FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Bahrain, November 29-30, 2013
story compiled by Tim Hailey with material from Audi and Toyota
TOYOTA Racing ended its first full FIA World Endurance Championship season with victory in the Six Hours of Bahrain. The #8 TS030 HYBRID of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin secured their first win of the eight-race season after a commanding performance at the Bahrain International Circuit.
However, there was disappointment for the #7 car of Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima. Having led for the first hour, Alex was running second when an engine problem, caused by an oil leak, prematurely ended his race. “Obviously it is disappointing to end the season like that,” said Wurz . “During my stint I looked after my tyres well and it was a nice fight for the lead; I was catching Stéphane. Everything felt good but then I heard a noise, smelt oil and then had no drive. I pulled to the side of the track and it was game over. I am sorry for the team because we did a good job this weekend.”
Nicolas started the race from pole position with Sébastien alongside and the pair set about building a lead over the chasing pack. Just after the hour, Nicolas was delayed in traffic which allowed Sébastien to claim the lead. The pair ran nose to tail and then made their second pit stops a lap apart, handing over to Alex and Stéphane respectively.
That continued until the two-hour mark when the race abruptly ended for the #7 when the technical issue struck just as Alex crossed the line to complete his 64th lap. “I am very disappointed because it was looking good,” said Lapierre. “I had a good start and then together with Sébastien we could pull away. I had a little incident in traffic and lost the lead. But I was just behind Sébastien and the two cars were very strong. Then I gave the wheel to Alex and unfortunately we had this problem. It is not the way we wanted to finish this season but we showed the car was very competitive which is encouraging for next year.”
Until shortly before the race’s midpoint, Audi Sport Team Joest was in a promising position in the final 6-hour race of the year. Loïc Duval/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish (F/DK/GB) in the Audi R18 e-tron quattro, with a gap of about 15 seconds, were running within striking distance of the leading Toyota. Then, on lap 95, Duval reported a problem in the power transmission system over the radio. For the first time in 23 races which the various Audi R18 models have completed since 2011, a technical defect resulted in retirement. Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer (CH/D/F) subsequently took over second place from their team-mates. After 3:33 hours of racing, the stewards of the meeting imposed a drive-through penalty against Marcel Fässler for overtaking under yellow flags. Consequently, the number ‘1’ R18 e-tron quattro lost more than one minute and, after six hours of racing, crossed the finish line in second place.
Stéphane was therefore left with a clear lead which he extended before handing over to Anthony just after half distance. A controlled double stint established the #8 firmly in control of the race and Sébastien took the wheel for the final 80 minutes, taking the chequered flag to win by over a minute. “I’ve had to wait to win my first endurance race so I am really delighted with today’s victory,” said Buemi. “It is a reward for the whole team after a hard season. I am so happy with the result; now we can all go home and enjoy the winter a bit then focus on next year. To finish the season with a win was really important to show the car was competitive. We are still quite new to endurance and I think we can be proud of this win and work hard next year to achieve more.”
1 Buemi/Davidson/Sarrazin (Toyota) 199 laps in 6h 01m 15.303
2 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) + 1m 10.585s
3 Conway/Martin/Rusinov (Oreca-Nissan) – 15 laps
4 Brundle/Heinemeier Hansson/Pla (Morgan-Nissan) – 15 laps
5 Lancaster/Reip/Wirdheim (Zytek-Nissan) – 15 laps
6 Baguette/Gonzalez/Plowman (Morgan-Nissan) – 17 laps
7 Cheng/Ihara/Nicolet (Morgan-Nissan) – 19 laps
8 Dolby/Giroix/Kerr (Oreca-Nissan) – 21 laps
9 Bruni/Vilander (Ferrari) – 24 laps
10 Bergmeister/Pilet (Porsche) -24 laps
“It was an amazing race for us,” agreed Sarrazin. “I have been waiting a long time to win a race with Sébastien and Anthony. We had a great weekend, without mistakes. We were fast all weekend and in the race our set-up was very good. We could control the race and I felt happy in the car; I felt we would win it. I am delighted because we did our best since the beginning of the season. It is like a dream; the team did a brilliant job and I’m so pleased to be part of it.”
