WEC Bahrain 8 Hours: #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 in Bahrain, as Ferrari won 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 WEC’s first-ever Hypercar champions.

Although victory remained out of reach in the season-closing Bahrain 8 Hours, a runner-up result to Toyota squadmates Kazuki Nakajima, Brendon Hartley and Sebastien Buemi 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 Alpine A480 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-lap contest, with the gap between the two cars seven seconds at the finishing line.

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 A480-Gibson, with early technical woes preventing the French manufacturer from putting a consistent challenge to the Toyotas.

Although Lapiere 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.

#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Brendon Hartley

#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid: Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, Brendon Hartley

Photo by: Toyota Racing

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 Gianmarina Bruni, Richard Lietz and Frederic Makowiecki rounded out the class in the #91 Porsche.

#51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo: Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado

#51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo: Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

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 the two were in contention for title having missed the Monza race in July.

#31 Team WRT Oreca 07 - Gibson: Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen, Charles Milesi

#31 Team WRT Oreca 07 - Gibson: Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen, Charles Milesi

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

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 completed the podium spots in the #56 Project 1 Porsche.

WEC Bahrain 8 Hours - Race results:

Cla Drivers Laps Time Gap
1 Switzerland Sébastien Buemi
Japan Kazuki Nakajima
New Zealand Brendon Hartley
247 -  
2 United Kingdom Mike Conway
Japan Kamui Kobayashi
Argentina Jose Maria Lopez
247 7.351 7.351
3 Brazil Andre Negrao
France Nicolas Lapierre
France Matthieu Vaxiviere
241 7 laps  
4 Netherlands Robin Frijns
Austria Ferdinand Habsburg
France Charles Milesi
240 7 laps  
5 Mexico Roberto Gonzalez
Portugal Antonio Felix da Costa
United Kingdom Anthony Davidson
240 1'14.320 7 Laps
6 Indonesia Sean Gelael
Belgium Stoffel Vandoorne
United Kingdom Tom Blomqvist
240 1'18.978 7 Laps
7 United Kingdom Philip Hanson
Switzerland Fabio Scherer
Portugal Filipe Albuquerque
240 1'23.388 7 Laps
8 Poland Jakub Smiechowski
Netherlands Renger van der Zande
United Kingdom Alex Brundle
238 31.531 9 Laps
9 Netherlands Frits van Eerd
Netherlands Giedo van der Garde
Netherlands Job Van Uitert
238 3.696 9 Laps
10 Switzerland Esteban Garcia
France Loic Duval
France Norman Nato
238 22.840 9 Laps
11 Denmark Dennis Andersen
Denmark Anders Fjordbach
Poland Robert Kubica
237 10 laps  
12 Colombia Tatiana Calderon
Germany Sophia Flörsch
Netherlands Beitske Visser
237 16.679 10 Laps
13 Sweden Henrik Hedman
Colombia Juan Pablo Montoya
United Kingdom Ben Hanley
236 11 laps  
14 Slovakia Miro Konopka
United Kingdom Olli Caldwell
France Nelson Panciatici
235 12 laps  
15 Italy Alessandro Pier Guidi
United Kingdom James Calado
233 14 laps  
16 France Kevin Estre
Switzerland Neel Jani
Denmark Michael Christensen
233 3.249 14 Laps
17 Brazil Daniel Serra
Spain Miguel Molina
233 18.393 14 Laps
18 Italy Gianmaria Bruni
Austria Richard Lietz
France Frédéric Makowiecki
231 16 laps  
19 France François Perrodo
Denmark Nicklas Nielsen
Italy Alessio Rovera
230 17 laps  
20 Germany Christian Ried
Australia Jaxon Evans
Australia Matt Campbell
229 0.147 18 Laps
21 Norway Egidio Perfetti
Italy Matteo Cairoli
Italy Riccardo Pera
229 0.123 18 Laps
22 Italy Roberto Lacorte
Italy Giorgio Sernagiotto
Italy Antonio Fuoco
229 34.168 18 Laps
23 Japan Takeshi Kimura
Denmark Mikkel Jensen
Australia Scott Andrews
228 19 laps  
24 Italy Claudio Schiavoni
Italy Andrea Piccini
Italy Matteo Cressoni
228 1'46.263 19 Laps
25 Switzerland Thomas Flohr
Italy Francesco Castellacci
Italy Giancarlo Fisichella
227 20 laps  
26 Japan Satoshi Hoshino
Japan Tomonobu Fujii
United Kingdom Andrew Watson
227 27.791 20 Laps
27 Switzerland Rahel Frey
Belgium Sarah Bovy
United Kingdom Katherine Legge
225 22 laps  
28 United Kingdom Michael Wainwright
United Kingdom Benjamin Barker
United Kingdom Tom Gamble
224 23 laps  
29 Canada Paul Dalla Lana
Brazil Augusto Farfus
Brazil Marcos Gomes
223 24 laps  
30 United States Ben Keating
Luxembourg Dylan Pereira
Brazil Felipe Fraga
128 118 laps  
31 United Arab Emirates Khaled Al Qubaisi
Zimbabwe Axcil Jefferies
France Julien Andlauer
90 156 laps  
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