Audi WEC drivers Loic Duval, Oliver Jarvis and Lucas di Grassi were left struggling to hide their emotions after taking the Ingolstadt marque’s final endurance racing win in the 6 Hours of Bahrain.
The #8 trio led home a one-two for Audi ahead of the sister #7 car, marking the brand’s 17th win in the championship since its formation in 2012 and its 107th since entering sportscar racing in 1999.
Eventually, it was the polesitting #8 machine that came out on top in what turned out to be an-all Audi fight for the win, with the #1 Porsche finishing over a minute down in third place.
“It means a lot for us to be the last guys winning a race for Audi Sport,” said Duval. “We showed all year we were competitive, we didn’t have reliability but the performance was always there.
“The first stint was good, a bit on the edge with the rear of the car because it was hot, but it was fine.
“Then when I got back in the car I was struggling a lot, but we found out we had lost a lot of front downforce because of some [tyre] pick-up a plastic bag that got stuck on the front nose.
“A lot of emotion; it would have been better to be in the car at the end of the race because I can tell you a lot of people were crying in the pits. We were [crying] also because it means a lot.
“The emotion I have today is even bigger than when I won the championship in 2013, so really proud to have this moment with the guys.”
Di Grassi added that Audi’s final race was a “sad moment” in his career, as he had “learned to love” endurance racing over the course of his tenure with the German manufacturer.
Said the Brazilian: “After three seasons in WEC we really proved that we as a crew have evolved, we’ve been able to fight for many wins; to win two races out of nine with three poles is a great achievement.
“I feel a little upset that most of us at Audi are going to leave the WEC, it’s such a big family with all the journalists, the mechanics.
“It is a sad moment in my career, because I learned to love endurance racing.
“It was never my ambition, but when I joined the Audi family, at the first time I competed in Le Mans in 2013, I fell in love with this race and the championship.”
Jani: Bahrain race a microcosm of our year
At the same time as Audi’s victory, the drivers of the #2 Porsche, Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb, sealed the drivers’ title with a sixth-place finish, three laps down on the winning Audi.
The trio were again not in contention for a podium finish, after contact between Jani and the #78 KCMG Porsche in the opening hour caused a puncture and damage to the rear bodywork, but the #2 crew had a trouble-free run thereafter to collect the championship.
“I think how this race went is perhaps also our season,” commented Jani. “We started off well, we hit some trouble, but we survived the trouble quite well by just finishing the race.
“It was a crazy season, we had very high competition, the level with Audi and Toyota was super high, and I think our key was the first three races of the year, although we had some luck there on our side.”
Lieb, who brought home the #2 car to claim the title, added: “We had some really big troubles, and we were fighting through this year.
"The boys did an amazing job to give us such a reliable car; that was the key to this season.
“It has been up and down, but car was quick at the beginning of the year. We’re just really happy we could finish this off, but I can tell you it was nerve-wracking at the end.”