Audi dominated in Bahrain to take an emotional one-two finish in its final WEC race, while Mark Webber completed the podium in the #1 Porsche in the last race of his career. The sister #2 Porsche of Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb finished a delayed sixth, but managed to secure the drivers’ crown.
The German marque had its best race of the season to end a hugely successful 18 years in prototype competition. Barring changes due to pit stop cycles, the #8 Audi R18 of Oliver Jarvis, Lucas Di Grassi and Loic Duval led the lion’s share of the race, and headed a fairytale one-two to take runners up in the drivers’ championship.
It was nip and tuck between the Audi pair until the #8 pitted under a Full Course Yellow midway through the race while the #7 stayed out. Initially, this put the #8 behind, but Duval was able to catch and pass fellow Frenchman Benoit Treluyer as well as completing a double-stint on the tyres in the penultimate hour.
This gave the #8 the edge it needed to head home an emotional victory for Audi. Former defending world champions Mark Webber, Brendan Hartley and Timo Bernhard rounded off the podium, with Mark Webber completing the final stint of his racing career to bring the car across the line.
The two Toyotas finished in fourth and fifth, with the #5 car of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima ahead of the sister car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin – who had an outside chance at the drivers’ championship coming into the weekend. In sixth position was the aforementioned newly crowned drivers’ champions in the #2 Porsche, which was delayed after contact with the KCMG GTE-Am Porsche 911 caused Neel Jani a puncture.
Rebellion Racing once again took a comfortable victory in the LMP1 privateer category – their final outing in LMP1 – coming home seventh overall.
Although Porsche were deserved LMP1 champions in 2016, the majority of the paddock greeted the Audi team as if they were champions in a heartwarming gesture at the end of the race.
After claiming pole then being demoted to the back of the grid for a technical infringement, the #26 Jota-run G-Drive ORECA of Rene Rast, Alex Brundle and Roman Rusinov claimed victory in the category with a pass for the lead in the last 20 minutes of the race.
Rast made the crucial move on the #27 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier driven by Felipe Albuquerque, Bruno Senna and Ricardo Gonzalez down into Turn 1 and would go on to win the class by the best part of seven seconds.
The #31 ESM Ligier conducted an unconventional strategy which saw it gain a big advantage over the LMP2 field by virtue of leaving silver driver Chris Cumming’s stint until late in the race. But Cumming was passed by Rast, Albuquerque and the #36 Signatech Alpine of Nicolas Lappierre which went on to complete the LMP2 podium with co-drivers Stephane Richelmi and Gustavo Menezes.
That meant the #31 car headed home fourth and fifth place finishes for the ESM team, with the sister #30 machine of Giedo van der Garde, Tom Dillmann and Sean Gelael completing the top five due to a problem for the #44 car within the last half an hour of the race.
In the top-tier GT category, the #95 Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen took the victory and with that the drivers’ championship in what was their second win of the season. The sister #97 car ran strongly at the start but would drop down the order after a wheel came off the car in the fourth hour.
They took the win by just 12 seconds from the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 of Gianmaria Bruni and James Calado. The sister Ferrari of Sam Bird and Davide Rigon completed the podium after usurping the #67 Ford GT of Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx at mid-distance in the race.
After the drama for the #97 Aston Martin, it recovered to fifth but could do nothing to stop the factory AF Corse Ferrari squad from taking the GT Manufacturer’s title.
The #83 AF Corse trio of Emmanuel Collard, Rui Aguas and Francois Perrodo came into the weekend needing only one point to secure the title. They came home third and took the crown after the #98 Aston Martin of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda -who had to win to have a shot at the title – suffered an engine failure in the fourth hour.
But it was Porsche who took the honours in Bahrain, with the #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Porsche of Pat Long, Khaled Al-Qubaisi and David Heinemeier Hansson took their second victory of the season. They sealed the win ahead of the sister Proton-run #78 Porsche of Christian Reid, Wolf Henzler and Joel Camathias.