The competitors in the FIA World Endurance Championship set off at 1600 hours for the 6 Hours of Bahrain, sixth round of the season, under a scorching sun and a suffocating heat relative to that of the past few days. That, however, didn’t prevent two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winners Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer from emerging ahead of the rest of the field with the No.1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro at the finish.
Unfortunately the Japanese prototype had to come into the pits while it had a firm hold on the race because the light which illuminated the car’s number on the sidepods wasn’t working. After re-entering in the pack, Nicolas Lapierre drove like crazy to catch up to the Audis, knowing that the Race Director had asked the No.2 Audi to make a stop because one of its headlights wasn’t working. Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen’s car therefore lost ground to the No.1 car, current leaders of the Drivers’ championship chase. The German-Japanese battle came to an end when the Toyota retired after Lapierre went off following contact with a slower competitor.
The victorious trio, who also stood on the top step of the podium at the 6 Hours of Silverstone, didn’t have any further issues to the end, apart from a nose change, while the No.2 car had to be once again content with second place after losing too much time in the pits. The misfortune of some contributing to the happiness of others, Strakka Racing climbed onto the third step of the podium of the overall race winners after Toyota Racing’s retirement.
The No.21 HPD-Honda, driven by Jonny Kane, Nick Leventis and Danny Watts was holding a solid fourth place thanks to a faultless performance by Watts until the No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota had problems. They had to cede their long-held fourth place to the 100% British team who claimed third overall and first among the LMP1 Privateers, but Strakka were unable to dislodge Rebellion Racing from first place in the standings for the LMP1 Endurance Trophy.
In LMP2, the trio of Pierre Kaffer, Nicolas Minassian and Luis Perez-Companc in the No.49 Pecom Racing Oreca 03-Nissan took their first victory in the World Championship. It was a clear, flawless win, two laps ahead of the No.23 Signatech Nissan Oreca 03-Nissan, in the hands of Jordan Tresson, Olivier Lombard and Franck Mailleux, and the No.44 Starworks Motorsports HPD-Honda who remain leaders in the LMP2 Championship. Stéphane Sarrazin, Tom Kimber-Smith and Enzo Potolicchio were ahead at the start of the fifth hour, but lost four minutes in the pits following a technical problem, leaving the way free for the Argentinian Pecom Racing team and the French Signatech Nissan squad, both of whom have had bad luck since the beginning of the year.
In LMGTE Pro, the No.51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia maintained its very strong form and won its fifth race this year, and the fourth in a row since taking victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The result in the 6 Hours of Bahrain, the FIA World Endurance Championship's sixth round, seals the LMGTE Manufacturers’ World Cup for the Italian marque and the LMGTE Pro Teams' title for AF Corse, with two races remaining.
Both the Ferraris, Aston Martin and Porsche in this small but intensely competitive class took a turn as leader, but for two thirds of the race it was Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander who were firmly in control. The Finn was an extremely able substitute for Fisichella’s regular team mate, Gianmaria Bruni, who was in Italy fighting for another championship title this weekend.
They crossed the line 1 lap ahead of the No.97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 of Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke who scored their second consecutive second-place finish in class. Despite the Aston Martin being able to run for longer between fuel stops than others, the British constructor was never quite able to match the class leader after the first two hours when they ran into a small technical problem. Third in the LMGTE Pro category was the No.77 Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche of Richard Lietz and Marc Lieb who prevailed in a race-long, closely fought battle with the No.71 AF Corse Ferrari whose Olivier Beretta was excluded from the results for avoidable contact with the No.41 LMP2 Greaves Motorsport Zytek Nissan.
The German Team Felbermayr-Proton squad were awarded the LMGTE Am victory in Interlagos by the race stewards but in the 6 Hours of Bahrain they won it on pure merit. After the first hour, during which the No.61 AF Corse-Waltrip was at the head of the class, the No.88 Porsche of Christian Ried, Gianluca Roda and Paolo Ruberti took hold of the top of the time sheets and never relinquished it until the chequered flag. They finished a lap ahead of the No.61 Ferrari of Robert Kauffman, Brian Vickers and Rui Aguas, the class pole-sitters. Taking a well-deserved third place in the category, albeit two laps further behind, was the No.57 Krohn Racing Ferrari 458 Italia of Tracy Krohn, Nic Jönsson and Michele Rugolo, the result making up for the disappointment of their non-finish at the 6 Hours of São Paulo.
The two Larbre Competition Corvettes both finished the event but suffered a string of technical issues and incidents which delayed them considerably. It was the first time this season the French team has finished off the podium.
Source: FIA WEC