All three cars on today’s 6 Hours of Bahrain podium were there to say their goodbyes. Audi Sport Team Joest, a team synonymous with top-class endurance racing for 18 years, pulled off a gut-wrenching 1-2 win in their final race in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Mark Webber, who retires after this race, won third place with the No. 1 Porsche 919 team.
Audi has been one of the most visible entrants in the WEC, with its iconic Truth in 24 films responsible for attracting legions of fans to the sport. They became the embodiment of Audi’s big diesel push as soon as they switched to their eerily silent, high-tech diesel engines in the series. Audi’s utter dominance of the 24 Hours of Le Mans—one of the most famous and difficult races in the world—was the perfect advertisement for Volkswagen’s diesel technology.
Sadly, the Volkswagen Group’s consumer-side tech turned out to be nothing but false hope and lies. It wasn’t the simple, efficient Prius-killing tech we were sold on. Rather, Volkswagen had cleverly cheated authorities in emissions testing.
Billions of dollars in fines, buybacks and other costly spawns of Dieselgate later, Audi announced that it would shift its motorsport priorities once again, this time to electric power in the FIA Formula E Championship. Many also saw Audi’s team as a redundant effort anyway alongside the newly returned Volkswagen Group LMP1 effort of Porsche. Through no fault of the team itself, Audi’s LMP1 team—famous for promoting diesel technology—had to go.
Fortunately, Audi ended on a high note, with Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich holding back tears all night until finally breaking down in the race’s last moments, along with several other members of the Audi team. They drove an utterly perfect race, controlling the front of the pack from the very start.
Lucas di Grassi, who set a new WEC track record in qualifying this weekend, cruised the No. 8 Audi R18 to a win, with Marcel Fässler piloting the No. 7 Audi R18 home in second place behind him.
Retiring Porsche driver Mark Webber stood on the third step of today’s podium with the No. 1 Porsche team. Webber’s team let him drive the very last half-hour of the race, as this was his last stint before retiring from racing.
The No. 2 Porsche was at the back of the main LMP1 class in sixth place, which was enough to give Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas the drivers’ championship for the year.
Audi’s withdrawal from the sport had a profound effect on how the top LMP2-class drivers attacked this race as well. René Rast and Filipe Albuquerque were widely believed to be next in line for Audi LMP1 drives before the program announced it would be shutting down, and they drove as if they were auditioning for a place on the grid next year.
Rast drove the No. 26 G-Drive LMP2 to a first place class result after having to start from the very back of the grid because of a brake duct homologation problem, taking first from Albuquerque’s No. 43 RGR Sport LMP2 with only 2 laps to go. Albuquerque finished second, right behind Rast.
So long, Audi, and thanks for all the wins.
Elsewhere, Proton-Abu Dhabi Racing’s No. 811 Porsche 911 drove to a close-to-home win in LM GTE Am. Aston Martin Racing shook off their earlier bad luck to take the LM GTE Pro class win today as well as the season teams’ and driver’s championship for the class with their No. 95 car. Rebellion Racing’s No. 13 car—as expected at this point—took home the LMP1 Privateer class win.