The no7 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez took their second victory of the 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship with a dominant win at the Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain. The no7 Toyota finished over a lap ahead of their teammates Brendon Hartley, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi and three laps ahead of the third placed no1 Rebellion Racing R13-Gibson.
The race started with pole sitter Bruno Senna in no1 Rebellion Racing R13 being spun around by out of control Team LNT Ginetta of Charlie Robertson. Senna recovered to third place but both cars suffered minor damage in collision. The incident handed lead to no7 Toyota TS050 HYBRID of Mike Conway with the no6 Team LNT Ginetta of Mike Simpson in second and chasing down the lead Toyota.
Sebastien Buemi in the no8 Toyota was also caught up in the opening corner incident. The TS050 suffered front bodywork damage with the front section replaced at first pit stop. The recovering no5 Ginetta was fifth and fighting back after long pitstop.
At the half way point the race was controlled by No.7 Toyota TS 050 HYBRID driven by Mike Conway while Sebastien Buemi dropped back after the no8 Toyota needed to make a rear-deck change at the scheduled pit stop. The no5 Team LNT Ginetta retired midway through sixth hour after Jordan King is forced to stop after losing battery voltage. The no6 Ginetta also retired a couple of hours later when Chris Dyson brought the car in with a technical issue.
Mike Conway – No.7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS 050 HYBRID LMP1
“We thought that the Rebellion would have the pace today and the Ginetta’s as well but once the incident happened in turns one and two and the cars parted I just got my head down and pulled away.
“I managed to pull quite a nice gap after those first two stints and I was surprised really. It looked like Rebellion were going to come back at some point as they were catching a little bit but then after about hour three it seemed like they were not going to hinder us too much.
“We pushed as hard as we could and it was a great job by my teammates who all did a great job today.”
Victory in the LMGTE Pro class went to Aston Martin Racing with the no95 Vantage of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen finishing ahead of the no71 AF Corse Ferrari of Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina after an epic eight hour long battle between the three manufacturers for the win in Bahrain. Aston Martin took the last podium position when the no97 Vantage of Max Martin and Alex Lynn finished ahead of the no51 Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado.
At the start pole sitter Gianmaria Bruni’s Porsche is hit at first corner by Alessandro Pier Guidi’s AF Corse Ferrari, with Pier Guidi taking lead as a result. The Italian led the first hour from second Porsche 911 RSR driven by Kevin Estre, with the no95 Aston Martin Racing of Marco Sorensen was third before making a surprise early pit stop to hand over to Nicki Thiim.
As the race progress there was a four way fight for lead as Pier Guidi with the no92 Porsche of Michael Christensen and the two Aston Martins. Pier Guidi managed to break free as the race approached the half way stage after the out of synch no95 Aston Martin pits and Alex Lynn in the no97 Vantage has contact with Racing Team Nederland LMP2 car and loses time.
Marco Sorensen – No.95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage AMR LMGTE Pro
“It was all about managing the tyres today. I wouldn’t say it was fun in the car but it was interesting to see how different the opposition were using the tyres and where you could push and where you couldn’t push.
“There was not one stint where you were not fighting with other cars. Our boys did an amazing job regarding pit stops because I think it was almost every time we came in to the pits with some of the other cars on track we jumped them.
“Strategy was on point it was on the limit all the time, but In the end, everything worked out to our favour so pretty happy.”
However, there was disaster for Porsche GT Team as both cars suffered long pit stops with the no92 Porsche 911 RSR dropped out of contention with long pit stop for suspected broken damper and the no91 911 had to stop with right front puncture and drops to fifth in class but ahead of sister car.
In the final hour the no95 was leading with the no71 Ferrari of Miguel Molina challenging hard, but the Spaniard spun the wheels of the Ferrari in the final pitstop and had to serve a penalty. He rejoined in second place but the no95 Aston Martin now had a free run to the chequered flag. The final rung of podium was taken by no97 Aston Martin duo of Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin after the no51 AF Corse Ferrari was forced to give up position after fraught battle in which James Calado was judged to have unfairly gained position on Martin by going beyond track limits just after final hour Full Course Yellow was withdrawn.
