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8 HOURS OF BAHRAIN: TOYOTA SECURES DRIVER'S TITLE



Toyota has once again proven its dominance in the World Endurance Championship right in the heart of Bahrain. On the Sakhir circuit, the Japanese team celebrated its sixth driver's title in the FIA WEC with an exceptional lineup consisting of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, and Ryo Hirakawa aboard the GR010 Hybrid. This team replicated their success from the previous year, surpassing their teammates Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez, and Mike Conway. Toyota has once more demonstrated its unassailable position, making the most of its extensive experience in prototypes to secure its sixth seasonal victory in the WEC, including an impressive four one-two finishes.


The battle for the driver's championship within the Toyota team was virtually decided on the very first lap when Earl Bamber slid wide during braking, unintentionally colliding with Conway and sending the Toyota into a spin. Starting from pole position, Buemi quickly seized the opportunity to pull away from the Ferraris of Alessandro Pier Guidi and Miguel Molina, who skillfully navigated the chaos at the start. Bamber paid a steep price for his error, as he was penalized with a one-minute Stop & Go penalty. Conway, who had fallen to the back of the field, embarked on an astonishing comeback, earning a podium finish by the end of his first stint.


Kamui Kobayashi was then tasked with overtaking the Ferrari of James Calado, who had replaced Pier Guidi, to close in on race leader Brendon Hartley following the initial driver change. Hartley, the pole-sitter, experienced a tense moment during an overtaking maneuver when he made slight contact with Mike Wainwright's Porsche 911 RSR. After confirming that the GR010 had not sustained significant damage, Hartley continued the race without issues, eventually handing the wheel to Ryo Hirakawa, who further extended the lead over Lopez. Finally, it was once again Kobayashi's responsibility to bring the Toyota to the finish line, escorted by his teammate Conway.


With the top two positions firmly secured by Toyota, attention shifted to the battle for the third spot on the podium. In the dark of Sakhir's night, it was the Team Jota Porsche that fearlessly fought against the two Ferrari 499Ps. The British team was hampered by a drive-through penalty imposed on Antonio Felix da Costa for a dangerous re-entry onto the track. Despite this setback, da Costa, along with Yifei Ye and Will Stevens, managed to secure fourth place, overtaking both Ferraris. Meanwhile, Antonio Fuoco and Pier Guidi engaged in a fierce battle in the closing stages, with Fuoco ultimately prevailing over the Le Mans winner.


Ferrari 499P #51 was later overtaken by the Porsche Penske driven by Kevin Estre, Andre Lotterer, and Laurens Vanthoor, finishing seventh. The twin 963 LMDh driven by Dane Cameron, Michael Christensen, and Frederic Makowiecki managed to outperform both Peugeot 9X8s, which once again played a secondary role. The Proton Competition team was unlucky, with Gianmaria Bruni forced into an extended pit stop due to a pedal issue while contending for top positions.


The final race of the WEC for LMP2 was dominated by Team WRT. The Belgian squad, transitioning to Hypercars with BMW LMDh next year, achieved a remarkable one-two finish with the newly crowned class champions Louis Deletraz, Robert Kubica, and Rui Andrade leading the way, followed by their teammates Sean Gelael, Robin Frijns, and Ferdinand Habsburg. The defending champions, Jota, settled for the third spot on the podium.


Team Prema delivered an impressive performance, leading the mid-stage of the Bahrain 8 Hours with both Oreca 07s. Despite being hit by Daniel Mancinelli's Aston Martin, Bent Viscaal, partnered with Filip Ugran and Juan Manuel Correa, secured a fourth-place finish in their class, ahead of their teammates Mirko Bortolotti, Dorian Pin, and Daniil Kvyat. The Inter Europol Competition, winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, settled for sixth place, hampered by electrical issues with their Oreca.


The LMP2 category also had a chaotic start, with pole-sitter Tom Blomqvist involved in an incident with Philip Hanson's United Autosports. The collision also affected Matthieu Vaxiviere and the Vanwall LMH. Benefiting from the turmoil was Gabriel Aubry, who expertly led the initial stages of the race before receiving a Stop & Go penalty due to irregular tire pressures, ultimately leading to his retirement.


In the LMGTE category, history was made with the first all-female crew to secure a victory in the WEC. After coming close to victory on several occasions, Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting, and Rahel Frey finally claimed the top spot on the podium. Starting from pole position, the Iron Dames provided support to their teammates Matteo Cressoni and Alessio Picariello in the early stages of the race. Unfortunately, the Porsche Iron Lynx duo, which had dominated the majority of the race, was forced to return to the pits due to Claudio Schivoni's physical discomfort.


Back in the lead, the Iron Dames held off a late charge from the Aston Martin Vantage of D’Station Racing, piloted by Liam Talbot, Casper Stevenson, and Tomonobu Fuji. The podium was completed by the Heart of Racing team, composed of Mancinelli, Ian James, and Alex Riberas. The AF Corse team's Ferrari 488 GTE, driven by Davide Rigon, Thomas Flohr, and Francesco Castellacci, secured fourth place. The Corvette team of champions Ben Keating, Nicolas Varrone, and Nicky Catsburg was unable to mount a comeback and settled for seventh place in their class.




© Cavalieri Garage & Co.

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