Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: FIA WEC / Adrenal Media
With the second race in one week at the Bahrain International Circuit, the 2021 FIA WEC season came to and end. With all driver titles still to be decided, there was a lot at stake in the last race of the year. Top honors, the first Hypercar World Endurance Driver Championship, went to England's Mike Conway and his teammates José Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi in the #7 Toyota GR010. Their second place in the 8 hour race brought their total score to 173 points. Five more than their teammates in the #8, Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley, who won the race. The title in GTE will be decided behind the green table of the FIA in Paris, as Porsche appeals against the win of Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari with which they secured the title.
That the skirmish for the overall win would be a two-way battle was no big surprise after Toyota's dominant 1-2 win last week. The only other competitor in the hypercar class, the #36 Alpine, swiftly took the lead at the start from pole sitter #7, but Lapierre found himself back in p3 8 laps later. Gearbox issues early on took away the last hopes for an exciting race in the top class. Little later, the #8 overtook the lead from the #7 and both drove yet again to a 1-2 finish. Just over 7 seconds split both cars at the finish, meaning Nakajima finishes his last race on the top step of the podium.
The #51 Ferrari and #92 Porsche went into the race tied in points, following the #92's pole. The race unfolded as an 8 hour battle between the two, culminating some 15 minutes before the finish. The #92 Porsche of Jani, Estre and Christensen, with Christensen behind the wheel at that time, was in the lead, Pier Guidi in the #51 had caught up to the its rear. While being passed by an LMP2 car, the Ferrari drove into the rear of the Porsche, spinning the latter around while damaging the Ferrari's front. Race control quickly commanded Pier Guidi to give back position, for which he slowed down dramatically on start/finish (some ten seconds at least), but Christensen decided to pit for fuel and never passed the Ferrari.
Pier Guidi pitted a lap later, and rejoined the race some three seconds ahead of Christensen, but he did not let him pass again. Pier Guidi went on to win the race ahead of the #92 and the sister car the #52. Porsche filed a protest immediately after the race, stating that the decision was made by Race Control, while in a case of one car pushing another, this must always be reported to the stewards. The Stewards decision however reads:
"In fact all the decisions related to the incident between car 51 and 92 in T14 were reported to the Stewards by the Race Director, investigated and taken by the Stewards in accordance with the Race Director. It was reported verbally and with video evidence"
Porsche has decided to appeal this decision at the FIA International Court of Appeal, so all results, including the #51's title, are provisional.
With their third win in a row, Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg and Charles Milesi secured the LMP2 title in the #31 WRT. They finished well over a minute ahead of the #38 JOTA of Da Costa, Gonzalez and Davidson (who drove his last professional race in Bahrain), and that car's sister car and closest rival the #28 of Blomqvist, Galeal and Vandoorne.
Racing Team Nederland won the race in Pro-Am, with Van der Garde even leading the entire (Pro) LMP2 field in the opening phase of the race. As Van der Garde and Job van Uitert both missed the 6h of Monza due to covid infections (replaced by Paul Loup Chatin and Nyck de Vries), Frits van Eerd is the sole winner of the first Pro-Am LMP2 driver title.
The race in GT Am was dominated by the Le Mans winning #83 of Nicklas Nielsen, Alessio Rovera and Francois Perrodo, over a lap ahead of the #77 Proton Porsche. The 83's only remaining competitor, the #33 TF Sport Aston Martin of Felipe Fraga, Dylan Pereira and Ben Keating, already suffered a puncture on the opening lap after contact with fellow Aston Martin, the #98. Later, with Keating behind the wheel, a collision with the #54 Ferrari caused fatal suspension damage.