Anthony Davidson’s stars from Bahrain

The final race of the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship saw an array of spectacular storylines with heroes throughout the three classes.

As ever, WEC broadcaster Anthony Davidson casts his critical eye over who was on top form at last weekend’s Bapco Energies 8 Hours of Bahrain… here’s what he had to say.

Hypercar – Mike Conway 

“Mike was an absolute joy to watch and it was pure class because he didn't lose his cool when he got spun around. He didn't put himself in a dangerous position when he re-joined the circuit and believe me its enormously frustrating when that sort of thing happens.

“He just drifted his way through the field. It was just very planned and calculated, methodically done. 

“For me he was driver of the field in Hypercar. Just because he showed a lot of attributes as a driver, as an endurance driver. He ticked so many of those qualities that you need – coolness, patience, consistency and fight. 

“He was also very quick and he looked after his tyres. He kept his nose clean, didn't damage the car and was able to get back in to a strong position by the end of his stints.

“Getting wiped out of the race at T1 through no fault of his own is tough to take but it’s how you then react which counts and Mike was really positive.

“He had to overtake some really competitive cars without aid of DRS or undercuts in pitstops, etc. It was just pure racing, and well calculated moves that he pulled off time and time again, to get himself back up into second place. It was one of the best stints of the season for me and he was the best out there for sure.

“Also, Brendon Hartley and Sebastien Buemi I thought were strong. In fact, all of the Toyota drivers were right on top of their game.

“Brendon was super quick in his stints and Seb had to put up with a clutch issue at the end. They also had the medium tyres to manage late on as well, so hats off to them.

“A special mention for the Jota guys as well. They were really good throughout. Yifei was quick and consistent, and Antonio Felix da Costa really got the crowd on its feet with some unbelievable moves out there, especially on Nicklas Nielsen in the Ferrari and that wonderful dummy move.

“For me though Will Stevens was brilliant, particularly in that opening stint. What great racing he executed. For those guys to finish the season with a P4 was really great to see.”

LMP2 – Ferdinand Habsburg 

“I think the title winning Team WRT entry of Louis Deletraz, Rui Andrade and Robert Kubica clearly had a car that worked better in race trim than qualifying, which is very common around the Bahrain International Circuit.

“We've seen it before from United Autosports where they've had a quick qualifying and then they faded away in the race. So, I think WRT they've always had usually had a fast car around Bahrain in LMP2 and clearly winning four races in three years here proves that.

“WRT put together such a strong race, and I can't fault them at all in what they did. They were impeccable. But then that final pitstop where the No.31 lost 30-plus seconds was where the race was lost, which must have been heart-breaking for Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg and Sean Gelael who all did great jobs out there.

“They really deserved that victory but the No.41 drove a strong race as well. 

“Yes, we know there was a bit of a mele at the start and we had penalties as well handed out to the No.22 United car but WRT were fantastic. 

“No penalties, nothing wrong with the car and their strategy was very good. I think Habsburg drove a really strong race in the No.31. He was always quick and able to pull some time on a few interlopers like the Prema cars and occasionally Jota too. 

“I usually go for the silver drivers because they ultimately make a big difference on to how the race will develop. On this occasion both Geleal and Andrade did superb jobs early on and gave a clear foundation for the pros to get stuck in.

“But on this occasion I thought Habsburg was on the average the best overall performer and although he put a brave face on it I think he was massively disappointed that he and his teammates were unable to get a win this season. They sure had some awful luck over the course of the season.”

“But well done to Kubica, Andrade and Deletraz, they had a mega season with wins at Spa, Fuji and Bahrain, so it was a very sweet way to wrap up the title.”

LMGTE Am – Michelle Gatting 

“What a great story in the final LMGTE Am race. It couldn’t have been better really because the Iron Dames have definitely earned it and have been so close to pulling it off before.

“You have to give the star of the race to Michelle Gatting because she soaked up all that pressure and waited it out until the medium tyres fell away for Casper Stevenson in the D’Station Aston.

“He was on a mission and at one stage it looked inevitable he would catch Michelle but then the tyres went off and the gap stabilised and there was a moment where she started to make a few tiny errors, which was giving Stevenson a bit more of a sniff of a chance to take the win.

“That was real pressure for Gatting and you could almost feel the tension.  But she just clicked into a new rhythm and started to extend the gap again. It was great how she and the Iron Dames handled that pressure to finally get that win.

“I think the Iron Dames have been a major story in the WEC for two seasons now and they deserve the applause for what they've done, because I think they've spearheaded things in many ways. 

“It has given quality female drivers a real sense of belonging in the championship and the respect they have is genuine and abundant.

“We're not even really thinking about gender now, which is so refreshing and cool. They were genuine contenders and they delivered poles, podiums and then finally the win, it was all richly deserved and such a great story to end of the season off on.

“It's inevitable now that more quick women will come in to international racing and we'll see more and more talented female drivers elsewhere in motorsport too, and for that fact the Iron Dames have really lived up to their mission of racing to inspire.”