The LMP1 Hybrid Era ended in Bahrain with an eight-hour race closing out the 2019/2020 FIA World Endurance Championship.
While the top class entry numbered only the pair of factory-entered Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050s, the pair put on a display, not of close racing, but of faultless pace and reliability. After the ORECA LMP2 car of ex-Formula 1 star Paul di Resta took a look up the inside at Turn 1, the remainder of the field were left far behind.
The numbers meant that the winner of the race between the two Toyotas would take home the FIA WEC drivers championship, and it was clear from the start that the crew of the No. 7 Toyota had an advantage that likely exceeded even the 0.54s per lap dealt out by the FIA WEC’s success handicap system. The latter, brought into the LMP1 class for the final season to allow the non-hybrid powered privateer LMP1s to compete for wins, had little effect on the outcome of this race.
The two Toyota crews were given free reign by the factory team, already in possession of the coveted Teams title, to run their own strategies. And put simply, the No. 7 crew did the better job, pulling away from the sister car rapidly and building up a full half a lap advantage before a mid-race Safety car, sent out to allow a clearing-up of debris on the start/finish straight, allowed the gap to close.
When the race went back to green-flag running, the No. 7 pulled away again and, aside from a brief challenge from Sebastien Buemi on new rubber in the No. 8, the lead and the win never looked threatened.
With the race ending in full darkness under the Bahrain floodlights, ex-Toyota and -Sauber F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi brought the car home over a minute clear of fellow Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima, to the great joy of co-drivers Mike Conway, a British ex-IndyCar race winner, and three-time World Touring Car champion Jose Maria Lopez from Argentina.
Your #8hBahrain winners and newly-crowned World Champions! Congratulations guys, let the champagne flow! 🏆 🍾#ToyotaGAZOORacing #PushingTheLimitsForBetter @FIAWEC #TS050Farewell pic.twitter.com/1nMBTrEAvm
— TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WEC (@Toyota_Hybrid) November 14, 2020
The World Endurance Championship is set to return with a repeat of the ‘Super Sebring’ double bill at Sebring in March 2021, the 10-hour Sebring 1000kms featuring the debut of the new Hypercar class replacing LMP1.