Brendon Hartley starts his final push for a third World Endurance Championship driver’s title in this weekend’s first of two consecutive rounds.
Bahrain will host back-to-back weekends to conclude the 2021 season. First, there is a six-hour race this weekend, followed by an eight-hour affair seven days later.
Hartley won both of his championships with Porsche in 2015 and 2017.
Joining the Toyota outfit in 2019, the Kiwi has finished second the past two championship seasons.
He comes into this weekend’s race nine points behind the sister Toyota entry.
“We go to Bahrain with all to play for in terms of the drivers’ world championship because the gap between the top three is pretty close,” he said.
“Bahrain normally produces good races and it’s a nice circuit. We have prepared on the simulator, but nothing will beat the real sensations of driving our Hypercar around the track.”
For all WEC teams, this weekend’s racing is their first time on track since the Le Mans 24 Hour in August.
“The team has worked hard since Le Mans to understand a few issues and continuously improve the car and I will give my best to fight for the championship until the end,” Hartley’s co-driver Sebastien Buemi said.
Toyota can successfully defend its manufacturer’s title by outscoring Alpine by 14 points or more over the final two races.
Alpine is racing a ‘grandfathered’ LMP1 car this season, which is not as fast as the Hypercar but can prove to be more reliable throughout a race.
This weekend, both marques will have the minimum weight for their cars reduced to what they were for the start of the season.
Toyota sheds 26kgs to bring their Hypercar to 1040kg, while Alpine lose 22kgs and drops to 930kgs.
“Reliability and performance are never guaranteed in endurance racing, especially with a new car,” Toyota GAZOO Racing President Koji Sato said.
“So the whole team is working hard to give both driver crews an equal chance at winning the world championship.”
The six hours of Bahrain begins on Saturday, October 30 at 9 pm NZT.