Although the No. 7 Toyota of Alexander Wurz, Mike Conway and Stéphane Sarrazin took their first win of the season in Bahrain, at the end of a thrilling FIA WEC Six Hours of Bahrain, it was their teammates in the No. 8 Toyota who claimed the overall FIA World Endurance Championship crown. Anthony Davidson and Sébastian Buemi can now call themselves “World Champions”.
Although technical issues prevented a top step finish for the Toyota pair, the ongoing issues for Audi’s challenge helped seal the championship for the Davidson & Buemi. “We were really unlucky with alternator issues at this race. If we didn’t have the problem we would have also been fighting at the front,” said a relieved Buemi. “It is not the best way to win it, but we are really happy! We have to focus on the manufacturer title now in Brazil.”
It was Porsche who made the best start to the race in Bahrain. The No. 14 car led from pole position with Romain Dumas at the wheel. Brendon Hartley in the No. 20 sister Porsche joined Dumas at the front by climbing to second place at the first corner to make it a Porsche 1-2.
The Porsche lead would be short-lived, as the pair of Toyotas soon battled to the front. Indeed the pace of the Toyotas was so good that Buemi not only took the lead, but stretched the gap considerably in a relatively short space of time. All changed again with an early full course caution for debris on the track & so the relative strategies of the leading LMP1 teams were altered. Toyota’s cars came in for early stops, whilst Porsche gambled by staying out. This decision was one the Porsche would later regret as they could never get back on terms with the Toyotas after they eventually pitted.
It seemed like the No. 8 Toyota would once again take a commanding victory in what has been a dominant season, but just under two hours into the race the car was brought in to the garage to fix a mechanical issue which cost the team more than half an hour. This enforced stop meant that they could finish only 11th overall, but lucky for them, the No. 2 Audi title challenger didn’t have the pace to profit from the Toyota’s issues, handing them the title anyway. Le Mans champions Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benôit Tréluyer could only manage fourth in Bahrain.
With the championship contending Toyota out of the picture, the lead of the race was taken over by the No. 7 Toyota crew, who fought off both Porsches until the end of the race. Both the No. 14 and No.20 Porsches had a chance to catch Davidson during the final two hours, but Mark Webber and Neel Jani couldn’t find the pace required. Jani complained of a lack of hybrid power, and Webber was struggling for grip towards the end of his stint. In the end the winning margin was under a minute, but it seemed like an eternity for the Porsche squad, who in their best all-round performance of the season, still couldn’t claim that elusive first FIA WEC victory.
Rebellion Racing won the LMP1 L class once again, with the No. 13 car coming home ahead of the No. 12 after late race electrical issue curtailed another excellent run. Their only rivals from the Lotus team retired on lap 2 with a gearbox issue.
The LMP2 class was won by KCMG for the second time this year. Matt Howson, Alex Imperatori and Richard Bradley fought hard against the two SMP Orecas throughout, after the G-Drive Ligier suffered a wishbone failure after contact with the No. 37 SMP entry of Kyril Ladygin on lap 1. The Ligier never recovered, hurting their chances of winning the championship going into the final round.
The FIA WEC GTE Pro and Am titles were also decided in Bahrain. Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander won the 2014 GT Drivers’ World Cup in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari, while David Heinemeier Hansson, Nicki Thiim and Kristian Poulsen in the No. 95 Aston Martin won the GTE Am title with their class victory.
Bruni and Vilander won GTE Pro class in Bahrain, but only just! A great battle for almost the entire race with the No.97 Aston Martin of Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke went down to the wire with Turner catching Vilander at a rate of knots, reducing a gap of over 20 seconds down to just over 2 in his final stint. The pair ran bumper-to-bumper for a long time, but the No. 97 needed to make one more stop than the AF Corse, which created the gap at the end. It was frustrating for the British team, who given just another couple of laps would have had a chance to snatch the win in what was clearly the faster car.
AF Corse’s No. 71 Ferrari of James Calado and Davide Rigon came home third. Whilst the Porsche challenge continued struggle for pace, meaning they were unable to challenge for a podium as the race wore on.
There was some consolation for Aston Martin as they did win the Am class once again, clinching the title in the process. The No.95 was untouchable, coming home a lap ahead of the No. 81 AF Corse Ferrari and the No. 98 Aston Martin which recovered well from an early penalty. A well deserved title was handed to the Danish trio who have been the best of the Am competitors all-season long.
The final round of the season will see the teams head to Sao Paulo at the end of the month, where the remainder of the titles will be decided.
The dates for the FIA World Endurance Championship 2015 have already been confirmed. As well as the Le Mans 24 Hours in June you can also join us at two other European rounds. The Six Hours of Spa will take place on the 2nd May 2015 and the Six Hours of the Nurburgring will take place on the 30th August 2015. We have camping and hotel options available for both. Secure your place by calling us now on 0844 873 0203.
Report & photos by Dailysportscar