6 Hours of Bahrain Race: Conway, Kobayashi and Lopez Extend Championship Lead

3 Mins read
Overall race winners of the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain: left to right, Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Another lights to flag victory was scored by Toyota Gazoo Racing in the penultimate round of the season, with the #7 crew coming out on top of the #8 and extending their championship lead.

The six hours of racing yielded little action in the Hypercar class, with the #7 trading the lead with the #8 for the opening 90 minutes before the two cars settled into formation. As was suggested in yesterday’s qualifying and the practice sessions ahead of the race, the Alpine Elf Matmut sole entry could not find the pace to put the pressure on the Japanese team, gifting the team an easy one-two from start to end of the six hours of racing.

With Toyota scoring pole position yesterday and a one-two today, Alpine are now mathematically out of the drivers’ championship battle. This means the 8 Hours of Bahrain next weekend will be a battle of the Toyotas.

After a surprising start from the #29 Racing Team Nederland, managing to climb from sixth to the lead of LMP2 by the first corner, it was the 24 Hours of Le Mans winners #31 Team WRT who took the chequered flag. They too had a good start, challenging the #29 in the opening stages of the race and taking hold of the class lead they would scarcely give up. But the class win did not come without a fight as both JOTA entries and the #22 United Autosports were also after the top step of the podium.

The pole-sitting and then class championship-leading #28 JOTA had a dreadful start and managed to reclaimed the ground they lost to get into the lead fight. It was an impressive drive from Sean Gelael, Stoffel Vandoorne and Tom Blomqvist to recover and take second at the end of the six hours. The drive from Charles Milesi, Robin Frijns and Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen in the #31 however was too consistent, and their defence was impregnable. Their drive not only gave them the race victory but also the LMP2 championship lead with one race to go.

Although the United Autosports crew tried to stay in the podium fight, they didn’t have enough to hold off the JOTA duo, conceding third in class to the #38 of Antonio Felix da Costa, Anthony Davidson and Roberto Gonzalez. The #29 Racing Team Nederland entry came across the line fifth, behind the LMP2 frontrunners fight but taking victory in the LMP2 Pro/Am class.

Porsche GT Team duo of cars battling on track at the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Advantage Porsche continued from yesterday’s qualifying to give Kevin Estre and Neel Jani the maximum points scoring out of this weekend’s race. The 26 points claimed puts them just one point behind James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi in the drivers’ championship going into the last race of the season. In the manufacturers’ title race, Porsche lead Ferrari by the same one point margin after claiming a one-two today.

But it was not all happy sailing in the Porsche camp, for although they took a one-two competitively – 35 seconds up the road to the third placed AF Corse – team orders were put into play to protect Estre and Jani’s championship fight, much to the displeasure of Richard Lietz. The pit stops had been manufactured to keep the #92 of Estre and Jani ahead of the #91 car, but in the closing stages Lietz believed he had more pace than the sister car. His request to go racing was denied by the team who told the Austrian both cars were conserving tyres.

The Porsches crossed the line with half a second between the two.

Aston Martin had looked quick all weekend and this pace rang true in the race as Felipe Fraga, Dylan Pereira and Ben Keating took victory in LM GTE Am with the #33 TF Sport. It wasn’t an easy endurance to the finish however, as the #77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche fancied a look at the top step of the podium in the final hour of the event. The racing was hard, but Fraga managed to hold off the attack to take class win and bring the TF Sport Aston Martin crew into the window to challenge the championship-leading #83 AF Corse next weekend for the title.

The #56 Team Project 1 Porsche made it a Porsche two-three on the Am podium at the end of the race.

Racing commences once again in the desert this time next week as the FIA World Endurance Championship takes on an eight hour event to complete the 2021 season with its sixth and final race of the year.

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The Checkered Flag’s correspondent for the FIA World Endurance Championship. Working in motorsport as a hobby and as a professional, Alice is a Digital and Content Account Manager at Crunch offering social media and digital marketing for Brands, Teams and Drivers in all disciplines of motor racing. She also runs and manages her own YouTube variety channel - Circuit The World - with videos on gaming, travel, motorsports and reviews.
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