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Bahrain Post-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s post-race notebook from the FIA WEC season finale in Bahrain…

Photo: Marius Hecker/Adrenal Media

***The 8 Hours of Bahrain brought the curtain down on the 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship and in turn marked the end of sports car racing’s LMP1 era.

***The LMP1 class was introduced in 2004 and went on to propel the WEC through its first eight seasons as the headline category, attracting OEM brands with sophisticated hybrid technology as well as privateer constructors.

***Reflecting on the end of LMP1, specifically the hybrid era, Toyota’s Sebastien Buemi said: “It was amazing to have those cars. They were getting faster year after year and the rate of development was amazing.”

***LMP1 cars will continue to be eligible in the Hypercar class next season, competing with performance-balancing measures alongside the new breed of LMH machinery.

***Bahrain also marked the end of open tire competition in the WEC, with Goodyear taking over as the exclusive LMP2 supplier next year. Additionally, the 2017-spec Porsche 911 RSR bowed out with a win before the RSR-19 model joins GTE-Am in 2021.

***Le Mans Endurance Management CEO Gerard Neveu and WEC head of communications Fiona Miller waved green flags to set the cars on their formation lap. Both key members of the championship organizing team are leaving their positions after the season. Neveu also waved the checkered flag at the end of the race.

***The five-point gap differentiating new FIA World Endurance champions Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez from their Toyota teammates Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley equaled the closest-ever margin between crews at the top of the table. Porsche’s Marc Lieb, Neel Jani and Romain Dumas won the 2016 title by five points as well.

***Lopez is the third driver to win an FIA world title in more than one discipline, adding to his three World Touring Car championships. Petter Solberg (rally, rallycross) and Fernando Alonso (WEC, Formula One) are the others.

***In a neat coincidence, the two sets of GTE class champions from 2016 returned to win their categories this season. Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen became FIA World Endurance GT champions while Emmanuel Collard and Francois Perrodo, who rejoined the GTE-Am class in 2019-20, triumphed again after finishing second in Bahrain with their Nicklas Nielsen.

****Additionally, the outgoing drivers’ champions in three categories – LMP1 and both GTE classes – won their races on Saturday.

***For the first time since the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans, an LMP2 car finished in the overall top-three. Fittingly, it was Jackie Chan DC Racing that achieved outright podiums on both occasions. Ho-Pin Tung was the only member of the team’s Bahrain-winning crew to also feature on the Le Mans podium three years ago.

***Jota Sport is looking to contest the 2021 European Le Mans Series in LMP2, in addition to a planned two-car presence in WEC. Jota partner Sam Hignett said: “The testing ability it gives you, that’s the main opportunity. With six [WEC] rounds, you can’t really justify the overhead costs, so we need to look at something else as well.”

***Hignett added that hasn’t been determined whether Jota’s Jackie Chan DCR entry will return next year, with several factors at play for the program run by David Cheng. “It depends on their situation,” said Hignett. “Those guys are based in Wuhan, so it’s not been easy. We’ve worked with them for four years and it would be a shame if it came to an end, but all good things come to an end. We’ll have to wait and see.”

***Signatech Alpine had to make a late splash for fuel because its car battled the race with an issue that meant it couldn’t eke out more than 22 laps at each stint. The final stop coast Thomas Laurent a podium as he fell behind Racing Team Nederland’s Nyck de Vries.

“We were losing 1.5 seconds per lap to try to arrive at the end of the race without the splash at the end,” Laurent told Sportscar365. “It was a bitter shame because we did really well after the safety car and we had the potential maybe for second place.”

***The Jota Sport cars that finished first and second in LMP2 completed the race on Goodyear’s medium ‘B-spec’ tire. Goodyear had made its softer ‘A-spec’ compound available but teams elected to stay on the B to match the higher-than-expected night temperatures.

***Porsche’s motorsport vice president Fritz Enzinger hailed the manufacturer’s performances on its triple-duty weekend of factory team involvement across the 8 Hours of Bahrain, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Paul Ricard 1000km:

“Double victories at Bahrain and Sebring, P2 after hard title fight at the season finale of GTWC Europe at Paul Ricard: unbelievable race weekend for Porsche,” said Enzinger. “Thanks to all who made it possible at the tracks and at home.”

***On his absence from the WEC grid for the first time in 23 races, Alessandro Pier Guidi won the GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup overall drivers’ title at Paul Ricard.

***The WEC’s end-of-season prize-giving ceremony took place in the pit lane post-race. It included a set of special awards in addition to the season winners’ trophies.

***United Autosports driver Filipe Albuquerque won the ‘Excellence Award’ presented by former Audi motorsport boss Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, while Aston Martin Racing’s Ross Gunn was presented with the ‘Revelation of the Year’ prize by FIA Endurance Commission president Richard Mille. Proton Competition team owner-driver Christian Ried was named ‘Gentleman of the Year’ and received his trophy from ACO president Pierre Fillon.

***Larry ten Voorde won the GTE-Am class in Bahrain for the second time this season, completing a ’16 hours of Bahrain’ sweep, although his wins came in different Team Project 1 Porsches. After joining Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen in Felipe Fraga’s absence last year, the reigning Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup champion took victory on Saturday with Egidio Perfetti and Joerg Bergmeister.

***A fuel pickup problem was behind a slow trip to the pit box that cost United Autosports 50 seconds in the race and contributed to it falling out of the LMP2 lead battle. “This was our first time off the podium all year, but it’s hard to complain when we have had such a great year,” said team co-owner Richard Dean.

***Bahraini national flags were flown at half-mast during the race following the death of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa last Wednesday. Having held his position since 1971, Sheikh Khalifa was the world’s longest-serving PM until his passing aged 84.

***Following a mammoth 2019-20 campaign lasting almost 16 months, the WEC is set for a four-month winter break to prepare for the 2021 season which is due to kick-off at the 1000 Miles of Sebring on Mar. 19.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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