No.8 Toyota caps off WEC season finale with a title win

No.8 Toyota caps off WEC season finale with a title win

The No.7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid piloted by Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, and Ryo Hirakawa  won the World Endurance Drivers’ Championship for the second time in a row on Saturday in Bahrain.

Toyota’s Brendon Hartley, Ryo Hirakawa, and Sebastien Buemi easily dominated the 8 Hours of Bahrain to secure their second consecutive FIA World Endurance Championship Hypercar World Drivers’ Championship.

This season, the #7 Toyota team won a total of four races compared to the #8 team’s two victories; however, the #8 crew’s consistency was essential in securing the championship.

The No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid emerged victorious with a margin of 47.516 seconds over the sister No. 7 car driven by Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez, and Kamui Kobayashi.

The race was virtually decided at the green flag when Earl Bamber of Cadillac locked up at Turn 1 after having started from third. The cadillac caught up and turned around Mike Conway’s #7 Toyota, which was attempting to hold onto second place behind Buemi’s pole-positioned #8 GR010 Hybrid.

Even though Kamui Kobayashi overtook the Brit and moved the team up to second place, Conway was able to regain third position within an hour of the race. However, the #7 crew was never able to close the 30-second gap that Buemi had established during the first two laps of the race.

In a race where tyre degradation was a major factor in determining the order of finish, Ferrari emerged as Toyota’s closest rival. Miguel Molina, Antonio Fuoco, and Nicklas Nielsen finished third in the fastest of the Ferrari 499P Hypercars.

This came after both Ferraris exchanged tyre rubs during the penultimate hour. Alessandro Pier Guidi and Fuoco made contact soon after the Italian pulled to a position ahead by pitting the #51 car a lap later.

Pier Guidi dropped to sixth in the car he shared with James Calado and Antonio Giovinazzi, but Fuoco was eventually able to pull away to put Ferrari back on the podium following a lackluster performance at Fuji.

The independent Jota team finished in fourth place after a strong performance from Antonio Felix da Costa, Will Stevens, and Yifei Ye in their customer Porsche 963 LMDh. 

Jota had moved up the ranks to as high as third during the eight-hour race, but the team’s chances of placing first in the Hypercar class were ruined by a drive-through penalty.

After running wide into Turn 1 in the sixth hour and receiving a penalty, Da Costa—who will depart the WEC in order to concentrate on Porsche’s Formula E program—was deemed to have returned to the track in a dangerous manner.

In the final hour, Stevens pursued Fuoco after assuming control of the car from da Costa, but the Ferrari driver was less than a second away from taking the third position.

The top-performing factory Porsche Penske 963 LMDh cars, driven by Andre Lotterer, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor, finished fifth.

Following a crash between Bamber and Conway at the start, Vanthoor dropped to ninth place and almost at the back of the Hypercar field. However, the #6 crew was able to steadily recover from the blow and finish behind Jota.

Michael Christensen, Dane Cameron, and Frederic Makowiecki’s sister #5 car was docked a  two five-second penalty for full-course yellow violations and as a result, it came in seventh, behind the #51 Ferrari.

Peugeot’s performance was disappointing once again with the radical 9X8 set to receive a significant upgrade next year. The best of its two cars, driven by Gustavo Menezes, Loic Duval, and Nico Muller, finished in eighth place, two laps down.

The sister #93 Peugeot piloted by Mikkel Jensen, Paul di Resta, and Jean-Eric Vergne finished ninth after receiving a drive-through penalty for violating FCY regulations. Neel Jani, Gianmaria Bruni, and Harry Tincknell’s Proton Porsche rounded out the top ten.

Bamber was given a 60-second stop/go penalty following his initial collision with Conway’s Toyota, after which Cadillac was unable to overcome. This penalty dropped him and his teammates, Richard Westbrook and Alex Lynn to 11th position, three laps down.

WRT secures the final LMP2 title

Louis Deletraz, Robert Kubica, and Rui Andrade surged from 10th to secure their third victory of the season in the #41 ORECA 07, giving WRT the final LMP2 title in WEC history.

The Belgian team finished in first place, followed by Ferdinand Habsburg, Sean Gelael, and Robin Frijns, who were nine seconds behind in the sister #31 car.

With 39 points available during qualifying and the race, the #41 team led the Inter Europol team that won the Le Mans 24-hour race by 33 points going into Bahrain.

However, Inter Europol never appeared at the front of the field as any hopes of a shocking upset in the title bout were dashed by Albert Costa’s short delay in the fourth hour.

Ultimately, Costa, Jakub Smiechowski, and Fabio Scherer placed sixth in the #34 ORECA.

The #28 JOTA driven by David Heinemeier-Hansson, Pietro Fittipaldi, and Oliver Rasmussen took the final podium slot. Much like both WRT cars, the car finished the race with 10 pit stops, as opposed to the 11 that most individuals in the LMP2 field made.

The race’s first lap multi-car collision was brought about by Phil Hanson’s #22 United Autosports Oreca crashing into Tristan Vautier’s Vanwall LMH car. Gabriel Aubry managed to avoid it, giving the Vector team the lead.

Subsequently, Pole sitter Tom Blomqvist, who had already lost positions after going wide at Turn 1 in the sister #23 United Autosports, collected Vautier.

However, Vector’s prospects to triumph were superficial as they were assessed a 90-second stop/go penalty for using lower tire pressure than approved. Eventually, the #10 ORECA was forced to retire after a throttle problem in the last hour of the race.

Vector’s issues gave the #23 United car the advantage to regain the lead and eventually, Blomqvist, Oliver Jarvis and Joshua Pierson ended up eighth in the final standings due to the identical tire pressure penalty.

Iron Dames caps off GTE era with a title win

In the final WEC race for GTE cars, Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting, and Rahel Frey with the Iron Dames team won for the first time in team history aboard the #85 Porsche 911 RSR-19.

Bovy, Gatting and Frey improved upon their two second-place finishes in 2022 while running a Ferrari 488 GTE as they overcame the #777 D’station Aston Martin Vantage GT3 driven by Tomonobu Fujii, Casper Stevenson and Liam Talbot by 5 seconds after beginning from pole position in the WEC finale.

The sister team Iron Lynx led the majority of the race, with Matteo Cresini and Alessio Picarellio both putting in quick laps in the #56 Porsche 911 RSR-19.

But the team had to bring their entry into the pits at the end of the sixth hour and ultimately retire the car because gentleman racer Claudio Schiavoni was feeling under the weather and could not drive for the required 2h20m for a bronze-rated driver.

As a result, Iron Dames took the lead, a position that the all-female crew held until 10 p.m. local time, when the checkered flag was brought up. Ian James, Daniel Mancinelli, and Alex Riberas driving the Heart of Racing Aston Martin rounded out the podium.

Ben Keating’s Nicky Catsburg and Nicolas Varrone piloting the Corvette finished seventh to cap off their championship-winning campaign.

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