LMP Report: Audi and Strakka on podium in the middle east
The competitors in the FIA World Endurance Championship set off at 1600 hours for the 6 Hours of Bahrain, sixth round of the season, under a scorching sun and a suffocating heat relative to that of the past few days.
That, however, didn’t prevent two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winners Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer from emerging ahead of the rest of the field with the No.1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro at the finish.
The first row was a 100% Audi affair following Allan McNish’s pole position in the No.2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro. The Scot made a good start, unlike Marcel Fässler in the sister car who was passed at the first corner by a very in-form Alex Wurz at the wheel of the No.7 Toyota Racing TS030 Hybrid. The Austrian driver hadn’t finished with the German constructor’s drivers either as, on the 7th lap, he managed to pass Allan McNish to lead the race.
Unfortunately the Japanese prototype had to come into the pits while it had a firm hold on the race because the light which illuminated the car’s number on the sidepods wasn’t working. After re-entering in the pack, Nicolas Lapierre drove like crazy to catch up to the Audis, knowing that the Race Director had asked the No.2 Audi to make a stop because one of its headlights wasn’t working. Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen’s car therefore lost ground to the No.1 car, current leaders of the Drivers’ championship chase. The German-Japanese battle came to an end when the Toyota retired after Lapierre went off following contact with a slower competitor.
The victorious trio, who also stood on the top step of the podium at the 6 Hours of Silverstone, didn’t have any further issues to the end, apart from a nose change, while the No.2 car had to be once again content with second place after losing too much time in the pits. The misfortune of some contributing to the happiness of others, Strakka Racing climbed onto the third step of the podium of the overall race winners after Toyota Racing’s retirement.
The No.21 HPD-Honda, driven by Jonny Kane, Nick Leventis and Danny Watts was holding a solid fourth place thanks to a faultless performance by Watts until the No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota had problems. They had to cede their long-held fourth place to the 100% British team who claimed third overall and first among the LMP1 Privateers, but Strakka were unable to dislodge Rebellion Racing from first place in the standings for the LMP1 Endurance Trophy.
In LMP2, the trio of Pierre Kaffer, Nicolas Minassian and Luis Perez-Companc in the No.49 Pecom Racing Oreca 03-Nissan took their first victory in the World Championship. It was a clear, flawless win, two laps ahead of the No.23 Signatech Nissan Oreca 03-Nissan, in the hands of Jordan Tresson, Olivier Lombard and Franck Mailleux, and the No.44 Starworks Motorsports HPD-Honda who remain leaders in the LMP2 Championship. Stéphane Sarrazin, Tom Kimber-Smith and Enzo Potolicchio were ahead at the start of the fifth hour, but lost four minutes in the pits following a technical problem, leaving the way free for the Argentinian Pecom Racing team and the French Signatech Nissan squad, both of whom have had bad luck since the beginning of the year.
While Audi carried off the LMP1 Constructors’ title at the 6 Hours of Silverstone, there’s still all to play for in the Drivers’ classification, the Audi No.1 trio currently holding a lead of 13.5 points over the No.2 pairing. Also to be settled is the LMP1 Privateers Trophy and that of the LMP2 entrants. Can the Japanese round, the 6 Hours of Fuji which takes place on 14th October, decide these, or do we have to wait until the final race of the season in Shanghai on 28th October?