Conway and Co on top
Sébastien Buemi started from pole position in the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid and led Conway through the first stint, the Briton running just a second behind. But although the lead swung between the pair, the #7 car proved easier on its Michelin tyres and that allowed the champions to take control. The result was confirmed by a slow pitstop for the #8, which briefly dropped it behind the only other Hypercar in the field, Alpine’s A480. But Brendon Hartley wasted little time gaining the position back to confirm yet another Toyota one-two and that ‘historic’ first title of the new era.
The result means Conway and Co are 15 points ahead of Buemi, Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima with just the season finale to go. The WEC remains in Bahrain this coming weekend for another enduro, this time over eight hours.
“I’m very happy with the win,” said Conway. “It’s good to get maximum points and secure the world championship for the team. It was a great job by all the crew, and my team-mates performed really well all day. In my stint it was a case of managing the tyres from the start. There were a lot of unknowns because we have never taken tyres so far into a race before, but it all worked out well. It’s a positive day for us in the drivers’ championship but it’s still all to play for next week, so we need to work hard to clinch it.”
The Alpine, which is a ‘grandfathered’ LMP1 rather than a pure-bred Hypercar, finished a lap down in third. Matthieu Vaxiviere, Andre Negrao and Nicolas Lapierre were never in contention for victory, largely thanks to rules that mean the Gibson-powered car can only run stints a lap shorter than the Toyotas. The French car was also delayed by a throttle issue in the early part of the race.