Audi has scored an emotional 1-2 in its final race in prototype competition, as Porsche’s Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb won the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship with a sixth place finish in Saturday’s season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain.
The German manufacturer bowed out in style, in its strongest race of the year, with Lucas Di Grassi taking the No. 8 Audi R18 to a 19.282-second win over the sister No. 7 car of Marcel Fassler.
Both Audis exchanged the lead early on, until a well-timed pit stop during the race’s only Full Course Yellow period at the halfway mark put the No. 8 car of Di Grassi, Loic Duval and Oliver Jarvis out front.
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With Toyota unable to challenge and the championship-winning No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid hitting trouble in the opening hour, Audi paved the way for a fitting sendoff after a remarkable 18-year run in top-level sports car racing.
It marked Di Grassi, Duval and Jarvis’ second win of the season, and the first Audi 1-2 sweep since Circuit of The Americas in 2014.
Fassler and longtime co-drivers Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer were second, ahead of the No. 1 Porsche, taken to the flag by Mark Webber, who ended his illustrious driving career with a podium finish.
The sister Porsche lost a lap early when contact was made between Jani and the No. 78 KCMG Porsche 911 RSR of Christian Ried, resulting in a left-rear puncture for the No. 2 car.
Jani, Dumas and Lieb’s sixth place finish, however, was more than enough to take home the Drivers’ World Championship, as the title-contending No. 6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid could only salvage fifth in the end.
Ironically, the Porsche trio were unable to score a podium finish since their victory in the double points-paying round at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, only one of two wins for the No. 2 car this season.
G-Drive Racing scored its third LMP2 class victory of the year, thanks Rene Rast’s late-race pass on the No. 43 RGR Sport Ligier JS P2 Nissan of Filipe Albuquerque with less than 20 minutes to go.
The No. 31 Tequila Patron ESM Ligier Nissan of Chris Cumming held the class lead until the final stop, after opting to keep the Silver-rated Canadian in for the final stretch to the line.
Cumming, however, faded to fourth at the checkered flag, behind the class championship-winning No. 36 Signatech Alpine A460 of Nico Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Stephane Richelmi.
Rast, in his return to the Jota Sport-run squad, shared top class honors with Alex Brundle and Roman Rusinov, in a last-to-first run after starting from the rear of the field due to a post-qualifying homologation infringement.
The No. 13 Rebellion R-One AER of Alexandre Imperatori, Dominik Kraihamer and Matheo Tuscher claimed top class honors in LMP1 Privateer, in the team’s final race in the top prototype class.
Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen sealed the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers in fine style with victory in GTE-Pro.
However, Aston Martin lost a certain 1-2 finish and its first GT Manufacturers title when Darren Turner lost a wheel at the half-distance point.
Although Gianmaria Bruni led in the opening stint in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE, the race always looked destined to head the way of Aston Martin.
Class polesitters Turner and Jonny Adam in the No. 97 Vantage GTE were able to stretch out a comfortable margin over Bruni after the first stops, before Thiim and Sorensen moved into second with a late-braking move into turn one.
This would have been enough to overturn AMR’s 10-point deficit to Ferrari in the GT Manufacturers championship, but everything changed when Turner’s front-right wheel detached at turn four.
Although he was able to bring the car back to the pits and only lost one lap under Full Course Yellow, the No. 97 car could not recover the lost ground and finished fifth, handing Ferrari the Manufacturers prize.
Thiim and Sorensen inherited the lead and took their second victory of the season, 17.3 seconds clear of Bruni and James Calado at the finish.
Davide Rigon and Sam Bird completed the podium in third, ahead of the No. 67 Ford of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in fourth.
In GTE-Am, Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing led home a Porsche 1-2 in their second class victory of the season.
Patrick Long, David Heinemeier Hansson and Khaled Al Qubaisi assumed the lead when the No. 98 Aston Martin of Mathias Lauda spun at Turn 7 and controlled the remainder of the race.
A late charge from Wolf Henzler’s KCMG Porsche reduced their margin to 13 seconds in the closing stages, but Long always had the gap under control.
The No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari of Emmanuel Collard, Rui Aguas and Francois Perrodo locked up the title when Paul Dalla Lana retired with engine problems shortly after half-distance, but capped the season with third place on the podium.