FIA WEC: Toyota #7 victorious in Bahrain as LMP1, GTE Pro and GTE Am titles are decided

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Toyota enjoyed its most memorable race in the FIA World Endurance Championship to date at the 6 Hours of Bahrain today as Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi were crowned drivers’ champions with one race remaining.

An alternator failure meant that the title-chasing duo in the #8 car lost a great deal of time in the pits after fighting at the front early on, and could only finish down in 11th position, some 18 laps down on the race winning #7 runner.

However, with the #2 Audi of Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler only coming home in fourth place, Davidson and Buemi head into the final race of the season with an unassailable lead.

Behind the wheel of the #7 car, Alexander Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway controlled the race at the front, leading from the second hour to claim its first win of the season. For Conway, this marked his first LMP1 victory in the World Endurance Championship.

Porsche enjoyed its best outing of the season to put pressure on Toyota towards the end of the race, finishing in second and third place to complete the podium. The #14 of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb came home 50 seconds behind the winning car, with Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley a further seven seconds down the road after letting the sister car past in the final stages of the race.

After a difficult week in Bahrain, the Audi cars finished the race in fourth and fifth place, marking the handing over of the mantle in the WEC to Toyota. The #13 Rebellion Racing car crossed the line sixth overall, winning the LMP1-L class.

In LMP2, the #47 KCMG car took the top honors with Matthew Howson, Richard Bradley and Alexandre Imperatori enjoying a three lap lead over SMP Racing’s #37 car at the flag. However, late drama for the #27 SMP car saw second-placed Nicolas Minassian come into the pits in the final hour with smoke spewing from the rear of his car, spilling oil on the track.

Minassian was cruelly forced to retire just 15 minutes short of the finish, causing teammate Sergey Zlobin to lose the lead in the LMP2 drivers’ standings. This is the only drivers’ title that was not decided in Bahrain.

In the GTE Pro class, fans were treated to yet another incredible scrap between AF Corse and Aston Martin Racing that eventually saw the #51 Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander win by 1.8 seconds from AMR’s #97 driven by Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke. As a result, the #51 drivers have also clinched their respective championship and the teams’ title, with Davide Rigon and James Calado completing the GTE Pro podium for AF Corse.

There was some solace for Aston Martin, though, as Kristian Poulsen and David Heinemeier-Hansson won the GTE Am title. Third driver Nicki Thiim kept up his 100% win record in the #95 car as the Danish trio finished one lap ahead AF Corse’s #81 car.

The final race of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship takes place on November 30th at Interlagos, Brazil.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”