***Audi went out with a bang, with the German manufacturer sweeping the weekend with pole, fastest race lap from Lucas Di Grassi, and a 1-2 finish in its final race in prototype competition. It marked Audi’s 107th win in major international sports car racing competition and its 16th in WEC history.
***WEC race director Eduardo Freitas gave a fitting tribute over the radio to teams on the formation lap (video above), which saw the pair of Audi R18s run in formation at the head of the field. “After 18 years, Audi has matured and is leaving home. As a family, we will wait for its return to endurance where it really belongs. From our side, thank you for everything,” Freitas said.
***In addition to Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish, who were in attendance on Saturday, former engineers Howden “H” Haynes and Leena Gade came to Bahrain to support the team in its final race. Dindo Capello, meanwhile, is expected to be at the track for today’s WEC Rookie Test, which will see the team complete its final official running.
***Newly crowned World Champions Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb ended the year with only three podium finishes, including two wins, all achieved in the first three races. The trio’s double-points victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, aided by Toyota’s last-lap misfortunes in the race, was a pivotal factor in winning the World Championship.
***Remarkably, the No. 13 Rebellion Racing trio of Alexandre Imperatori, Dominik Kraihamer and Matheo Tuscher finished 7th in the Drivers’ World Championship, ahead of the No. 5 Toyota drivers. It marked the first time in series history that a LMP1 Privateer team has been classified ahead of a full-season LMP1 factory entrant.
— Mitch Evans (@mitchevans_) November 19, 2016
***Bahrain was also Mark Webber’s final race in professional competition, with a large contingent of supporters turning out, including Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Riccardo and Mitch Evans, two drivers that Webber has helped support through his career, not to mention Porsche co-driver, Kiwi Brendon Hartley.
****A unique strategy by Tequila Patron ESM, in its final WEC race, exposed the flawed driver rating system in LMP2, with its designated Am driver, Chris Cumming, having taken over the car for the final 1 hour and 15 minutes, the required minimum drive time for a Bronze/Silver-rated driver in class. Cumming dropped from the class lead to fourth at the finish.
***Cumming told Sportscar365 post-race that he struggled for grip in his race-ending double-stint, having used the tires he and Pipo Derani qualified on. LMP2 teams were allowed only four sets of tires for qualifying and the race.
***ESM shifts its focus back to IMSA next year, a decision that’s understood to be largely related to driver ratings. Team principals Scott Sharp and Ed Brown, who started the season as drivers in the team’s No. 31 Ligier JS P2 Nissan, were absent from the final three races of the year, electing to not even travel to the WEC events.
***While Aston Martin Racing took home the drivers and team titles in GTE-Pro, the British manufacturer’s No. 98 Vantage GTE dropped out in the third hour with engine failure, dashing its slim hopes of the GTE-Am title. “It wasn’t our day. The team has done a good job. Unfortunately we couldn’t get it done,” Paul Dalla Lana said.
***Brake issues dashed hopes of a podium finish for the No. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R. Ricky Taylor starred early, leading the GTE-Am class in the opening hour before suffering a mysterious braking issue that engaged the brakes on separate occasions for both he and co-driver Pierre Ragues.
***Saturday’s race was not only the final outing for Audi and Mark Webber, but potentially a number of other cars as well in the WEC, including the Rebellion R-One (LMP1), nearly the entire LMP2 field (as new regulations will be introduced next year), plus the Ferrari F458 Italia GT, which is unlikely to return to GTE-Am next year.
***Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl told Sportscar365 they will roll out its 2017-spec Porsche 919 Hybrid in two steps, with a first endurance run planned for next month with most of the 2017 components and the full car running for the first time in February. Seidl said they expect a “good step forward” despite some limitations in having opted for the same monocoque design.
***ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil said he doesn’t expect LMP2 speeds to be reduced next year, despite some initial concerns about the possible drivability for inexperienced gentlemen drivers. “All the gentleman drivers I know that tested the car are happy,” Beaumesnil told Sportscar365. “For sure, it’s a faster car so this car will be for very good gentlemen drivers.”