Exhilarating Endurance

by Kristian Harrison

Tue, 05 December 2023

FIA World Endurance Championship

The FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) 8 Hours of Bahrain thrilled thousands of fans both on and off the track at Bahrain International Circuit, with a feast of entertainment on offer. Kristian Harrison witnessed the adrenaline-fuelled action on track as the chequered flag dropped on another nail-biting season of one of motorsports’ most important series.

Toyota Gazoo Racing capped an outstanding 2023 season with a sensational one-two in Sakhir. Toyota’s #8 crew of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa not only shone brightest under lights in their GR010 Hybrid to take the impressive victory, but also secured this year’s FIA Hypercar World Endurance Drivers Championship title, adding to their FIA Hypercar World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship to complete a fantastic double.

Toyota teammates Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez in their #7 Hybrid finished as runners-up, overcoming an opening-lap incident that saw them spin off the track at the very first corner. They recovered magnificently to join Buemi, Hartley and Hirakawa on the podium, but lost out on the Hypercar drivers’ title race.

The result marked the sixth win in seven WEC races in 2023 for Toyota Gazoo Racing. It was the second triumph for the Buemi, Hartley, Hirakawa triumvirate, having also taken first place in Portugal.

Ferrari AF Corse’s #50 crew of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen took the final podium step amongst the WEC’s Hypercars in third.

Winning the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) category was Team WRT’s #41 trio of Rui Andrade, Robert Kubica and Louis Deletraz. It was the final race in the WEC for the LMP2s, which has been a mainstay in the series since its inception.

WRT’s triumph secured them this season’s FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Teams, as well as the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Drivers for Andrade, Kubica and Deletraz.

The #85 all-female squad Iron Dames completed the roster of race winners in Bahrain, taking the triumph in the Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance Am (LMGTE Am) class. Sarah Bovy started things off for their squad before handing over the driving duties to teammates Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting, who took them home to the finish.

Right after lights-out, the first-corner incident that saw the #2 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R Hybrid clip the title-chasing #7 Hybrid of Toyota caused it to lose its position amongst the leaders.

Buemi was in the car for the pole-sitters in Toyota’s #8 GR010 Hybrid, and after getting away at the rip-roaring rolling start was able to build a good lead for his crew over the opening two hours. They gradually added to their advantage throughout the course of the race, and eventually took the chequered flag, waved by Richard Mille, at the end of the eight hours with 249 laps completed. They were classified a lap ahead of their #7 teammates, while Ferrari’s #50 crew were more than a minute-and-a-half behind.