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Bahrain Post-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s post-race notebook from FIA WEC season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

***Toyota’s win in Saturday’s Six Hours of Bahrain gave the Japanese manufacturer bragging rights in having the most victories in the FIA World Endurance Championship season, with five compared to Porsche’s four.

***It marked the first time the same WEC driver lineup won five races overall in a single season. Sebastien Buemi and Kazkuki Nakajima, however, still came up 25 points short in the Drivers’ World Championship to Porsche’s Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber.

***Remarkably, it was the second straight race Toyota had lapped both Porsche 919 Hybrids. “In the briefing this morning, I told the team we had a realistic chance to win but less comfortably than Shanghai,” Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon told Sportscar365. “I think in a straightforward race, we would have won with 50 seconds to 1 minute, not a full lap.”

***Porsche’s bid for victory in its final LMP1 race came unraveled just past halfway when an attempt to triple stint the tires on the No. 1 car briefly put Nick Tandy in the lead prior to contact with Nick Foster’s No. 86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR.

***Vasselon admitted he felt it was a “very dangerous” move from Porsche to triple stint, which ultimately didn’t succeed. “In the end I think they were in trouble with the lap times,” he said. “It did [contribute] to the crash of Nick Tandy because he obviously had no more tires. The risk is very high.”

***Davidson won the race with a broken toe, after stubbing his foot into a door in the garage while scrambling for a pit stop when a Full Course Yellow was due to be deployed for a stray cat that wandered onto the track. “I thought that hurt and it got worse and worse through the stint,” he said. “It was pretty difficult to maintain the braking energy recovery as the stint went on.”

***The No. 8 Toyota completed the final four races of the season with the same engine. 

***Hartley was quick to point out in the post-race press conference that Bernhard was not at fault for hitting a bollard, which forced the No. 2 Porsche to make an early stop in the opening hour, as it had been in the middle of the track.

***Andre Lotterer ended his one-year stint with the Porsche LMP1 team winless, in a season that should have seen the German and co-drivers Neel Jani and Nick Tandy score three victories if not for team orders. “There were wins that were meant to be but they were not for us,” Lotterer said.

***The German was the only driver to have taken part in every LMP1 race in the current era. “I’ve been a pretty lucky boy to do 50 races in the WEC,” Lotterer said. “I always thought if I’m not driving those cars, I’d be deadly jealous. I’ve been in there from the beginning, so I’m pretty lucky. You always want to win but it doesn’t always happen. We’ll look back at these great moments and great racing in many years to come.”

***Matthias Mueller, the Chairman of the Executive Board of Volkswagen AG, waved the green flag to signal the cars off the grid. A number of other top VW and Porsche executives were on hand for the German manufacturer’s final LMP1 race, including Porsche CEO Oliver Blume, R&D board member Michael Steiner and Dr. Wolfgang Porsche.

***To make Vaillante Rebellion’s LMP2 class victory with the No. 31 Oreca 07 Gibson all the more impressive, it came despite a five-second time penalty awarded for contact between Bruno Senna and Jean-Eric Vergne in the No. 24 Manor entry early in the race.

***Jackie Chan DC Racing’s No. 38 Oreca suffered a fuel pick-up issue late in the race that caused a drop-off in pace, hindering Oliver Jarvis in his push to catch Senna in the closing stages.

***AF Corse opted to swap its cars in GTE-Pro in the final minutes to make up for a strategy mistake on the No. 71 Ferrari earlier in the race. Despite crossing the line first, neither Bird nor Davide Rigon gained any extra championship positions. It marked AF Corse’s fifth class win in nine races this season.

***Moments after stepping out of the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE and claiming his second win of the year for AF Corse, Bird proposed to long-term girlfriend Hollie Harrington in the pit lane. “I’m glad that she said yes because it would have been embarrassing if she said no!” a beaming Bird said after the race.

***James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi became the first FIA-recognized world champions in GTE-Pro after the class was given world championship status for the 2017 season. Calado also became the first British driver to win the GTE-Pro title, as well as delivering AF Corse’s first drivers’ crown since Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander took the championship in 2014.

***A starter motor issue for the No. 67 Ford GT cost Harry Tincknell nearly 30 seconds during a pit stop with less than two hours ago, solidifying Tincknell and Andy Priaulx’s third place class finish. “We knew it would be a medium to long shot to win the championship and although at one point early in the race it looked like it might be possible we ultimately didn’t have the pace,” said Ford WEC team principal George Howard-Chappell.

***Two of racing’s great names, Senna and Lauda, took titles on Saturday, but they were remarkably their first in motorsport. Ayrton Senna’s nephew, Bruno, clinched the LMP2 title, while Niki Lauda’s son, Mathias, finally captured his maiden crown in GTE-Am with Aston Martin Racing.

***It would have been a hat-trick of famous F1 relatives winning titles in Bahrain had Nicolas Prost not missed the race at the Nurburgring due to clashing Formula E commitments. Prost ultimately finished the season 18 points behind co-drivers Senna and Julien Canal.

***Saturday’s race marked the final WEC event for Lisa Crampton, the assistant to Race Director Eduardo Freitas. Crampton has been with the championship since its launch. Lisa Weishard, who has worked in LMEM’s marketing department, will take Crampton’s role next year.

***It’s understood a number of WEC staff are set to depart to be part of the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Luke Smith contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Luc

    November 19, 2017 at 3:28 am

    Really sucks for Prost! Same for Lotterer with Porsche applying team orders.
    Congratulations to all championship winners. Hell of a season. Especially for Rebellion, a class act team. Always full of friendly people.

  2. John

    November 19, 2017 at 6:39 am

    Did the Porsche and VW brass show up just to twist the knife, or in a odd display of irony?

    Kinda like a boss attending the going away party for the employee they just fired.

    • James Schroeder

      November 20, 2017 at 5:56 pm

      I think the actually company brass may have been supportive of continuing but the board controlls the purse strings and they were the ones making the quit decision.

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