Antonio Felix da Costa said that he carried out a pair of “express stints” to gain back-to-back LMP2 podium places for the No. 38 JOTA crew in the closing stages of each FIA World Endurance Championship race at Bahrain International Circuit.
Da Costa, Anthony Davidson and Roberto Gonzalez finished second in the 8 Hours of Bahrain season finale on Saturday, behind runaway winners Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg and Charles Milesi who also sealed the championship with Team WRT.
Second place was only decided with four minutes to go when da Costa overtook his JOTA teammate Tom Blomqvist in the No. 28 Oreca 07 Gibson on the inside at Turn 1.
It came after the Portuguese driver seized third place from United Autosports’ Filipe Albuquerque in the last 15 minutes of the 6 Hours of Bahrain, which took place the previous weekend.
In the eight-hour race, Da Costa was the only LMP2 front-runner not to pit during the penultimate round of LMP2 stops under the fifth Full Course Yellow period, which superficially brought him out ahead of Blomqvist for the penultimate stint.
That move led to a slightly longer final stop for da Costa, which promoted Blomqvist back ahead until the gap between the JOTA cars narrowed into the position switch.
“The plan changed like three or four times,” da Costa told Sportscar365.
“When I jumped in the car for the last double [driving] stint, I had six tires to use. So I was going to push flat-out on the first four, and then box for fuel and two tires because we saved them throughout the race.
“Because we got the United car earlier than we thought, if we changed the tires we would lose the place. So I had to stay on the four tires and I kind of over-pushed on them.
“I knew I was going to struggle at the end of my double, so when the FCY came I said to box. But because we didn’t box on the first lap and the [FCY] was going green, we decided not to.
“So we knew we had second on track when that happened, but it was virtual. It was not real, so I had to pass the sister car on the track.
“This race and last weekend, the last half-hour has been express stints trying to get through people. But it’s what makes it fun.
“The team has always been super fair to let us race. There is a lot of respect between me and Tom; we have known each other for many years.”
Da Costa felt the No. 38 JOTA crew could be “proud” of its third place in the LMP2 standings considering Gonzalez is a non-professional Silver-rated driver. The same trio of da Costa, Davidson and Gonzalez finished second in the points last season.
He reckoned the No. 38 could have produced a more serious bid for the championship crown had it not retired from the 6 Hours of Monza due to electrical issues and from the 24 Hours of Le Mans due to an unusual incident for race leader Davidson.
“We have to be proud,” said da Costa. “Roberto is a real Silver driver: he will be in the office on Monday working on his daily duties.
“With the Silvers we have had to face this year like Milesi and Fabio [Scherer], Roberto is not quite on their pace and he shouldn’t be. I think we over-delivered with him.
“His improvement has been good, but our races were always catch-up.
“Where we lost the championship for me, it was probably Monza. We retired from a six-hour race and it can’t happen. We were running second, so that was 18 points gone right there.
“And obviously Le Mans with the issue from the lead. So to be honest, we can be sad, but WRT did an amazing job and they deserved it.
“They had the quickest car, so the title was well-delivered.”