Anthony Davidson set to retire from FIA WEC after fantastic career
Anthony Davidson will call time on his 22-year professional racing career in Bahrain this weekend, also ending a love affair with sportscar racing which has seen him score his greatest career victories.
In 2003 Davidson was fully immersed in his Formula One testing work for the BAR Honda F1 team, having already made his F1 debut in a one-off race at the 2002 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Sportscar racing was not hugely on his radar, but at Le Mans in 2003 he teamed up with former British F3 champion Kelvin Burt and then fellow sportscar rookie Darren Turner, in a Prodrive-entered Ferrari 550 GTS.
Davidson was at the wheel of the Ferrari when it suffered a failure and pitched him in to the barriers at the end of the Mulsanne straight. It was an area of the track that came back to haunt him almost a decade later.
It was a bruising introduction to endurance racing, and while Davidson returned to testing duties with BAR, his endurance quest would soon be reignited.
That came in 2009 just as his journey with the Honda-backed Super Aguri F1 team was coming to a close. His second Le Mans was also with Darren Turner in one of the glorious V12 Lola-Aston Martin LMP1 cars, but it wasn’t until the following year that a crack at a race win was forthcoming.
P3 yesterday in the #6HBahrain with my team-mates @RobGonzalezV & @afelixdacosta.— Anthony Davidson (@antdavidson) October 31, 2021
One more to go…which I’ve decided will also be my final race as a professional racing driver. It’s been an incredible and unforgettable journey and I thank all those involved along the way pic.twitter.com/2Sud9d6Qpu
With Peugeot Sport, Davidson proved he was one of the top sportscar performers of the LMP1 era, scoring a fourth place at Le Mans in 2011 alongside Alex Wurz and Marc Gene.
When Peugeot unexpectedly quit the endurance scene in early 2012, Davidson was quickly picked up by Toyota which was returning to global sportscar competition for the first time since 1999.
The British ace slotted into the team immediately, but the beginnings of the relationship were rocked by his huge accident in the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans at his bête noir corner, Mulsanne.
Contact with a GT Ferrari sent his Toyota TS030 Hybrid high into the air before it crashed back into the tarmac and then an armco barrier. The impacts broke his eleventh and twelfth thoracic vertebrae and triggered a long road to recovery.
By the end of 2012, Davidson was mostly recovered and he was able to score a podium position at his return on home soil at Silverstone in April 2013.
Along with teammates Stephane Sarrazin and Sebastien Buemi he took a fine second at Le Mans before a first ever WEC win was accomplished in the season finale at Bahrain.
For 2014 the new Toyota TS040 Hybrid dominated proceedings with wins for Davidson, Buemi and new teammate Nicolas Lapierre at Spa, Silverstone, Fuji, and Shanghai to take the WEC drivers and manufacturers’ titles.
It was Davidson’s best ever season in terms of results, yet Le Mans alluded him that year as Audi snatched victory at La Sarthe from Toyota.
Le Mans would continue to evade Davidson and in 2016 it did so in the cruellest way possible after teammate Kazuki Nakajima famously and heartbreakingly stopped on the penultimate lap of the race.
The following year saw Davidson, in his final campaign with Toyota, have statistically his best WEC season ever. Five wins at Silverstone, Spa, Fuji, Shanghai, and Bahrain would have been enough in any other season to take the title. Yet, again, another difficult Le Mans counted against he and teammates Buemi and Nakajima, meaning that Porsche claimed the titles with one less victory but a stronger Le Mans.
A new challenge emerged in 2018 with the DragonSpeed LMP2 quad before two seasons at the JOTA squad brought wins in Shanghai and Portimao as he developed a close and fruitful relationship with Roberto Gonzalez and Antonio Felix da Costa.
Away from the WEC paddock, Davidson is also a highly respected analyst for Sky Sports’ F1 coverage and holds a development and simulator role with the Mercedes F1 operation, showcasing a unique versatility.
Thoughtful, popular, and engaging, Anthony Davidson will be a much-missed personality from the WEC paddock next season.
The whole of the FIA WEC family thanks Anthony for his outstanding service to the championship over the years and wishes he and his family a happy and prosperous future.
Written by Sam Smith