“It was fantastic to end up on the top step of the podium,” said Davidson. “I am so happy for the team to get our first proper victory of the year. Obviously the #7 won in Fuji but the conditions were unusual that day with the rain. Today’s result is completely justified after what happened in Shanghai when we were leading comfortably but had to retire due to a technical problem. We had the speed all weekend here and it’s great to finally win my first race for TOYOTA Racing.”
“This victory has a special meaning for us because this it is the last race of the season and we won,” said Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Toyota Team President. “Our win was not down to luck; our performance was better than our competitors so from this point of view I am very happy. Also we could show our real performance to the wider world; something that hasn’t necessarily been reflected in the results in the last few races. I would like to thank all the team for their never-ending hard work throughout the season; it was a tough year but we have finished in a fantastic way.”
After the final race of the season, TOYOTA Racing’s 2013 total reads 152.5 points for second in the Manufacturers’ Championship, two wins, six podiums and three pole positions. In the drivers’ championship, the #8 crew scored 106.25 points for third in the standings while Alex and Nico are fourth with 69.5 points having competed in six of the eight races. Kazuki, who competed in four races, scored 37.5 points.
Today also marked the 14th and final race for the TS030 HYBRID since its debut at Le Mans last year. Since then it has achieved five pole positions and 10 podiums, including five wins.
On taking this 15th podium position in the current WEC season, Audi concluded an endurance racing year full of highlights in Bahrain. Audi Sport Team Joest decided six of the eight WEC rounds in its favor – one more than last year. The company celebrated the second title success in the manufacturer’s World Championship* early with its hybrid sports car. Loïc Duval/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish won the drivers’ World Championship* early as well, following their Audi team-mates Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer, who were the first World Champions of the new series the previous year, Audi’s twelfth victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours, the eleventh success at the Sebring 12 Hours held as part of the American Le Mans Series, the win of the tradition-steeped ‘Tourist Trophy’ at Silverstone plus five qualifying best times in the WEC completed the tally. In addition, Audi won the drivers’ title in the DTM this year with Mike Rockenfeller and the team classification with Audi Sport Team Phoenix.
Audi’s racing season is over now, but the squad has long begun to intensively prepare for 2014. That is when a fundamentally new set of regulations, rewarding the best efficiency, will come into effect in the WEC. Audi is developing a completely new race car for it that will make its racing debut in the WEC season opener at Silverstone on April 20, 2014.
TOYOTA Racing also announced the signing of Mike Conway as test and reserve driver for the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship. Mike, 30, will support the work of existing drivers Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre, Kazuki Nakajima, Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin, all of whom are confirmed as race drivers for next season. His role in 2014 will see him contributing to the development programme of the team’s new LMP1 car, with tests due to begin in January.
Conway is perhaps most famous for this last lap Indy 500 crash
Mike already has experience of the WEC having been a front-runner in LMP2 this year, including an impressive appearance at the Le Mans 24 Hours. He also has a strong pedigree in single-seater racing following three seasons in GP2 and five in the IndyCar Series, where he will again race in 2014.“I am delighted to be joining TOYOTA Racing as test and reserve driver for 2014, a role which will fit well with my IndyCar programme,” said Conway. “It is every driver’s ambition to be involved with a manufacturer-backed team at the top level of international motorsport and that’s what TOYOTA Racing is. I would like to thank my manager Mark Blundell and everyone at TOYOTA Racing for putting this deal together and giving me this great opportunity. I look forward to contributing to the team’s success in 2014 and hope this is the start of a long and successful relationship.”
“We are happy to welcome Mike to the team and I am confident he will make a valuable contribution alongside our already-strong driver line-up,” said Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President. “We have followed his career closely for the past couple of years and we see him as an exciting talent with the right attitude to fit in at TOYOTA Racing. He will provide support during our development programme as we work on producing a race-winning car for 2014 and beyond.”
