WEC: Fight for LMP2 title takes dramatic swing in first hour at Sao Paulo

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The first hour of the World Endurance Championship’s season finale at Sao Paulo, Brazil ended with a major incident that may have decided the LMP2 title.

G-Drive Racing held the lead over Sergey Zlobin of SMP Racing going into today’s six-hour event, but just before the race crossed over one hour’s time, the No. 26 G-Drive Ligier/Nissan of Olivier Pla went straight on into the tire barriers at Turn 1.

Pla was OK after the incident.

As a result, it’s now up to Zlobin to finish this race and claim the crown for himself. His No. 27 SMP Oreca/Nissan sits third in class behind the leading No. 47 KCMG Oreca and the sister No. 37 SMP Oreca in second.

Meanwhile, up front, the No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid (pictured) continues to pace the field from pole position. Timo Bernhard ran a solid opening stint before handing over the car to Mark Webber, who has plenty of experience with the Interlagos tracks from his not-too-distant days in Formula One.

The No. 14 Porsche and No. 8 Toyota put on a tough fight for second place during their opening stints with Marc Lieb in the 14 and Sebastien Buemi in the 8.

But Buemi managed to beat back multiple attacks from Lieb, and as of now, the TS040 Hybrid (now with Anthony Davidson in the car) still holds second over the 14 car (with Neel Jani driving).

Farther back, the No. 1 Audi (Loic Duval) sits fourth, the No. 7 Toyota (Mike Conway) is in fifth, and the No. 2 Audi (Marcel Fassler) has climbed back to sixth after its starting driver, Benoit Treluyer, suffered a slow start due to a power issue and subsequent reboot.

In GTE-Pro, the No. 99 Aston Martin (Darryl O’Young) and No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari (Davide Rigon) are in a hot battle for the class lead with the No. 92 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR running third behind them. GTE-Am is being paced by another AF Corse entry, the No. 81 Ferrari.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.