Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez extended their points lead with a dominant win in Saturday’s 6 Hours of Bahrain.
The No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid cruised to a 51.401-second victory over the sister No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing entry that faced several pit lane miscues and a higher level of tire degradation in the penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship season.
Having started on pole, the No. 8 Toyota of Sebastien Buemi led early until the first of three so-called team-ordered overtakes that saw the pair of Le Mans Hypercar entries swap positions in the opening two hours.
A slower pit stop on two occasions, including one for an apparent wheel nut issue, saw Buemi and co-drivers Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima’s challenge slowly fade away.
It marked the No. 7 crew’s third consecutive win and has extended their championship lead to 15 points over the sister entry heading into next weekend’s eight-hour title-decider.
The win was also enough for the Japanese manufacturer to clinch its third consecutive world championship title, and first in the Hypercar era.
The No. 36 Signatech-run Alpine A480 Gibson of Nico Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Matthieu Vaxiviere completed the overall and Hypercar class podium in third after overcoming an early race clash with the No. 88 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 of Khaled al Qubaisi, who was deemed at fault.
Team WRT scored its second straight LMP2 class win with its 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning trio of Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg and Charles Milesi taking over the points lead as a result.
Following a frantic first half that saw a number of cars on various tire strategies, the Belgian squad emerged as the front-runners, with Audi factory driver Frijns crossing the line 1 minute and 1.872 seconds ahead of the No. 28 JOTA Oreca 07 Gibson of Tom Blomqvist in second.
It came after a ten-second penalty for the No. 22 United Autosports Oreca of Filipe Albuquerque on his second-to-final stop for contact with Renger van der Zande’s No. 34 Inter Europol Competition that spun the Dutchman around.
Albuquerque emerged just ahead of Blomqvist following the stop but faded to fourth in class in the end after also losing third to the No. 38 JOTA entry of Antonio Felix Da Costa with 15 minutes to go.
The No. 29 Racing Team Nederland entry of Frits van Eerd, Giedo van der Garde and Job van Uitert picked up top LMP2 Pro-Am honors with a fifth place finish.
Porsche Dominates GTE-Pro, Closes Gap to Ferrari
Kevin Estre and Neel Jani closed to a single point of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi with Porsche GT Team’s third GTE-Pro class victory of the season.
The No. 92 Porsche duo dominated the class from start to finish, with Estre finishing 0.690 seconds ahead of teammate Gianmaria Bruni in another 1-2 result for the German manufacturer.
It came after the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo of Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado, which entered the weekend with a 12-point lead, finishing third in class, more than 35 seconds behind.
Both Ferraris were unable to match the pace of the Porsches after receiving a turbo boost decrease outside of the WEC’s automatic Balance of Performance system prior to the event.
TF Sport, meanwhile, came out on top in GTE-Am, giving Aston Martin its first WEC class win in more than a year.
The No. 33 Aston Martin Vantage GTE of Ben Keating, Dylan Pereira and Felipe Fraga picked up top class honors despite a late-race charge by Matt Campbell in the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche that came home second in class.
The Australian came within six seconds of Fraga at the checkered flag.
Matteo Cairoli drove the No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche to a podium finish, despite a battle with the No. 98 Aston Martin of Marcos Gomes that resulted in the stewards forcing the Italian driver to relinquish the position at the time.
Cairoli quickly retook the spot, with the Prodrive-run Aston crossing the line fourth in the hands of Augusto Farfus.
RESULTS: 6H Bahrain