Toyota Fast in Bahrain
But can they compete when it counts?
The #7 Toyota speeds past sand and palms in Bahrain
TOYOTA Racing locked out the front row of the grid in qualifying for the Six Hours of Bahrain, the final round of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship. The #7 of Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima took pole position and will be joined on the front row by the second-placed #8 of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin.
This season’s qualifying format requires two drivers from each car to set a minimum of two flying laps each. The grid is decided by the combined average of each driver’s fastest two laps. In fading light, Alex and Stéphane took the first stint, each setting two flying laps to put both cars in contention for the team’s third pole of the season. Alex’s second lap proved to be the fastest time of the weekend so far and the fastest LMP1 lap ever at Bahrain International Circuit.
Kazuki took over the #7 and kept up the pace to claim that honour with his two laps, while Anthony earned second; the team’s second one-two in qualifying after it locked out the front row in the opening race at a wet Silverstone.
“I am very happy with our performance in qualifying,” said Alex Wurz. “Actually after the morning session I thought it would be tough to get pole after seeing the lap times of our competitor. But we played our cards very well and in the end we leave with a smile. We attacked in qualifying, the car set-up felt good and the team did a good job. But it’s only 1% of the job done; the race is six hours compared to six minutes of qualifying. Now we want to do the job in the race.”
“It was a really good qualifying for us,” said Kazuki Nakajima. “We had different tyres compared to what I’d used in the morning and I had a really good feeling. I think the team did a great job to set up the car and get the maximum out of it. They also got me on track at the right moment, without any traffic, so everything was perfect. Alex’s lap was fast and it looks like we are in a competitive position for the race. The first job is done, now we have six hours of racing to go.”
“Today was a really good day,” said Anthony Davidson. “We didn’t expect to be as quick as we were to be honest. To be first and second on the grid is fantastic and it’s the first time we have achieved this in the dry this year. Hopefully we will have even strong pace in tomorrow’s race. It looks like we had slightly better degradation on the tyres in the second part of qualifying compared to our competitors which looks promising. But it is a long race and we have to take it as it comes.”
“It was a good session,” said Stéphane Sarrazin. “On my first lap I was a bit too cautious because it was my first time with this combination of set-up and tyres. I didn’t want to take any risks so I didn’t over-drive. On the second lap I improved; it was quite good. The target was first and second for the team, and we are first and second. I would prefer the #8 to be first, but the race is still to come. The whole team did a great job; Anthony’s laps were great and in the #7 Alex and Kazuki were very fast. It is a good day for all the team.”
As for their own qualifying effort, Toyota rival Audi had to admit defeat in Bahrain. The World Championship winning squad will start the race from positions three and four. In the final session, Audi experienced an emotional rollercoaster. Initially, André Lotterer in the number ‘1’ Audi R18 e-tron quattro managed to set the fastest time before his lap was beaten by only 80 hundredths of a second. At the end of his two laps, he occupied second place in front of his teammate Loïc Duval in the sister car number ‘2.’
Marcel Fässler took over car number ‘1’ from Lotterer but on used tires was unable to counter the pace of the two fastest rivals. Allan McNish, who took over the cockpit from Duval, was running about a tenth of a second behind his team-mate on his two laps. As a result, the two hybrid sports cars from Audi Sport Team Joest qualified for grid positions three and four. In the aggregate of all qualifying sessions, Audi, in the 2013 season, achieved the top spot on the grid five times and challenger Toyota did so three times.
With track temperatures of 27 degrees centigrade it became clear in qualifying that the tires by partner Michelin will be decisive on the 5.412-kilometer track on Saturday. The spectators in Bahrain can look forward to a strategically exciting 6-hour race that promises a particular visual thrill in conditions of darkness from about 17:00.
