Toyota broke through to claim victory in Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain, while American squad 8Star Motorsports took home the GTE-Am teams’ title.
The No. Toyota 8 entry of Stephane Sarrazin, Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi scored their first win with the TS030 Hybrid and the second for the Japanese manufacturer this season following an attrition-filled race that saw retirements for three of the five LMP1 cars.
Buemi took the gasoline-powered hybrid to a 1 minute and 10-second victory over the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Andre Lotterer and co-drivers Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler in second, with the LMP2 class-winning No. 26 G-Drive Racing by Delta-ADR Oreca 03 Nissan completing the overall podium in third.
“We did very good and the car was very fast,” Sarrazin said. “It’s perfect. I’m happy for Toyota also to get a proper win. We were the fastest on track.”
Davidson added: “Sebastien did a great job to get the car into the lead. He was a bit of a demon in traffic and did the business there. We were pushing as hard and I was convinced one of our cars was going to win, especially early on.”
Toyotas ran 1-2 early in the race until the pole-sitting No. 7 entry of Alex Wurz retired with engine issues in the second hour.
It promoted the championship-elect No. 2 Audi of Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval to second in the race until the Frenchman ground to a halt on track with drivetrain failure.
While Allan McNish did not drive today, he and co-drivers Kristensen and Duval still took home the Drivers’ World Championship, having locked up the title last time out in Shanghai.
Rebellion Racing, the lone LMP1 privateer in the field, retired early with engine failure for its No. 12 Lola B12/60 Toyota, promoting a LMP2 car to the overall podium, the first time since the Twelve Hours of Sebring in 2012.
Of U.S. interest, 8Star picked up the GTE-Am teams’ championship with a second place class finish for the No. 81 Ferrari of Enzo Potolicchio, Rui Aguas and Davide Rigon.
It marked back-to-back WEC titles for an American squad, both coming with the Venezuelan owner/driver at the wheel, although both Potolicchio and season-long co-driver Aguas lost out on the drivers’ title by a single point.
“It was an amazing season,” Potolicchio said. “We had bad luck with our puncture at Le Mans and that cost us the championship. Then, Aston Martin played it not fair enough for two races with two drivers. We’re happy with the teams’ championship but we definitely had a chance to win the drivers’ championship as well.”
G-Drive’s Mike Conway, John Martin and Roman Rusinov took the LMP2 class win, their fourth in the last five races. But it still wasn’t enough to deny OAK Racing’s Martin Plowman, Bertrand Baguette and Ricardo Gonzalez from taking the drivers’ title.
The No. 35 Morgan-Nissan finished fourth on Saturday, giving the French squad a 1-2 finish in the teams’ championship as well.
AF Corse, Gianmaria Bruni and Ferrari claimed their second consecutive series title after taking a dominant class win.
Bruni and co-driver Toni Vilander peddled the No. 51 Ferrari 458 Italia to a 43.532-second victory over the No. 91 Porsche AG Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR of Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Pilet in second.
“Without Toni, it would have not been possible,” said Bruni, who was rejoined by his former co-driver this weekend. “To win the race, we needed good pace, consistent pace at all times. I think we were not the quickest, but consistent.”
Their win came following a double retirement by Aston Martin Racing, which had led all three championships heading into this weekend.
The No. 97 entry of Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke retired with two hours and 15 minutes to go with engine issues, while its saving grace for the manufacturers’ cup, the No. 99 Vantage V8, which ran in second, dropped out in the final hour.
Aston’s issues promoted the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari of Kamui Kobayashi and Giancarlo Fisichella to the final step of the podium in third, which was good enough to give Fisichella, separated from Bruni for today’s race, second place in the drivers’ championship.
Despite having entered Bahrain with a 17.5-point deficit, Ferrari took the GTE Manufacturers’ World Cup.
While GTE-Am class honors went to the No. 95 Aston Martin Racing entry of Nicki Thiim, Kristian Poulsen and Christoffer Nygaard, the drivers’ title went to teammates Jamie Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall, having finished fifth in class on Saturday.
In addition to 8Star’s Potolicchio and Aguas, IMSA Performance Matmut’s Raymond Narac and Jean Karl Vernay were also in contention for the championship until suffering suspension failure with two hours to go, which knocked the No. 76 Porsche out of a third place finish.
Instead, the final step of the podium on Saturday went to the No. 61 AF Corse entry of Matt Griffin, Emmanuel Collard and Francois Perrodo.