Toyota Back on Top with Bahrain One-Two

by Alice Holloway
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing on track during the 8 Hours of Bahrain, 2019

Toyota Gazoo Racing finished one-two in the session that mattered, claiming victory at the FIA World Endurance Championship 8 Hours of Bahrain. Aston Martin Racing took their second victory of the season as Porsche GT Team suffered issues with both cars.

It had been looking like a Privateer battle was on our hands, with Ben Hanley, sharing the #5 Team LNT with Charlie Robertson and Jordan King, performing impressively over the entire weekend. The #1 Rebellion Racing of Bruno Senna, Norman Nato and Gustavo Menezes had taken pole position by a small margin, but Hanley’s team mate Robertson was on a mission to rectify that by the first corner.

It seemed like the attack and defence from both Robertson and Senna in the pole-sitting Rebellion was clean as they ran side-by-side into the first corner, with Senna just ahead. Disaster struck as Robertson spun up his tyres as the cars came around T1, clipping Senna and spinning them both off track. This gave the #7 Toyota the race lead that it would never give up.

Both cars headed to the pits and returned to the track, but Rebellion did a good job to get Senna back out on track and into second after the incident. They looked like they were going to be able to recover well over the eight-hour event, but a gear select issue in the second hour saw them fall a couple of laps off the Toyotas, something they were unable to recover.

The #8 Toyota of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima fell out of contention to take the battle to the sister car for the lead when they suffered damage and had to pit for a front nose change.

From what should have been a great race for Ginetta, with the success ballast in LMP1 giving both cars a strong advantage over the competition, it became the worst race of the season for them as they suffered their first double retirement. Suspected transmission issues caused both cars to not complete the fourth round of the 2019/20 championship. The #5 retired first, stopping out on track at T9 in the fifth hour, whilst the #6 retired in the pits with one hour to go.

#22 United Autosports on track during the 8 Hours of Bahrain, 2019
Credit: Race Photography

In LMP2, Untied Autosports took their first WEC victory in dominant lights-to-flag fashion, never giving up the lead of the race. Paul di Resta, Phil Hanson and Filipe Alberquerque had a 21.5 second lead over second-placed #38 JOTA Sport‘s Anthony Davidson, Roberto Gonzalez and Antonio Felix da Costa at the chequered flag.

The second JOTA-backed #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing of Gabriel Aubry, Will Stevens and Ho-Pin Tung completed the podium, holding off G-Drive Racing on their one-off return to WEC. The Russian team with pilots Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne and Job van Uitert had to settle for fourth in class, missing out on the podium by half a minute.

Aston Martin Racing on track during the 8 Hours of Bahrain, 2019
Credit: Race Photograohy

Porsche suffered woes after their strong performance in qualifying, seeing both cars finish at the bottom of the Pro pack. Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina were on a mission from the start, putting pressure on the Porsches off the line for the race win.

Mid-race saw all three manufacturers in contention for race victory, and it was Aston Martin who blinked first as their tyres degraded, meaning they pit ahead of the rest of the pack. In the closing stages, it looked like AF Corse had done enough to secure their first victory of the 2019/20 season.

But the Dane Train of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen weren’t ready to give up the fight that easily, and some quick work from Aston Martin saw them not lose out too much pitting early. The fight, however, was ended when the #71 Ferrari of Rigon and Molina was handed a 30 second stop/go for spinning up its tyres in the pit lane. This lost them any hope of taking victory, but the duo did enough to hold onto second place at the end of the race.

The battle for third raged on between the #97 Aston Martin and the #51 AF Corse, but this too was put to an end when the #51 of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi was instructed to hand back the last podium spot after it was deemed to be responsible for the first lap clash between the two cars. This allowed Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin to continue their consistent run of third-place finishes this season.

#57 Team Project 1 on track during the 8 Hours of Bahrain, 2019
Credit: Race Photography

It was a better day for Porsche in GTE Am as they claimed two of the three podium places. Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating and Larry ten Voorde in the #57 Team Project 1 followed suit of United Autosports in LMP2 and led the race from pole position to the chequered flag. The #98 Aston Martin Racing in the hands of Paul Dalla Lana, Darren Turner and Ross Gunn prevented a Porsche one-two, beating the #86 Gulf Racing‘s Ben Barker, Michael Wainwright and Andrew Watson to second place, matching their best result this season.

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