“The qualifying session more or less reflects our performances in the sessions at previous events,” said Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport). “This track probably isn’t ideal for our car, but it’s part of the World Championship and we’re going to make the best of it. On the first qualifying laps, we were on a par with Toyota. But afterwards the tires on our cars clearly degraded more heavily. That’s why Toyota is on the front row. That’s definitely not the most important thing in a 6-hour race, but it’s a bit of a pre-taste of Saturday. We’re going to battle hard for a good result.”
“We traveled to Bahrain with the aim of successfully closing a very good season,” said Chris Reinke (Head of Audi LMP). “We’re sticking to this goal even after the qualifying session. Obviously, the qualifying results are a little disappointing but we knew that the abrupt rhythm of this track doesn’t suit us well. Still, we’re determined to compete for the top spots again in the race.”
“At the beginning, things were looking good when André Lotterer was following Toyota very closely,” said Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest) . “But after the driver change, on used tires, we lost too much time. Now we’re on the second row, which isn’t dramatic. In this race, the tires will be crucial – similar to the most recent event at Shanghai. There, it worked out and that’s what I’m hoping for again this time.”
“André Lotterer completed two clean and very consistent laps,” said Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1). “I was pleased with my first lap. I subsequently wanted to improve some more but hit traffic. We’ve got to recognize that Toyota was stronger than we were in qualifying today. I’m very happy with the balance of our car and our good squad is another forte in the race.”
“On my first outing on new tires it was very close,” said André Lotterer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1). “We were almost in front. But it looks as though our tires degrade faster than those of our opponents because we lost more time. So we’ve got to do a few more things for the race. But it’ll be a long race. At Shanghai, three weeks ago, things weren’t looking so good either but we still managed to turn the tables.”
“The track isn’t easy for us,” said Benoît Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1). “We saw that our tires were superb only for two laps and then degraded a bit. That wasn’t so easy for the second drivers in the car but they, too, did clean laps. Toyota was simply stronger today.”
“The free practice session on used tires wasn’t easy because I wasn’t able to develop a real feel for the track,” said Loïc Duval (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2). “The second practice session was better and in the third one I drove many kilometers and got a better feeling. In qualifying, we weren’t as consistent as Toyota and couldn’t really attack.”
“The temperatures in Bahrain are completely different this year than in the heat a year ago,” said Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2). “That’s why the race won’t be as much of a physical strain as it was last year. For two thirds of the distance, we’ll be running in darkness. It’ll be a nice 6-hour race that we’d like to win.”
“A year ago, we achieved a one-two victory in Bahrain but even at that time we sensed that the track suited our opponent a bit better,” said Allan McNish (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2). “I drove two clean qualifying laps. Unfortunately, we weren’t fast enough for the front row. But, on the whole, Tom, Loïc and I are happier now with the car than we were in the free practice sessions. I’m hoping that on Saturday we’ll be as competitive as the others.”
1 Lapierre/Nakajima/Wurz (Toyota) 1m 42.449 s
2 Buemi/Davidson/Sarrazin (Toyota) 1m 42.781s
3 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) 1m 42.976s
4 Duval/Kristensen/McNish (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) 1m 43.145s
5 Beche/Belicchi/Prost (Lola-Toyota) 1m 46.728s
6 Kaffer/Minassian/Perez Companc (Oreca-Nissan) 1m 50.941s
7 Conway/Martin/Rusinov (Oreca-Nissan) 1m 51.003s
8 Brundle/Heinemeier Hansson/Pla (Morgan-Nissan) 1m 51.718s
9 Lancaster/Reip/Wirdheim (Zytek-Nissan) 1m 51.841s
10 Dolby/Giroix/Kerr (Oreca-Nissan) 1m 52.133s
The finale starts on Saturday at 15:00 local time (13:00 CET). The race can be watched on the internet by live streaming at www.audi-motorsport.com and www.fiawec.com. In Germany, a one-hour broadcast on Eurosport 2 will start at 18:00, followed at 21:30 by a 45-minute summary report on Eurosport.