alpine trio Nicolas Lapierre, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Andre Negrao going into the race, but the #36 A480-Gibson turned out to be the slowest car in the Hypercar field and could only finish third, giving the Japanese manufacturer a relatively easy run to the title.
Buemi, Hartley and Hirakawa, however, didn’t seal the crown with a third win of the season, having been ordered by Toyota to let the #7 car through into the lead during the third hour of the race.
The #8 GR010 HYBRID had initially been the quicker of the two cars from Toyota's stable but Conway was able to rapidly close in on polesitter Hartley after assuming driving duties from Lopez, prompting the Japanese manufacturer to order a swap.
Hartley, Buemi and Hirakawa lacked the speed to close back in on the #7 Toyota in the remainder of the race and eventually crossed the finish line more than 45 seconds adrift, but second place was enough to add the Hypercar title to the victory they scored at Le Mans 24 Hours in June.
Peugeot's challenge faded as Toyota ended the year with a 1-2 and the title
Photo by: Toyota Racing
Alpine had qualified last in the five-car Hypercar field, and after some early-race heroics from Lapierre, the French manufacturer was unable to challenge either Toyota or Peugeot.
It was only reliability issues for the two Peugeot 9X8s that promoted Lapierre, Negrao and Vaxiviere to the final spot of the podium, but even then the trio finished two down in third in what was the last race for Alpine's ORECA-built LMP1 car.
The #94 Peugeot of Gustavo Menezes, Loic Duval and new recruit Nico Muller was the only car from the Stellantis brand that could see the chequered flag, as the #93 entry that had qualified on the front row retired during the penultimate hour.
Even the #94 Peugeot didn’t have an easy run and after a second stoppage just prior to the mid-race point of the race it spent several minutes in the garage, eventually finishing the race six laps down in the winning #7 Toyota.
Jota wins LMP2 title, WRT takes race win
Jota clinched the 2022 LMP2 title in Bahrain after Antonio Felix da Costa, Will Stevens and Roberto Gonzalez secured the requisite points with a third-place finish, as WRT ended the season with another fine victory.
With a 28-point lead in the standings thanks to a class victory at Le Mans, the #38 Jota crew only needed to finish inside the top seven in order to be guaranteed of a first LMP2 title in the WEC’s history.
Although da Costa, Stevens and Gonzalez weren’t able to trouble the frontrunners for victory, a podium was more than sufficient to see off the #23 United Autosports crew of Oliver Jarvis, Alex Lynn and Josh Pierson.
Gonzalez, da Costa and Stevens secured the LMP2 title for Jota by finishing third in class
Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images
The #31 WRT of Robin Frijns, Rene Rast and Sean Gelael had qualified eighth in the LMP2 field, but a rapid first stint from Rast in the third hour propelled the squad into a lead that it wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the event.
It marked third victory of the season for the #31 WRT crew and the fourth of the year for the two-car Belgian squad, with the team’s sister Realteam-branded entry of Ferdinand Habsburg, Norman Nato and Rui Andrade having won at Monza.
Jarvis, Lynn and Pierson finished second in the race ahead of title winners da Costa, Stevens and Gonzalez, while Louis Deletraz, Robert Kubica and Lorenzo Colombo finished fourth for Prema after pitting under one of the full-course yellow periods.
The Pro/Am honours went to the AF Corse team after Nicklas Nielsen, Francois Perrodo and Alessio Rovera finished 10th among all LMP2 entrants. Its rival Algarve Pro team earned a late drivethrough penalty that left it 12th at the finish.
Ferrari clinches GTE Pro title despite late drama
Calado was running comfortably in second position, ahead of the sole Corvette C8.R and the two Porsches, when his car developed a serious gearbox problem that prevented him from engaging fourth gear.
Despite late gearbox dramas, Pier Guidi and Calado still secured the GTE Pro title in fifth as Porsche rivals Estre and Christensen endured a tough day
Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images
Losing between five to eight seconds a lap, the #51 crew plummeted to last place in class and had to desperately try to nurse the car to the finish in order to bag the points for fifth place in the overall GTE standings.
Despite dropping four laps off the lead, Pier Guidi was able to bring the hobbled car home after taking over from team-mate Calado and, with the #92 Porsche of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen failing to finish higher than third, Ferrari was able to defend its GTE Pro title.
Going into the race, the #92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 of Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre was the Weissach manufacturer’s best bet for the title, three points clear of Bruni in the #91 car.
However, Christensen and Estre were twice unlucky with the timing of full-course yellows, with the first intervention at the beginning of hour two handing the lead to the #51 Ferrari and the third FCY after the midway point dropping them nearly a lap down of the leader.
Aston clinches GTE Am title
The Project 1 Porsche team claimed a 1-2 finish in GTE Am, the #46 entry shared by Matteo Cairoli, Mikkel Pedersen and Nicolas Leutwiler winning from Ben Barnicoat, PJ Hyett and Gunnar Jeannette in the #56 car.
Keating and Sorensen secured the GTE Am title with fourth in their TF Sport Aston
Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images
Both Proton machines were able to pass the #85 Iron Dames Ferrari of Michael Gatting, Rahel Frey and Sarah Bovy that led much of the race in the final two hours, demoting the all-female team to third.
The title went to the TF Sport Aston Martin team after Ben Keating, Henrique Chaves and Marco Sorensen finished fourth, ahead of the only car that could beat it to the title - the similar Vantage GT3 of Nicki Thiim, Paul Dalla Lana and David Pittard entered by Northwest AMR.
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