The Porsche team literally went balls-out from pole position in the final race of the 2017 World Endurance Championship season (see Neel Jani’s photo below), but even that was not enough to stop Toyota Gazoo Racing from taking its fifth win of the year.
At the chequered flag in Bahrain, the number eight Toyota of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Anthony Davidson claimed victory ahead of the two Porsche 919 Hybrids, but that was only after the number 1 919 had a collision with the number 86 Gulf Porsche while leading the race. Tandy was forced into the pits, Davidson took over the lead and built a 70-second cushion ahead of the number 2 919, which had pitted for fresh front bodywork during hour one.
That was pretty much all she wrote on positions, and the top three LMP1 cars finished in this order. Toyota’s win made the TS050 Hybrid the first car in WEC or the old World Sportscar Championship to win five races in a single season: well done to all the Toyota team on a terrific battle. I also liked what Akio Toyoda, President of the Toyoda Motor Corporation had to say after the race:
“What I thought anew following our last three races with Porsche, starting with the Fuji round, was that I wanted to compete in a race that would make Porsche want to take on Toyota again. That is one of the reasons we approached Fuji, Shanghai, and, then, Bahrain determined to win, and, this time, we were able to do just that.
“It was determined at the previous race in Shanghai that Porsche would be this year’s champion. To Porsche, please let me once again offer my congratulations. Although we experienced our share of regret this year, if this final race leaves Porsche feeling it would like another chance to take on Toyota, our team would be able to end the season with a bit of pride. To all those at Porsche, by all means, someday, on some road, for our mutual making of ever-better cars, please let us compete with you again.”
Porsche had to win the GTE Pro race to claim the GT crown for 2017, but it was not to be. The Ferrari came home in front and took that title, while Aston Martin claimed honours in GTE Am. “We did a lot of things right in this first season with the new 911 RSR,” said Richard Lietz. “Ultimately, we were in a position to fight for the drivers’ world championship. In today’s race, we tried several courageous measures and learned a lot, albeit a little too late. Nevertheless, I take my hat off to the team for being so brave. We were beaten by a very strong opponent.”
Alonso takes Pole Position for Le Mans attention
Toyota also scored a huge PR win post-race by announcing that every deck chair’s favourite driver, Fernando Alonso, would test for the team in Bahrain next week, with a view to competing at Le Mans in 2018. Next year may be Alonso’s best chance to take the win en route to his dream “Triple Crown” – winning the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans 24 and Indy 500 – but he has a few talented team mates and the usual roll of the motorsport dice to beat first.
So we reach the end of the road for the 919 Hybrid, although it might not be the Porsche WEC team’s last hurrah. Rumours of upcoming regulation changes in the not too distant future to bring road car styling back to the top WEC category has got McLaren and Aston looking at projects. Staying at home while supercar competitors steal the marketing gold at La Sarthe would be rather un-Porschelike.