Sakhir, Nov 15th 2014 – The 6 Hours of Bahrain, the seventh round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, delivered drama, excitement, great racing and – more crucially – World Championship titles for Ferrari and Aston Martin. Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander in the AF Corse No.51 Ferrari won an intense LMGTE Pro battle through the hours of darkness and, in doing so, claimed the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers. It is the Italian’s second World GT title but his first with his Finnish team mate, and Vilander’s third consecutive victory in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
The pair have been formidable competitors this year and used skill, strategy and sheer determination to secure four victories from the seven races held so far this season. The Ferrari drivers’ victory today was not an easy one by any means and they were pushed hard throughout the six hours by the No.97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke who came through to finish second, just 1.8 seconds behind. The British-German duo, on fresher tyres than the Ferrari, pushed them all the way to the line to take their third podium finish of the season – one of which was victory at COTA in September. However, the critical factor in the Ferrari’s victory was its ability to complete the race on one fewer fuel stop than its rivals – five as opposed to its rivals’ six.
Toni Vilander – “This is a very emotional moment as, for the first time, I am World Champion and it still hasn’t sunk in that I’ve succeeded in this great achievement. After the disappointment in Shanghai, the past two weeks have been very long for me. Today’s race wasn’t easy and I tried to give it my all, pushing ever harder in every stint until the win came. I want to thank Ferrari, Antonello Coletta, Amato Ferrari and all the guys in his team, along with those from Michelotto for the great job they did on the car after Gimmi’s bad luck at the last race.”
Gimmi Bruni – “Today was a fantastic day and for the second year in a row I’m World Champion. I am very happy to be able to share this important victory with my team-mate Toni Vilander. I want to thank Ferrari, the team from Michelotto and all the guys from AF Corse for the amazing job they did in completely repairing the car after my accident in Shanghai.”
Third across the line in the LMGTE Pro class was the No.71 AF Corse entry of Davide Rigon and James Calado and this result was crucial in helping AF Corse to clinch the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMGTE Pro Teams. However, with the two Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSRs finishing fourth and fifth in class, the points accrued by the manufacturer meant that the difference between Ferrari and Porsche is now 25 points and, with 26 available at the final round in Sao Paulo, there is still a chance this can be claimed by the German marque. While Aston Martin Racing just missed out in the Pro category, it celebrated double Championship success in the Am class. David Heinemeier Hansson and Kristian Poulsen, re-joined by Nicki Thiim for this round, scored their fourth class victory of the season to seal both the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMGTE Am Drivers and the title for LMGTE Teams.
The title chase turned in the Danish-crewed car’s favour at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the double points awarded, but the No.95 ‘Dane Train’ has been consistently fast and reliable all season. It survived a brush with a competitor just before the end of the fourth hour, but otherwise had an untroubled run from flag to flag. Although Aston Martin Racing had already secured the Teams’ Trophy, they didn’t know until this weekend which of their Am cars it would go to, and the No.95 crew has great cause to celebrate. Taking second place in the LMGTE Am class was the No.81 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia of Michele Rugolo, Stephen Wyatt and Andrea Bertolini – the trio’s first podium of the season.
Unfortunately there was to be no podium success in either class for Saudi Arabia’s Abdulaziz Al Faisal (No.99 Aston Martin Vantage V9 in LMGTE Pro) or Emirati driver Khaled Al Qubaisi (No.88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR) although the latter finished just off the podium in fourth place in the Am category.
The final round of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship will take place in two weeks at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Sunday 30th November. The final four championship titles across the four classes will be settled then, and the FIA WEC Prize Giving will take place in Brazil the day after the race.
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