The FIA World Endurance Championship 2019/20 had finally reached the season finale, which was 8 hours of racing in the Bahrainian desert.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez plus Kamui Kobayashi started the race from Pole Position in LMP1, ahead of the sister car #8 with Kazuki Nakajima, Brendon Hartley and Sebastien Buemi. They were sadly the only two LMP1 cars in the race this time around, which was the final race of the LMP1 era, with the new Hypercar category starting from 2021.
United Autosports #22 with Paul Di Resta, Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque started from LMP2 Pole, ahead of Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 with Gabriel Aubry, Will Stevens plus Ho-Pin Tung, while Signatech Alpine Elf #36 with Thomas Laurent, Pierre Ragues and Andre Negrao) were starting from third.
GTE Pro had Porsche #92 with Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen on Pole Position, ahead of Aston Martin Racing #95 with Marco Sørensen and Nicki Thiim starting from P2, while AF Corse Ferrari #51 with James Calado and Daniel Serra started P3.
AMR #98 with Paul Dalla Lana, Ross Gunn and Pedro Lamy was on GTE Am Pole Position, ahead of TF Sport Aston Martin #90 with Salih Yoluc, Jonny Adam plus Charlie Eastwood, while Red River Sport Ferrari #62 with Kei Cozzolino, Bonamy Grimes and Colin Noble was to start from the third position.
The start went well through the field, where Signatech Alpine Elf #36 took second in LMP2, while TF Sport Aston Martin #90 took the lead of GTE Am.
AF Corse Ferrari #83 dropped to very last position in the GTE Am category, since Perrodo was taking it nice and easy, and wanted to avoid any kind of trouble.
Red River Sport Ferrari #62 was turned around in Turn 1 by Team Project 1 Porsche #56, so Bonamy Grimes dropped to last in GTE Am. The stewards looked at the incident, but called No Further Action, since #62 appeared to get a little to quickly on the throttle.
There was a tough battle between Gulf Racing Porsche #86, Red River Sport Ferrari #62 and AF Corse Ferrari #83, where #62 had the fastest pace and was making its way, back up the field.
Half an hour into the race, there was a bit of Aston on Aston fight, when Paul Dalla Lana in #98 saw a gap, and dived on Salih Yoluc. Yoluc hadn’t noticed the move at all, so he took his normal line through the corner, so Dalla Lana had to get hard on the brakes, but didn’t quite avoid the contact. #98 came off worse, by spinning around, and having to wait for both Team Project 1 Porsche cars, AF Corse Ferrari #54 and Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 to pass.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 did a mistake during their first pitstop, where the windscreen wiper wasn’t put back on the windscreen, but was instead flapping around in the wind. Thankfully it wasn’t raining, so there was no need for it.
Marco Sørensen put Kevin Estre under a lot of pressure, in the GTE Pro battle, which made Estre take a trip through the run-off area. A few laps later, it was Sørensen’s turn to use the same bit of run-off, so it was a tough battle.
Signatech Alpine Elf #36 lost a few spots in the LMP2 category during their pitstop, so Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 was in third, ahead of JOTA #38.
Team Project 1 Porsche #56 fought its way past TF Sport Aston Martin #90, so the defending champions were in the second position in GTE Am.
The GTE Pro changed during the first pitstop, with Porsche #91 grabbing the lead from #92 and AMR #95.
The lead in the LMP2 category changed during their pitstops, with JOTA #38 now leading, ahead of Jackie Chan DC Racing #37, while United Autosports #22 was caught and later on passed at their second pitstop.
Porsche #92 grabbed the GTE Pro lead, when they managed to overtake their teammates.
The LMP2 lead changed once again, when Ho-Pin Tung in #37 took the lead from Roberto Gonzalez in #38.
AF Corse Ferrari #83 got a Drive-through penalty for Track Limits – the first of many for the competitors, in today’s race.
Two hours into the race, it was Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 leading LMP1, Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 in LMP2, Porsche #92 in GTE Pro, and AMR #98 in GTE Am.
Ho-Pin Tung lost the LMP2 lead, when he outbraked himself in Turn 11, so Phil Hanson in United Autosports #22 took the lead.
Hanson lost the lead one lap later, when he spun on exactly the same spot, and almost got hit by the #37, but was thankfully able to continue.
Full Course Caution was called three hours into the race, with a bit of debris needing to be removed. That made all the GTE cars pit, since that fitted their pitstop window perfectly. Not everybody made it out of the pits, before the race went green again. That did especially cost #95 a lot of positions, so they all of a sudden were down in 6th – quite a distance behind their teammates in #97, which was their competition for the championship.
TF Sport Aston Martin #90 slowly crept up the GTE Am field once again, and after just under 4 hours of racing, Charlie Eastwood managed to grab the second position of the race in the red AMR car.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 was still leading the race at the halfway point, while Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 was leading LMP2, Porsche #92 in GTE Pro and TF Sport Aston Martin #90 in GTE Am.
There was drama, when AF Corse Ferrari #51 had contact with Team Project 1 Porsche #56, which punctured the left rear tire on #51, so Daniel Serra had to do almost a full lap on three tires. It only got worse, when the tire flew off right before the pit entry. That resulted in a Safety car, so get all the debris collected.
The #51 was so damaged, that they had to push it into their garage for more repairs. That was the end of their title chances.
The Safety Car period was a huge advantage for AF Corse Ferrari #83, which had been far down the GTE Am field, but gained back a lot of time to their competitors.
After almost 20 minutes at a reduced pace, the field was released again, with pretty much no gap between the cars in all the categories.
AMR #95 had to change their brakes, less than half an hour after their latest stop.
Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 and United Autosports #22 pitted at the same time, but Gabriel Aubry braked a bit before Filipe Albuquerque had anticipated, so the Portuguese driver hit the rear of the Frenchman’s car.
AF Corse Ferrari #51 got a 10-second pitstop penalty, for the contact with the #56 earlier in the race.
There was contact between JOTA #38 and United Autosports #22, when 22 tried to overtake. Paul Di Resta was able to make a safe overtake, two corners later.
UA #22 got a 5 seconds pitstop penalty, for causing the collision at the pit entry with #37.
Porsche #91 overtook AMR #97, in their battle for second in GTE Pro. That made it a Porsche 1-2 once again, since #92 with Estre/Christensen was leading.
There was a sudden drama, when United Autosports #22 came crawling into the pits. Thankfully it just had enough speed to reach the team, that just fueled the car, and sending him again. Had he just run out of fuel?
Signatech Alpine Elf #36 was back in the LMP2 lead, by running an alternative strategy. But we would only know, if it was a good or bad strategy, at the chequered flag.
With two hours left to race, it was Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 still leading LMP1, JOTA #38 in LMP2, Porsche #92 in GTE Pro, and Gulf Racing Porsche #86 in GTE Am.
The strategy between the GTE Am teams was very different, so AF Corse Ferrari #83 was in second with 90 minutes to go, but still needing two pitstops. When they took their penultimate stop, the fell right behind TF Sport Aston Martin #90, that only had one stop to do. So #83 absolutely had to pass #90, to be able to win the title.
Nicklas Nielsen in #83 was flying, and caught almost half a minute on the #90, in less than half an hour.
The brake issues continued at Aston Martin, where #95 and #98 had gotten their brakes changed earlier in the race. TF Sport Aston Martin #90 had to change their brakes with less than an hour to go. That send then back to last in GTE Am, and would have to play the waiting game, to see exactly how much time AF Corse Ferrari #83 would lose during their last stop.
Cetilar Racing #47 had a brake disc exploding, but was able to drive its way back to the pits under its own power.
AMR #97 had to pit for new brakes with 45 minutes left of the race, and that cost them the chance of a podium in today’s race – but where would they finish compared to #95?
AF Corse Ferrari #83 pitted for the final time with 39 minutes left, and came back on track in 5th – three places ahead of TF Sport #90. It only went better for #83, when some of the cars in front of them also had to pit.
Red River Sport Ferrari #62 got a 5 seconds pitstop penalty, for having hit Team Project 1 Porsche #56.
The two cars from JOTA – one under their own name, and the second under the Jackie Chan DC Racing name, were fighting for the race victory, with #38 exiting the pits only a few meters ahead of the sister car.
Behind that pairing, there was a tough battle between Racing Team Nederland #29 to stay third, with Nyck de Vries bring under a lot of pressure from Thomas Laurent in Signatech Alpine Elf #36.
Just because #37 and #38 were teammates, didn’t mean that they wouldn’t battle – and they fought side by side, while they were overtaking slower GTE cars.
Nicklas Nielsen grabbed second in GTE Am, with 20 minutes left on the clock, and was well on his way to securing the title, if they could keep that position to the finishing line.
Signatech Alpine Elf #36 pitted with 15 minutes left, which took their chance of a podium position in today’s race.
Cetilar Racing #47 managed to get the car repaired, having to change a defect generator, so they were back in the race, with just a few minutes to go.
The LMP2 war came to the max with 9 minutes to go, when Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 dived at the very last second on their teammates in JOTA #38. There was contact between the two cars, with Aubry forcing Felix da Costa into the run-off, taking the lead of the race.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez won the race, ahead of their teammates in #8 with Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley.
Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 with Gabriel Aubry, Will Stevens and Ho-Pin Tung finished third overall, but won the LMP2 category as well, ahead of JOTA #38 with Anthony Davidson, Antonio Felix da Costa and Roberto Gonzalez, while Racing Team Nederland #29 with Nyck de Vries, Frits van Eerd and Giedo van der Garde finished third.
Porsche #92 with Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre won GTE Pro, ahead of Porsche #91 with Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz, and AF Corse Ferrari #71 with Miguel Molina and Davide Rigon.
Team Project 1 Porsche #56 with Larry ten Voorde, Egidio Perfetti and Jörg Bergmeister won the GTE Am category, ahead of AF Corse Ferrari #83 with Nicklas Nielsen, Francois Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard, and Dempsey-Proton Competition Porsche #88 with Jaxon Evans, Khalid Al Qubaisi and Marco Holzer in P3.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez secured the LMP World Title, ahead of their teammates and Rebellion Racing #1 in third.
United Autosports #22 with Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson won the LMP2 title, ahead of JOTA #38 and Jackie Chan DC Racing #37.
Aston Martin Racing #95 with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen finished the race in 5th in GTE Pro, but since that was right behind their teammates in #97, it was enough to secure the second title to the Dane Train. This time it was as Official FIA World Champions, with their 2016 title not being an official World Title. AMR #97 finished second, while the defending champions in Porsche #92, Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre finished third.
Nicklas Nielsen, Francois Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard in AF Corse Ferrari #83 won the GTE Am title, ahead of TF Sport Aston Martin #90 with Salih Yoluc, Jonny Adam and Charlie Eastwood, while Team Project 1 Porsche #56 grabbed third, with today’s victory.
That was the end of the longest World Championship season in the history, starting out in September 2019 and finishing in November 2020.
The FIA World Endurance Championship is scheduled to be back at Sebring, when Season 9 starts on 19 March 2021.