While drivers champions have been decided in LMP1, GTE-Pro and GTE-Am, the title race in LMP2 will go down to the wire in next weekend’s FIA WEC Six Hours of Sao Paulo following a massive points swing in Bahrain.
G-Drive Racing retook the lead of the LMP2 championship following a topsy turvy Six Hours of Bahrain that saw both Russian-backed title contenders hit trouble in what proved to be one of the most unpredictable races of the season.
The pole-sitting G-Drive Ligier JS P2 Nissan of Olivier Pla, which had closed its points deficit to just 7 points entering the penultimate round, collided with the No. 37 SMP Racing Oreca 03R-Nissan on the opening lap.
It resulted in the Ligier losing three laps in the pits due to a broke right-rear wishbone. The OAK Racing-run entry lost further ground in the fourth hour when it had to also replace the left-rear wishbone.
Pla and co-drivers Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal appeared to be en route to a fifth place finish in class, losing ground on the championship to the No. 27 SMP entry and Sergey Zlobin, which was running second in the hands of Nic Minassian.
However, with just 15 minutes remaining, Minassian crawled into the pits with smoke billowing out of the rear of his Oreca-Nissan, with gearbox failure resulting in a DNF and zero points for he and co-drivers Zlobin and Maurizio Mediani.
In a twist, the G-Drive squad reclaimed the championship lead as a result of their fourth place finish, but third place points on the day (due to the non-points scoring No. 35 OAK entry, which finished third).
“In the end, we were very lucky,” said G-Drive Racing team principal Philippe Dumas. “That’s racing, and it’s never over. It was a tough weekend for us, but it’s ended on quite a good note for the championship.”
Pla, Rusinov and Canal now head into next weekend’s title decider in Brazil with a narrow 8-point margin over SMP’s Zlobin. The same gap separates the two teams in the teams’ championship as well.
A win for the G-Drive team, or second place finish and pole position, would give the hotly contested LMP2 title to Pla and company, although nothing is being taken for granted.
“It just goes to show that it’s never truly over,” Pla said after the race in Bahrain. “It’s in these extremely difficult moments that you realize you have a good team.
“I’ll be giving it my all right up until the checkered flag in Sao Paulo to be able to give this title to my beloved team.”