It was a debut WEC win for United Autosports, with Paul Di Resta, Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque finishing the 8 Hours of Bahrain over 20 seconds ahead of the 4 Hours of Shanghai winning no38 JOTA Oreca-Gibson of Anthony Davidson, Roberto Gonzalez and Antonio Da Costa.
At the start of the race the no22 United Autosports Oreca converted the pole position into the lead of LMP2 as Paul Di Resta headed the no26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 of Job Van Uitert. Di Resta opened up an 18-second gap at front after 60-minutes of racing with Guido Van Der Garde vaulting fellow Dutchman Van Uitert in the no29 Racing Team Nederland Oreca at first scheduled pit stop to take second in class.
Paul Di Resta – No.22 United Autosports Oreca-Gibson LMP2
“We’ve had a car at most races that could have won a race. This was one race where we wanted to energise our championship with it being a bit longer and more points on offer we put ourselves in a good position yesterday [with pole position].
“We managed to control the race but we had a few hiccups in the pits but at the same time I think everyone gets that in the race. It was just nice to finally get it done before we go in to a break now but hopefully momentum is on our side and we can continue this progress when we get to COTA in a few months.”
The no38 JOTA Oreca of Roberto Gonzalez was up to second by the fourth hour with the no22 United Autosports Oreca of Filipe Albuquerque out in front having taken over from Phil Hansen. United Autosports continued to resist JOTA threat as Filipe Albuquerque pulls out 32 second gap over fellow Portuguese driver Antonio Felix da Costa, who was now in the car.
The no26 G-Drive Racing Aurus and no37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca were fighting over the remaining podium position in the final stages of the race, with the no37 Oreca getting to the line ahead.
It was all smiles in the Team Project 1 garage as Ben Keating, Larry Ten Voorde and Jeroen Bleekemolen took the LMGTE Am win from pole position, with Ten Voorde and
Bleekemolen claiming the first WEC class win for a Dutch driver. The no57 Porsche 911 RSR finished 37 seconds ahead of the no98 Aston Martin Vantage of Paul Dalla Lana, Darren Turner and Ross Gunn, with the no86 Gulf Racing Porsche taking third.
Ben Keating – No.57 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE Am
“We did not expect this for sure but with the additional points for the longer race this was an important race for us. We keep getting a little bit better and it was an interesting race and we had the whole strategy worked out to where we would get my two hours and twenty minutes done but then that would put us with having to do a stop with fifteen minutes of the race to go and we didn’t get any Full Course Yellows in the first couple of hours that we expected to get.
“So this changed our strategy and I ended up doing a triple stint at the beginning and my pace was good. It was nice to be out front and not to be fighting a bunch of the other GTE Am drivers and that enabled us to eliminate a stop and we were the only ones in class to do the race on seven stops.”
At the start Ben Keating headed a Team Project 1 Porsche 1-2 in LMGTE AM and moved ahead of the 11 car field with the no98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Paul Dalla Lana in second. Ross Gunn took over from Dalla Lana and catches and passes Keating just before second scheduled stop to claim lead. As the race progressed the no86 Gulf Racing Porsche and the no88 Dempsey Proton Racing 911 held the lead. The no88 Porsche crashed out at Turn 14 as Khaled Al Qubaisi brought out first Full Course Yellow just before four hour mark.
The Team Project 1 Porsche went back into the lead as Larry ten Voorde completed a triple stint at wheel and handed over to Jeroen Bleekemolen.
The no98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Darren Turner was running second but was under pressure from the no86 Gulf Racing Porsche driven by Ben Barker. However, Barker had to take a drive-through penalty for unsafe return to track after incident but was still able to bring the car home in third.
CLICK HERE for the result from Round 4 of the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship in Bahrain