Porsche clinched its first World Endurance Championship drivers’ crown with a fifth place finish for the #17 919 Hybrid, while the #18 car won an eventful race at Bahrain International Circuit.
Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard dropped out of contention for the win after an early throttle issue confined the #17 machine to its pit garage, but further problems for Audi allowed the trio to finish fifth and seal their first FIA WEC title.
The race victory went to the #18 Porsche of Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas and Neel Jani who held off the #7 Audi R-18 e tron quattro of André Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler by 1m25.310s for their first victory of the season.
At the start of the race it was Bernhard who scampered away from pole, establishing a wide gap between himself and Dumas in the other Porsche. Dumas was quickly overtaken at turn four by a determined Lucas di Grassi in the #8 Audi, but despite a promising start the Brazilian’s car, which he shared with Oliver Jarvis and Loïc Duval, soon tumbled down the order when a suspension failure struck minutes before the halfway point.
The #8 car’s evening took another blow when Jarvis was forced into a spin by Nick Leventis in the Strakka Racing Gibson, who rotated directly in the path of the Briton’s Audi.
A double stint from Lotterer kept Audi in the lead of the race until the three hour mark, when the first full course caution was called for on-track debris. Lotterer handed the #7 Audi over to Tréluyer, but the Frenchman was overtaken by Lieb shortly into his stint – a net lead that the #18 Porsche crew would control until the finish.
Toyota finished third and fourth on a positive day for the TS040 Hybrids, with Alex Wurz claiming a podium on his last ever FIA WEC appearance alongside team-mates Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway.
The TS040s were impressive in terms of tyre wear on the abrasive Bahrain circuit, consistently performing 30 and 31 lap stints throughout the race. Only the #17 Porsche managed to replicate these figures, while Audi was left to carry out two extra stops.
Porsche experienced a late scare in the final two hours as Webber was forced to bring the #17 car back into the garage, although he was able to return to the track ahead of the recovering #8 Audi to nurse his car across the line and secure the championship.
G-Drive Racing’s Sam Bird, Julien Canal and Roman Rusinov took the LMP2 drivers’ title with a victory in Bahrain.
The class featured a consistent four-way battle between KCMG’s ORECA 05, the Signatech Alpine entry and the two G-Drive Ligiers, with different strategies quickly emerging between the teams.
Bird battled with KCMG’s Nick Tandy in the latter stages, executing a precise move on his British compatriot at turn four, but after the final round of pit stops it was Tandy who possessed the advantage. Bird chased until the last and eventually caught the Le Mans winner, finishing 25 seconds ahead. The sister G-Drive entry of Pipo Derani, Gustavo Yacaman and Ricardo Gonzalez took third after overcoming the Signatech Alpine challenge.
AF Racing finished fourth on the BR01 Nissan’s FIA WEC debut, while Strakka Racing dropped down to sixth despite leading the category early on.
Richard Lietz won the GT World Endurance Cup with a quiet run to fifth alongside Michael Christensen in their Porsche 911 RSR.
The Pro class race was won by the identical Porsche of Fred Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet, who took the lead early on and ran smoothly to the chequered flag. Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni, the defending World Endurance Cup champions, finished one lap behind the winners in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458.
Aston Martin Racing benefited from a pre-race performance break to record its first GTE-Pro podium since Le Mans, with the #97 car of Jonny Adam and Darren Turner crossing the line over a minute behind the Vilander/Bruni Ferrari.
GTE-Am honours went to the #98 Aston Martin crew after one of the closest class battles of the year. Mathias Lauda, Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana picked up their first win since the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, finishing 14.486 seconds ahead of the two Proton Racing-entered Porsche 911s, which battled intensely with each other during the second half of the race.
AF Corse finished fourth, a lap behind the winners, but this result wasn’t enough to deny SMP Racing of the 2015 championship with a comfortable fifth place result for Aleksey Basov, Victor Shaytar and Andrea Bertolini.