Audi on pole for WEC swansong in Bahrain

© Audi

Audi will start its final race in the FIA World Endurance Championship from pole position after Oliver Jarvis and Lucas di Grassi topped qualifying for the 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Audi announced last month that it would be quitting the WEC following the final race of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit, ending its LMP1 program after 18 years.

Despite trailing rivals Porsche throughout practice, Audi hit back in qualifying as Jarvis and di Grassi combined for an average of 1:39.207 to secure their third pole of the season.

Porsche heads into the final race of the year pushing to add the drivers’ championship to its manufacturers’ success secured last time out in China, with the no. 2 crew of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb needing a sixth-place finish to wrap up the title.

The trio could only qualify third on Friday in Bahrain, losing out to the sister no. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid car after a late improvement spearheaded by Timo Bernhard that reduced the pole-sitting Audi’s advantage to just two-tenths of a second.

The no. 7 Audi R18 ended the session fourth, half a second off the pole time from across the garage, while the Toyotas lagged over a second behind in P5 and P6.

LMP2 saw G-Drive Racing take pole with its no. 26 Oreca Nissan, edging out the championship-winning no.36 Signatech Alpine entry by just 0.018 seconds. The no. 44 Manor slotted into third place, finishing a further three-tenths of a second further back.

Aston Martin Racing continued to dominate proceedings in the GTE Pro class by clinching a one-two finish, headed up by the no. 97 Vantage V8 shared by Jonny Adam and Darren Turner. Remarkably, the duo set the exact same lap time to the thousandth of 1:56.953, handing them class pole by just over one-tenth of a second.

The championship-chasing no. 95 AMR entry of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen ended up second in class, while the no. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 ended up third, a further three-tenths of a second behind.

Aston Martin also tasted success in GTE Am as Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana combined to take class pole, ensuring that the title fight will continue until race day. The no. 83 AF Corse crew had been able to clinch the title by scoring pole, but ended up three-tenths of a second behind in P2.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)