While the FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 title had already been settled in favor of the No 22 United Autosports Oreca Gibson of Philip Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Paul Di Resta at the Le Mans 24 Hours in September, the down-on-numbers class still produced a high quality race with five cars in a race-long tussle at the season-ending 8 Hours of Bahrain on Saturday.
United Autosports’ bid to finish the season with four straight wins was not to be: The No. 22 was in the mix until, first, a 5s pitstop penalty after Di Resta had hit the rear of the No. 37 Jackie Chan DS Racing as the pair pitted, then ran out of fuel entering the pits, losing more time coasting to the pit box. The Championship-winning car would finish fourth ahead of the multiple championship winning No. 36 Signatech Alpine squad in their final planned race in the class before move up to the new for 2021 ‘Hypercar’ class with a ‘grandfathered’ ex Rebellion Racing LMP1.
Finishing ahead of the United car was the No. 29 Racing team Nederland Oreca, the all-Dutch crew of gentleman driver Frits van Eerd, ex-F1 driver Giedo van der Garde and reigning FIA F2 Champion Nyck de Vries not able to produce the race-long consistency needed to challenge for the win.
That battle came down to the only two cars in the field wearing Goodyear tires, the US-owned brand set to supply all LMP2s in WEC and European Le Mans Series competition next season after being selected as a sole tire supplier for the class.
Goodyear re-entered sportscar racing this season replacing the successful Dunlop brand, scoring a single win earlier in the season at the 6 Hours of Shanghai with the No. 38 Jota Sport Oreca.
The 38 was back in the mix this time around with their Gentleman driver in the Pro-Am class, Mexican racer Roberto Gonzales, keeping the car in touch through his required stints and allowing his Pro teammates (2014 WEC World Champion and ex-F1 racer Anthony Davidson, and current Formula E Champion and recent Indycar tester Antonio Felix de Costa) to push for the win.
Indeed, the No. 38 went to the front with the highly rated de Costa at the wheel in the final stages, making his way past the No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing entered car that is also serviced by the Jota Sport team.
The No. 37 trio – ex-F1 pilot Will Stevens, Dutch/Chinese racer Ho Pin Tung, and emerging talent and ex-single-seat racer Frenchman Gabriel Aubry were in the mix, too, throughout, battling hard and coming out ahead of the major competition, until Portuguese star de Costa got the better of Aubry in the final stint.
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The Frenchman though did not drop back and stayed in touch, gathering his pace again and looking for a way by de Costa. That looked unlikely as the No. 38 pushed for the flag, but, with just minutes remaining, de Costa made a tiny error, and Aubry pounced into the tight Turn 10 that takes the circuit alongside the Bahrain facilities drag strip. By the time the Jota Sport man was aware the move was underway, the No. 37 was fully alongside, up the inside with minor contact as de Costa tried to block, but way too late. It was an excellent move and Aubry emerged from the corner the leader, and without damage as de Costa was left to recover from running wide off-track as he tried in vain to defend his position.
Aubry would hold the lead to the flag, a fine win in what may be the final race in the WEC for the Jackie Chan DC Racing team.