Having already secured the LMP2 category world title, the no.36 Signatech-Alpine ended the 6 Hours of Bahrain in third place. This was seventh podium in nine races for Gustavo Menezes, Nicolas Lapierre and Stéphane Richelmi. In the no.35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine, Paul-Loup Chatin, Ho-Pin Tung and David Cheng delivered a solid performance. They finished the race in sixth position.
Right from the word go, the Signatech-Alpine showed in qualifying that it was going to be on the pace this weekend. Following the demotion of the no.26 G-Drive, Gustavo Menezes and Stéphane Richelmi secured the no.36 crew's second pole position of the season, whilst Paul-Loup Chatin and David Cheng finished seventh in the LMP2 class in the no.35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine.
The 6 Hours of Bahrain got underway on Saturday at 4pm local time, just as sunlight was beginning to fade. When the lights went out, Gustavo Menezes raced away in front. The Californian moved several lengths clear with an authoritative start, before then keeping his rivals at bay throughout his double stint.
With Paul-Loup Chatin behind the wheel, the early stages of the Baxi DC Racing Alpine's race were equally solid. The Frenchman moved up to sixth place before handing over to Ho-Pin Tung, just as Nicolas Lapierre took over from Gustavo Menezes in the no.36 car.
On his first stint, the Frenchman noted a drop-off in performance. However, thanks to the driver's talent, the no.36 Signatech-Alpine held onto the lead until the halfway stage of the race.
Meanwhile, Ho-Pin Tung produced a stunning performance in the no.35 car. During his triple stint, the Chinese driver fought up to second place. He then handed over to David Cheng, whilst Stéphane Richelmi took over from Nicolas Lapierre.
Like his team-mate, Stéphane suffered from a lack of grip with his tyres. The Monegasque limited the time lost as much as possible but he dropped back to fourth place.
For the final hour, Nicolas Lapierre resumed driving duties. He produced a superb effort on fresh rubber to sneak into the podium places with twelve minutes to go!
Similarly, Paul-Loup Chatin was handed the task of finishing the race after David Cheng's double stint. He brought home the Baxi DC Racing Alpine in sixth place.
Bernard Ollivier, Alpine Deputy Managing Director:
"The race reflects our season to some extent, where in the first half we controlled the situation perfectly, with a successful strategy, then we had an issue which forced us to go on the defensive. We saw that the whole team managed to take a step back, react and then go after the podium spot. That goes to show that you have to know both how to win races and pick up points in the minor places, which always count at the end of the season."
Philippe Sinault, Signatech-Alpine Team Principal:
"For the moment, we don't know why we had difficulties after Gustavo Menezes' double stint. All of a sudden, Nicolas Lapierre began complaining about the car, with a lot of understeer and vibration at the rear. It could be a problem on the car or as a result of the drop in temperature. And yet, we were very fast in similarly cool conditions in free practice. We had said we would finish the season on a high and that's what we have done. The no.36 spent more laps in the lead than any other car and we fought hard to secure a place on the podium. We can't be disappointed after such a great season. The Baxi DC Racing Alpine had a very good race, varying between second and sixth position. Ho-Pin and Paul-Loup were close to the quickest drivers and David enjoyed his best race of the year. He has made a big step forward recently."
"I think we had found pretty much the ideal set-up for this race. We didn't have as much tyre degradation as the no.36 and that allowed us to be aggressive. I enjoyed driving the car, especially during the final stint. But another car ran into me with five laps to go and I thought it was better to ease off and avoid running the risk off any further trouble. David and Ho-Pin both drove very well and it's encouraging to finish in sixth place."
"We had a very good rhythm today, an improvement on the last two races. Our strategy was bold, because I did a triple stint. Obviously, we had to manage the tyres as a result, but everything went well since I was able to get up to second place! We've had our fair share of highs and lows this season, especially at Le Mans when mechanical issues ruined our hopes of a podium. But I'm pleased to finish the season on this positive note."
"Generally speaking, I think we did a good job during what was a difficult race. As it has been all season, the standard was very high. It was extremely close right to the end and finishing in sixth place is a good way to round off the year. As the season has gone on, we have picked up a lot of experience and gone faster and faster. Overall, I'm happy with how things have gone."
"To be honest, I'm a bit disappointed. After starting from pole position, my two stints were perfect and I managed to build up an eight-second lead. We thought that Nicolas was going to move clear, but he suddenly started losing a lot of time… We shouldn't lose sight, however, of what a fabulous season we've had: we have won a lot of races, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and we are world champions! It's been an incredible first season for me in Endurance racing."
"During my first stint, I felt a huge drop-off in performance and we can't really explain it as yet. We will analyse what happened, but it's a bit frustrating to finish the season like this. Things were going really well and we thought we had a good chance of winning, but it wasn't to be. That’s racing for you! It's nonetheless our seventh podium of the season."
"It really wasn't easy for me! I had two new tyres and two tyres that had already been used in qualifying, and I had to manage with them during both of my stints. I tried to keep a good rhythm whilst looking after my tyres, but it became more difficult as the race went on. We changed the strategy so that Nicolas was able to finish on fresh tyres and we managed to grab a podium spot. The main thing is the overall result, with our win at Le Mans and the LMP2 title."
LMP2 STANDINGS FOR THE 6 HOURS OF BAHRAIN
1. G-Drive Racing no.26 184 laps
2. RGR Sport by Morand no.43 +6.840
3. Signatech-Alpine no.36 +1 lap
4. Extreme Speed Motorsports no.31 + 1 lap
5. Extreme Speed Motorsports no.30 + 1 lap
6. Baxi DC Racing Alpine no.35 +2 laps
7. Manor no.45 +2 laps
6. SMP Racing no.37 +5 laps
7. SMP Racing no.27 +8 laps
9. Manor no.44 +9 laps
FIA LMP2 ENDURANCE TROPHY (UNOFFICIAL)
1. Signatech-Alpine no.36 199 pts
2. RGR Sport by Morand no.43 169 pts
3. G-Drive Racing no.26 165 pts
4. Extreme Speed Motorsports no.31 116 pts
5. Extreme Speed Motorsports no.30 78 pts
6. SMP Racing no.37 71 pts
7. Strakka Racing no.42 66 pts
8. SMP Racing no.27 62 pts
9. Baxi DC Racing Alpine no.35 42 pts
10. Manor no.44 28 pts