Audi Sport Team Joest fulfilled a dream exit from the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) tonight, following an outstanding one-two in the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit.
The no. 8 R18 Hybrid driven by Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval and Oliver Jarvis clinched a well-deserved victory ahead of teammates Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer in Audi’s no. 7 car. It was an emotional result for the German manufacturers, who announced last month their withdrawal from endurance racing and Le Mans following the completion of the WEC’s season-ending round in Bahrain.
Also making his final appearance in the sport was Porsche’s Mark Webber, who also had reason to celebrate after steering his team to the last overall podium spot in third place. Webber, who is retiring from racing, was in the cockpit of Porsche’s no. 1 919 Hybrid as it crossed the finish line behind the victorious Audi pair.
To add to their victory, Audi set a distance record for the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain after completing 201 laps.
Following the race, di Grassi commented: “We are proud to take the ‘Four Rings’ on the top of the podium for the last race; it’s where we belong.”
“The emotions are unbelievable. To take the last win and last pole position for an Audi car, it is very special.”
“We wanted to finish with a great result. To close the door with this kind of victory is well deserved for the whole team. The emotion is super high.”
Meanwhile, Porsche’s no. 2 team of Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb secured the FIA World Endurance Drivers’ Championship despite finishing sixth – one position behind their closest rivals from Toyota Gazoo Racing featuring Mike Conway, Stephan Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayashi.
The drivers’ title made it a double for Porsche in the second successive year, after they also won the FIA World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship.
It was almost a disaster for the trio after suffering damage on their left-rear tyre and rear wing around an hour into the race. They needed to stop to make the changes, costing them a few places and plenty of lost time. But in the end they managed to claim just enough points for them to take home their crown.
Jani said of their title victory:
“Winning in Le Mans this year and now world championship, it’s simply amazing. It can’t get any better!”
Di Grassi was in the car at the chequered flag as his team completed the grueling endurance event, which began in the daylight and concluded under the brilliant BIC floodlights which lit up the Sakhir sky.
The runners-up enjoyed the same 201 lap output, but Fassler was 16.419 seconds behind his teammate in the end. Porsche’s Webber, Hartley and Fassler were also on 201 laps but were one minute 17.001 seconds behind the winners.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima finished fourth. Each of the top six were running Hybrid cars in the LMP1 class.
With their one-two in Bahrain, Audi make their exit from endurance racing the same way they won in Sakhir in the WEC’s inaugural season in 2012. Audi end their tenure in endurance racing and Le Mans after 18 successful years.
The Bahrain marshals commemorated Audi’s final race by holding up the Bahrain flag next to a large banner while standing track side during the formation lap. The banner read the message: “Thank you, Audi. We will miss you.”
Meanwhile, G-Drive Racing’s Roman Rusinov, Rene Rast and Alex Brundle were the top team in the LMP2 category in their Oreca 05-Nissan.
Aston Martin Racing’s Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen in their Vantage V8 won the LMGTE Pro class; and Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing’s Patrick Long, Khaled Al Qubaisi and David Heinemeier Hansson claimed the LMGTE Am category.