Preview: 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship – 8 Hours of Bahrain

4 Mins read
Race start at the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain, 2021
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

The FIA World Endurance Championship season finale is finally upon us, and most of the championships are still to be decided. But who can win? Who can lose? Who needs to finish where to snatch championship glory at the end of the 8 Hours of Bahrain? With 39 points available to be claimed due to the extra two hours of racing this weekend, TheCheckeredFlag will get you ready for every potential outcome up and down the WEC grid.

Last weekend’s one-two finish in the Hypercar class for Toyota Gazoo Racing sees Alpine Elf Matmut mathematically out of the running for the Hypercar championship, meaning all eyes will be on the Japanese manufacturer this weekend. Just 14 points separate 24 Hours of Le Mans winners, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez from the sister car trio of Brendon Hartley, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi. This does mean that it will be harder for the #8 team to steal the title from the sister car, but not impossible.

Even if the #8 car takes pole (gap would be 13 points) and they win (taking the maximum 39 points from the weekend) the gap between first and second is 11 points, which would still give the championship win to the #7 car. The only way that the #8 can take victory in the championship this weekend is if the sister car fails to finish and does not score points. In no scenario is it possible for the #8 car to win if the #7 takes the chequered flag at the end of the eight-hour event. If they ended on the same points, the #8 would take it on count backs (so long as they won the 8 Hours of Bahrain as both cars would have three victories but the #8 has two second places versus #7’s one second and one third), but it is not mathematically possible for the two cars to now end on the same points.

#31 Team WRT LMP2 car taking the chequered flag to win class victory at the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans has done wonders for the #31 Team WRT trio of Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg and Charles Milesi and their win last weekend jumped them to the lead of the LMP2 championship. However, LMP2 is one of the closest championships with four driver sets still able to take the championship. A lot will have to go Phil Hanson‘s way – as the only driver of the #22 United Autosports still mathematically able to take the championship – as he sits 24 points behind the #31 Team WRT trio, but he is still in the championship race.

The closest battle to watch will be between Team WRT and previous class leaders Sean Gelal, Stoffel Vandorrne and Tom Blomqvist in the #28 JOTA. They have had a very consistent season finishing on the podium, only missing out on a podium appearance at the 6 Hours of Monza, and are only five points behind Team WRT. The gap back to the sister car driven by Antonio Felix Da Costa, Anthony Davidson and Roberto Gonzalez is 12 points.

If #28 JOTA finishes ahead of the #31 Team WRT on the podium, the JOTA team will take the championship. However, if the JOTA is fourth and Team WRT is fifth, the victory will go to Team WRT as the two would end on the same points but the Belgian team has two victories to JOTA’s none and so they would take the win on countbacks. JOTA must outscore the Team WRT crew by six points to take the LMP2 title.

For JOTA #38 to win, they need to finish 13 points ahead of the Team WRT team. If JOTA #38 wins, the Team WRT car and JOTA #28 car can be no higher than third.

For Hanson to take the crown, United Autosports needs to win with Team WRT sixth or lower, JOTA #28 fifth or lower (fourth is the #22 gets pole) and the JOTA #38 second or lower.

Porsche GT Team car #92 leading car #91 around the Bahrain International Circuit
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

The tightest battle of the weekend will be the championship decider between Porsche GT Team and AF Corse. Kevin Estre and Neel Jani lead James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi by one point going into the last race of the year, thanks to their pole and race victory last weekend. In manufacturers, the gap is the same, with Porsche leading Ferrari 231 to 230. This championship calculation is fairly simple to work out: if Ferrari beat Porsche, they will win the championship. With only four cars in LM GTE Pro, there are no position points that hold a one-point difference.

If Porsche claim pole position with Estre and Jani, the deficit for Ferrari would increase to two points, which would make it possible for the two cars to finish on the same points. In that scenario, the countback system would have to drop to pole positions claimed as – if Calado and Pier Guidi win this weekend’s race and Estre/Jani were second – both cars would have three victories, two second places and one third. In any scenario where countback is required, whether Calado and Pier Guidi win or not, the championship goes to Estre and Jani because they would either have more wins or more pole positions.

The only way Calado, Pier Guidi and Ferrari can take the championships (drivers and manufacturers) this weekend is if they outscore Porsche.

Interestingly for this weekend’s race, Porsche have opted for three-man teams in their Pro cars, whilst Ferrari have stuck with their two-man line ups. This will cause both teams to use different strategies throughout the race as Porsche could end up having more driver change pit stops than Ferrari. This small element could be one that really shifts the dynamic of the race, so is certainly something to keep an eye on when pit stop windows come around.

#83 AF Corse LM GTE Am car on track at the Bahrain International Circuit for the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Only two teams mathematically can take the title in LM GTE Am: Le Mans winners and current class leaders in the #83 AF Corse Nicklas Nielsen, Francois Perrodo and Alessio Rovera and last weekend’s race winners, the Aston Martin TF Sport trio of Ben Keating, Felipe Fraga and Dylan Pereira. The AF Corse Ferrari leads currently 22.5 points ahead of the Aston Martin, and it will require TF Sport to at least finish third to be in with a chance of taking the title (scoring them 23 points). If they do finish third, they will need AF Corse not to finish at all to take the championship. If they are second, AF Corse will need to be ninth or lower for TF Sport to take the crown, and if TF Sport win, AF Corse can come sixth or lower (fifth if TF Sport take pole) and the Aston Martin team will still become champions.

Bottom line: there is a lot to race for this weekend, and even if you’re not interested in the Toyota versus Toyota battle, there is plenty more action that you’re not going to want to miss at this weekend’s 8 Hours of Bahrain.

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About author
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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