Mike Conway’s season draws to a close in Bahrain
Mike Conway’s season draws to a close in Bahrain

Mike Conway concluded the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship this past weekend in Bahrain as he finished 4th at the ninth, and final, round of the season, the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain.

With all the championship titles already decided heading into the final round, Mike and his TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team looked to record victory for the final time against Porsche as the German manufacturer contested its final race before their withdrawal from the series.

As Mike and the #7 TS050 HYBRID continued their search for their first win of the season, the sister #8 had enjoyed great success in the Asian rounds, picking up wins at the last rounds at Fuji and Shanghai. Knowing the pace was there for race wins, Mike and the team got off to a good start, like they had done all season, finishing the first practice session in 1st place and the second session in 2nd place – completing a double TOYOTA one-two on the opening day.

Happy with how the weekend had started, Mike Conway remained focused as he knew there was still work to be done.

“That was a decent day for the team as we were fastest in both sessions. Our car needs to improve still in some areas and we are still deciding on tyres and set-up. We improved the car from the first session and I think we can improve again tomorrow so we can hopefully fight again for pole.”

Qualifying

Heading into Friday’s qualifying session, Mike and José María López shared the driving duties for qualifying and were in search of the team’s fifth pole of the season. As Mike jumped in the car first, he felt his out lap was compromised but still he set a blistering lap time that kept the team holding the top spot for the majority of the session – becoming the first LMP1 driver to lap the Bahrain International Circuit in less than 1min 40secs!

On his single flying lap, with new tyres, José put the #7 in pole position but was dropped back to second when the #1 Porsche chose to make a third attempt, on a third set of new tyres, and narrowly earned top spot by 0.263secs – demoting the #7 to a second grid starting spot.

“My time was a bit compromised because I had to slow down on my out lap to get a clear track and I lost temperature in the tyres. So, the first sector wasn’t perfect but the rest of the lap was good. It looked like we had pole but Porsche #1 used an extra set of tyres which we weren’t prepared to do because the race is priority for us.”

Race

When Saturday’s race got underway in daylight, Mike manned the opening stint in the #7 and fell back to 4th place but remained tight on the Porsches as he continued to apply the pressure. Looking extremely fast in his #7, Mike eventually made his way past both of the Porsches into second place to establish a TOYOTA one-two!

At the first pit stops, the two TS050 HYBRIDs chose different strategies; José took the wheel of the #7 on new tyres while the #8 only refuelled, retaining the lead. After an hour, darkness fell and the differing tyre strategies began to play out. Just before one-third distance, the #8 pitted for fresh tyres and dropped to second, while José took the lead. However, on the used rubber, José couldn’t fend off the #8 and eventually slipped back to second.

Looking set for a second-place finish and with the team pushing for a one-two, a dramatic twist came as the #7 car, with Kamui at the wheel, fell out of contention with three hours completed. Kamui and the #92 Porsche GT car made contact at turn one, causing a right rear puncture and bodywork damage to the #7.

During the resulting safety car, the mechanics worked quickly to repair the #7 and return it to the race, having lost six minutes. It dropped to fourth place, where it eventually crossed the finishing line in, concluding a disappoint race in Bahrain.

Mike was happy to see TOYOTA collect another win in the #8 but knew it should have been a one-two.

“The race started off well; we fought our way up to second after some good battles with Porsche. We were very close to #8 and with the strategy it was going back and forth between us. Unfortunately, we had the incident with the GT car that put us out of contention. The guys did a great job to get the car out again so quickly. It should have been a one-two but another win is good for the team.”

Mike ends the season 5th in the Drivers’ Championship with 103.5 points while TOYOTA finish the year in 2nd place with 286.5 points!

TAGS:  

 
Seo