Ho-Pin Tung felt that Jackie Chan DC Racing’s 8 Hours of Bahrain winning performance was a sign of “huge progress” made by the team over the 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship as it scored its first LMP2 victory of the campaign at the final round.
Tung, Will Stevens and Gabriel Aubry won after beating their teammate Jota Sport-run No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson crew of Anthony Davidson, Antonio Felix da Costa and Roberto Gonzalez.
It brought an end to a two-year victory drought for the Jackie Chan DCR squad, which last took LMP2 honors in the 6 Hours of Shanghai during the 2018-19 ‘Super Season’.
Its Bahrain win was confirmed after Aubry hunted down and passed da Costa after the JOTA driver took his final pit stop a lap later to come out ahead having taken on less fuel.
Tung told Sportscar365 after the checkered flag that victory validated the Jackie Chan DCR crew’s improvements over the season with its Goodyear-shod No. 37 Oreca.
“With the No. 38 [JOTA car] having a one lap later stop, we knew that it would be really tight,” he said.
“Antonio had to push extremely hard to catch up with us, a bit similar to what I had to do with Anthony earlier on.
“Gabby did a fantastic job, as did Will. The race win was a long time coming for us. We’ve been very strong in several races this season but we haven’t always been rewarded.
“Le Mans was a hard race and we had issues when in the lead there. As a team, we’ve made huge progress over the year. We really managed to extract the best out of the partnership with Goodyear as well, so it’s amazing to end the season like this.”
Tung highlighted tire management as one of the key factors at play in the LMP2 battle, specifically each driver lineup’s ability to conserve rubber over the course of double stints.
With an allocation of 26 tires for the eight-hour race and qualifying, LMP2 teams needed to double stint tires in order to reach the finish under hot track temperatures.
“We knew from the beginning that it would be a tire degradation race,” explained Tung.
“Often you say you drive towards the grip, but we felt like we had to drive below the grip to really conserve the tires, especially when the track was quite clean. We did a better job than the other cars because our second stints were quite strong.
“Especially in the first half of the first stint, we managed it to the extreme, so you could maybe see that at the end when we were fighting for the lead.
“With the track having improved a bit we knew that we could afford ourselves to do so. From that moment we were able to run the same pace.
“Early in the race, we knew the second stint [of a double] would be crucial to get out on top as we did. In the first stint everyone took off and in the second stint, we came back. That was part of the game we had to play for this race and it panned out really well for us.”
Tung added that the No. 37 Oreca also had to battle with “vibrations” in the second half of the race after United Autosports’ Filipe Albuquerque drove into the back of Aubry as the pair braked for the speed limit pit entry.
Aubry Had “One Opportunity” to Take da Costa
Following a string of lead changes earlier in the race, Jackie Chan DCR moved to the head of the field with around one and a half hours remaining when Tung drove around the outside of Davidson at the tight Turn 10 left-hander leading onto the back straight.
This enabled Aubry to lead going into the No. 37 car’s final double stint, for which the Frenchman took on two new Goodyear slicks on the left and a pair of right-side tires used in qualifying the previous day.
While JOTA’s ability to keep da Costa – who had closed the 10-second gap on track – out for an extra tour thrust the Formula E champion into the lead, Aubry’s tire conservation in the first half of his double enabled him to go on the attack in the closing stages.
“I knew that if I was doing my job in the first [part of the] double stint there was no way he could catch eight seconds,” Aubry told Sportscar365.
“He decided to over-push his first stint, meaning that he would destroy his tires in the second stint. But he made the move and he had the track position in the pit stop.
“It’s so hard to overtake [in Bahrain] without any help from traffic, but I was lucky. I had one opportunity to take and I took it.”
Aubry sealed the win by taking da Costa at the same corner where Tung rounded Davidson, using a GTE-Am class Ferrari to forge a route down the inside.
“I don’t think Antonio was expecting me to dive on the Ferrari so he opened the corner, and so I went back on the throttle next to him,” described Aubry.
“I don’t think he was expecting it because he turned into me. If I was a bit more on the back [of him] we would have spun. But because it was wheel against wheel, nothing happened.
“After the tough year that we’ve had, to be able to fight for the front position and to make the move after a great fight with Antonio for the win, it was very well deserved.”