With the 6 Hours of Shanghai at it’s conclusion, only one round of the 2017 World Endurance Championship remains. The GTE classes are still as close as ever with the championship battles going down to the wire, but LMP1 has now been wrapped up. Despite earlier predictions in the season, only three championships out of the eight that are raced for have been settled before the final round of the season in Bahrain, leaving most of the grid still with something to fight for.
Toyota Gazoo Racing took their second consecutive dominant win in a row at the six-hour event last weekend. However, it was always going to be a difficult task to prevent the #2 Porsche LMP1 Team from taking the drivers’ title. With Toyota having a clear edge on Porsche it had looked like the manufacturers’ championship would be taken into the last round of the season. When Toyota was running a one-two they still had a mathematical possibility to take the manufacturers’ championship because they would have been under 26 points behind Porsche at the chequered flag.
The mistakes made by Jose Maria Lopez when trying to pass through traffic under pressure from the sister car for the lead dropped the #7 car, that had looked strong all weekend, down the grid to fourth. Porsche’s two-three put them over 26 points ahead of Toyota in the manufacturers’ championship, meaning they took victory in both title hunts with a race in hand. Next time out, Porsche will be hoping t come back from their slump in performance to take victory in their final race in the WEC.
For the first time all season, the Shanghai endurance race saw a change in the leaders of the LMP2 Trophy title race. With the pre-race leaders #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing able to do no better than fourth in their home race, the #31 Vaillante Rebellion capitalised, taking first place and gaining 13 points in the championship battle. As the #31 took pole position for the race as well, they gained a total of 14 points on the old championship leaders. Having only been sat ten behind them before the race weekend, they go into the 6 Hours of Bahrain with a four-point lead.
Gutavo Menezes finished second on track with his #36 Signatech Alpine team mates, and with the #38 team not taking maximum points away from the weekend he is still just in the title hunt. Sitting 23 points behind the #31 team’s Bruno Senna and Thomas Laurent, he needs the #31 car to not score more than one points in the final race and the #38 to not score more than five points if he is to have any hope of taking the LMP2 Trophy at the end of the year. If the Signatech team can take pole, he can afford each car to claim one extra point.
Ferrari wrapped up the GTE Manufacturers’ World Endurance Championship in Shanghai, leaving just the GTE Drivers’ title to be decided. But it will certainly be a close call as the top five in the championship are covered by a mere 22 points and all five still able to take the title. The top three spots in the championship are held by three different teams, reiterating once again just how close the racing in GTE Pro has been this season. Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell came back from a torrid 6 Hours of Fuji to claim victory and jump back to third in the title race, just seven and a half points off the leading duo of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 AF Corse. Frederic Makowiecki and Richard Lietz split the pair for second, just two points of the Ferrari duo in their Porsche GT Team 911 RSR.
If Priaulx and Tincknell win the race and take pole position, they need the #91 Porsche to finish second or lower with the #51 Ferrari behind the Porsche to take the title. They can also win the championship if the #51 comes seconds, but they must have taken pole position. The #91 Porsche need to finish ahead of both cars to take the championship, with third the lowest they can finish if they have taken pole position. To secure the championship for them, the #51 crew just needs to make sure both the #91 and the #67 Ford do not finish ahead of them. It’s all to play for coming into the final round of the season.
After one of the tightest to and fro battle for an Am championship in the history of WEC, it is the #98 Aston Martin Racing car that goes into the final round of the championship with the advantage. Ten points split the pair after the AMR team equalised the points standing by taking pole position for last weekend’s race. The victory they took after a tyre problem dropped the Dempsey-Proton Racing car to third put them ten points in front with only 26 left to be awarded.
For the #98 not to take the championship, the #77 Dempsey car must finish first whilst the Aston Martin takes third. Even if the Porsche can take pole position, it needs to finish at least nine points ahead of the Aston and the only position that will achieve that is if the Aston is third. The #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari is still mathematically in contention for the championship, but sitting 19 points off the leading duo will require a victory for the #61 and an out of classification finish from both the Aston and the Porsche for them to take the title.
6 Hours of Bahrain gets underway with the first free practice session on Thursday 16th November at midday. Stay tuned to TheCheckeredFlag for LIVE updates throughout the weekend of the final race of the 2017 season.