In what is to be the eighth race of an extremely exciting FIA World Endurance Championship the title will only be decided after a further six hours of mechanically tortuous racing. The link between the WEC and the average road car has been discussed by MotorMartin back in October https://motormartin.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/news-audi-ready-for-intense-final-stage-in-wec-title-race/ and provides a window into the future of new car technology right before our eyes. The introduction last year of the Porshe 919 Hybrid LMP1 and Nissan’s decision to introduce their innovative GT-R LM NISMO at Le Mans before competing in the entire Championship from 2016, reiterates how important the WEC is to future manufacturing technology. It’s been said many times before but testing new ideas out in the brutal environment of Endurance racing is certainly make or break!
Despite Porshe taking the Manufacturer’s Championship at the previous round, Audi must be applauded for keeping the driver’s title of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) open up to the finale. In Bahrain, the drivers from Audi Sport Team Joest will be battling with the Porsche drivers for the World Championship title on November 21.
Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer, with seven podium places in succession, have maintained their chances for the championship title up to the end. In second place of the standings, they are traveling to Bahrain with a twelve-point deficit, with 26 points yet to be awarded in the island state. “This is arguably the most thrilling season of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The decision will only be made in the final race,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “My thanks for this go to an untiring squad that has never given up, continued to develop the Audi R18 e-tron quattro, and worked hard.”
A statistical characteristic underscores the quality of this title race: no other driver squad has been on podium this year as often as Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer. They celebrated two victories, a second and four third places.
MotorMartin is aware of the enormous difficulty that will face Audi in their quest to win an FIA WEC title for the third time after 2012 and 2013. Even if Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer, as in 2012, were to lead an Audi one-two victory in Bahrain, such a result would not secure success in the championship for them. In this case, the current leaders of the standings, Timo Bernhard/Brendon Hartley/Mark Webber, would have to finish no better than fourth for the Audi drivers to claim the title. “We’re going to give everything and hope for a little fortune to still win the championship,” says Chris Reinke, Head of LMP at Audi Sport. “Giving up is out of the question for us – the opposite is true. As long as there’s a chance, we’re going to battle for the title. In tough conditions such as those in Bahrain, quite a bit is possible.”
With all WEC races apart from that of Le Mans taking place over six hours, it will come as no surprise to most that the race in the Bahrain desert makes maximum demands on the technology and the drivers meaning that the result will be in doubt until the majority of LMP1 cars have crossed the finish line. The 5.412-kilometre track has four long straights, followed by very narrow corners which results in hard braking manoeuvres from near-300 km/h several times per lap. In addition, there are geographic and climatic demands that make the set-up of the race cars even more difficult. Sand from the surrounding desert impairs grip on the tarmac, with air temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees centigrade and track temperatures of 40 degrees being the rule. As the sun sets about two hours after the start, the 6-hour round as a night race under floodlights, will be holding further imponderables in store.
While Audi is battling Porshe for the ultimate sporting honours of the 2015 season in Bahrain, an up-and-coming driver looks forward to a unique opportunity. A day following the finale, the FIA WEC, in collaboration with the leading teams, is making testing opportunities available to young talents. As a result, Richie Stanaway, from New Zealand, will be able to test the Audi R18 e-tron quattro as part of the FIA WEC’s rookie test program in Bahrain two days before his 24th birthday.
MotorMartin will certainly be keeping an eye on the outcome of this exciting, globetrotting Championship. For those that haven’t been bitten yet by the WEC bug I can only urge you to get watching. The breadth of machinery present in each of the four race classes is amazing with Porshe racing Ferrari racing Aston Racing Toyota racing Audi and so on throughout the field. F1 has its moments but for me, It’s the WEC every time.
Where will you go?