WEC wraps 2013 season in Bahrain, crowns champions

Leave a comment

The FIA World Endurance Championship concluded its second full season this weekend in Bahrain, with some of the championships available decided.

The race first: Toyota dominated and was able to get its second overall win of the year, albeit this was the first under normal circumstances. An absolute deluge of rain at the scheduled Fuji race in October meant the race’s 16 total laps were run almost entirely behind the safety car, and only half points were awarded. Qualifying there made the entire difference as to who was classified as race winners.

Alas, on this Saturday in Bahrain, the No. 8 TS030 Hybrid (shown at Le Mans) took its first win of the year with drivers Anthony Davidson, Stephane Sarrazin and Sebastien Buemi. Retirements by both the sister Toyota, the No. 2 Audi of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loic Duval and the Rebellion Racing Lola Toyota promoted an LMP2 class car to the overall podium in the form of that class’ winners, G-Drive Racing. The No. 26 Oreca 03 Nissan scored its fourth win in the last five races with drivers Mike Conway, John Martin and Roman Rusinov.

AF Corse took the GTE Pro class win with Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander in the No. 51 Ferrari F458 Italia, and Aston Martin Racing capped off a challenging year for its Danish No. 95 Vantage with a GTE Am class win for the trio of countrymen Christoffer Nygaard, Kristian Poulsen and Nicki Thiim.

Although they retired, the Kristensen/McNish/Duval trio had banked enough points throughout the rest of the eight-race season to win the World Driver’s Championship overall. After racing alongside fellow ex-Formula One shoe Giancarlo Fisichella the other seven races, Bruni was split from his Italian countryman for Bahrain in an effort to ensure one of them won the World Cup for GT Drivers. Bruni took home that honor while a retirement for the No. 97 Aston Martin pairing of Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke cost them a shot.

The trio of Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman and Ricardo Gonzalez secured the Trophy for LMP2 Drivers for OAK Racing after a solid, consistent season in their No. 35 OAK Racing Morgan Nissan that included the class win at Le Mans. Lastly Jamie Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall wrapped up the Trophy for GTE Am Drivers in their No. 96 Aston Martin.

Audi (LMP) and Ferrari (GTE) took home the Manufacturer World Championships, while OAK No. 35 (LMP2), AF Corse No. 51 (GTE Pro) and 8Star Motorsports No. 81 (GTE Am) won FIA Endurance Trophies for teams.

And to answer your next question, no, not everyone who competed in the WEC this year took home a trophy. But there were many pieces of hardware to dole out.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”