Text: Rick Kiewiet
Images: FIA WEC
Perhaps not surprisingly, Toyota climbed the top step of the podium after the first of two WEC rounds in the scorching heat of the desert in Bahrain. Top honors in GT Pro went to Porsche. WRT managed to continue their winning streak after Le Mans in LMP2, while TF Sport took a clean win in GT Am.
The absence of the Glickenhaus team in Bahrain, meant that the single Alpine was the only competition for the two Toyota GR010 hypercars. The grandfathered Rebellion LMP1 was no match for the hybrids. The gap towards pole was almost a second in qualifying. To add to the inequality, the fuel regulations for non-hybrids (e.g. the Alpine) meant that the Toyota's also were able to drive longer stints. At the finish, the French squad found themselves over a lap down from the #7 and #8. With their win, Conway, Kobayashi and Lopez increased their lead in the championship from 5 to 15 to Buemi, Hartley and Nakajima. With their 1-2 win, Toyota officially claimed the 2021 manufacturers' title with one race to go.
Like in Hypercar, a somewhat unequal BoP led to a rather uneventful race won by Porsche. The #92 (Estre / Jani) finished just ahead the #91 (Bruni / Lietz), well over half a minute ahead of the Ferrari's of Pier Guidi / Calado (#51) and Molina / Serra (#52). With their pole position and win Estre and Jani decreased the gap towards Pier Guidi and Calado in the championship to 1 point (139 over 138). This week, WEC announced a slight tweak in the BoP in favor of the Ferraris for the final race of the season. If the organizers get it right, the upcoming final might go down as a thriller.
Not for the first time this season, most excitement was found in the LMP2 category. In the opening stages, Giedo van der Garde charged towards the lead. Several cars went for out-of-sync tire strategies in the first part of the race, after which championship leaders WRT emerged at the head of the field. Frijns, Habsburg and Milesi in the #31 finished just over a minute ahead of their closest competitors, Sean Galeal, Stoffel Vandoorne and Tom Blomqvist in the #28 JOTA car. With their second win in a row following their class-victory in the late 24 hours of Le Mans, the WRT-trio also took over the lead in the championship. Davidson, da Costa and Gonzalez in the other JOTA car, the #38, finished 3rd after a frantic battle with the #22 United Autosports car.
A stellar drive from Ben Keating in the opening stages of the race, gave fellow drivers in the #33 TF Sport Aston Felipe Fraga and Dylan Pereira the opportunity to clinch victory in GT Am. They finished just over 5 seconds ahead of the #77 Proton Porsche of Evans, Campbell and Ried. With their win, the #33 crew brought the gap in the championship towards the leading #85 Ferrari of Nielsen, Rovera and Perrodo (which only finished 5th) back from 36.5 to 21,5 points, with 39 points still up for grabs in the final race of the season this weekend.