GULFWEEKLY: TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez created history in the fifth and penultimate round of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain.
The terrific trio were crowned the first World Champions of the Hypercar era with a one-two victory at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) in Sakhir.
The #7 GR010 Hybrid Hypercar crew finished the race 51.401 seconds ahead of their closest challengers and teammates Sebatien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley, who started from pole in the #8 challenger to come in second place.
“I am a competitor and we never like to finish second, but this was an amazing result for the team,” said Buemi, a former Bahrain resident whose family still lives in the kingdom.
“For Toyota Gazoo Racing to finish first and second is a great way to wrap up the Hypercar title in its first season. It comes from an enormous amount of hard work from the mechanics, the engineers and the entire team. We have to congratulate them on this incredible achievement.”
Both Toyota Gazoo Racing contenders registered 185 laps competing in the WEC’s Hypercar class and their company president Koji Sato could not be happier.
“Congratulations to car #7 for three consecutive victories and to car #8 for taking second place with their outstanding work to earn this fantastic one-two finish,” he said.
“Thank you so much for bringing the first Hypercar World Championship to Toyota Gazoo Racing. At the beginning of the race, I was thrilled to watch the battle between our two Hypercars, but despite the difficulties of working in 35°C, the efforts of the team brought a great result.”
Meanwhile, winning the Le Mans Prototype (LMP) 2 category were Team WRT’s Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg and Charles Milesi.
Porsche GT Team’s Kevin Estre and Neel Jani triumphed in the Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance (LMGTE) Pro class, and TF Sport’s Felipe Fraga, Ben Keating and Dylan Pereira took first place in the LMGTE Am category.
The winners were presented with their respective trophies in podium ceremonies.
Last weekend’s six-hour contest marked the halfway point in WEC’s Bahrain double-header.
Now, Conway, Kobayashi and Lopez, who also won August’s Le Mans 24 Hours, head into this weekend’s season finale as title favourites.
Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain is scheduled to be held on Friday and Saturday. The Saturday race starts at 2pm and finishes under BIC’s bright floodlights at 10pm. It will bring the curtain down on the 2021 WEC season and decide the outcome of the drivers’ World Championship.
“I hope for an exciting end to the season and I look forward to seeing who will come out on top,” added Sato. “The team is working hard to prepare in the best possible way.”
Aside from the WEC, there will also be plenty of on-track action with the Porsche Sprint Challenge Middle East. Many of the region’s top drivers will be competing in the series in identical Porsche GT3 Cup Car 911s.
As for off-track entertainment, scores of fans flocked to the circuit during the six-hour race to enjoy a colourful mix of stage acts and musical performances.
Karters aged 15 and under were also treated to a circuit tour and grid experience ahead of the start of the FIA WEC Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain, organised by Bahrain Motor Federation.
The youngsters enjoyed a bus ride along BIC’s 5.412km Grand Prix track and a trip to the state-of-the-art Media Centre and Race Control Tower, where they were greeted by FIA race director Eduardo Freitas.
The experience also included a pre-race grid walk, where they had the opportunity to meet and take pictures with their favourite WEC drivers while also getting an up-close look at the WEC cars just moments before the start of action.
They were then able to watch the race from BIC’s Main and Oasis grandstands.
Loads of family entertainment can be expected this weekend as well, including an activity area for children of all ages featuring rides, an ice rink, a trampoline and maze and so much more.
Visit www.bahraingp.com for details.