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Speedy Sébastien Buemi of Toyota GAZOO Racing, a former Bahrain resident, is ready to put the pedal to the metal this weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit in the final round of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) series with a message to arch rivals Porsche that it’s not over, until it’s over.
Porsche’s Brendon Hartley, alongside co-drivers Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard, have already sealed the 2017 WEC drivers’ title despite Toyota’s former Bahrain resident Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Anthony Davidson winning the 6 Hours of Shanghai last time out.
The trio was delighted to deliver the Japanese manufacturer’s fourth victory of the season to tie level when it comes to victories with Porsche ahead of the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain, the ninth and finale round on November 17 and 18.
However, Porsche sealed a third consecutive WEC manufacturers’ crown in China by securing more podium finishes and taking 303 points while Toyota remaining in second with 249.5 points. The final round of the season marks the departure of Porsche from LMP1 and the team will be looking to go out on a high note in Sakhir … but not if Buemi and his teammates can help it.
The 29-year-old 2014 WEC Champion, Formula E racer and Red Bull Racing reserve driver, told GulfWeekly: “I would like to congratulate Porsche for their success this year but a race remains a race and be sure that we will do our utmost to go for the win!
“Both Toyota and Porsche have won four races this year, so we will certainly go flat out to win the last one of the season.
“I feel very confident indeed, knowing that we have an excellent package, and that the car will feel very well here in Bahrain.”
Buemi is no stranger to the kingdom’s Sakhir track after a spell living and racing in Bahrain from 2009 to 2011 in Formula BMW, GP2 and Formula 1. During his stay on the island, he lived with his uncle Humbert, 57, an executive director and senior representative at UBS Wealth Management Bahrain and the Swiss honorary consul general, his aunt Silvia and cousins Frederic, 21, Steve, 19, and the late Laura, in Saar.
He dedicated his 2013 World Endurance Championship - Six Hours of Bahrain victory to his much-loved cousin, Laura, who lost her battle against leukaemia in July 2012 at the age of 11.
Buemi is married to Jennifer. They have a 20-month-old son, Jules, and have settled to family life back in his home country, Switzerland. He added: “Coming back to Bahrain is always something special. I really feel like I’m at home, having my family around as well.
“My parents are flying in and will be supporting me like every single year.”
Aside from WEC racing, Buemi competes in the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) single-seater Formula E Championship, fully-electric racing series. He just missed the world title this year, finishing second in the championship behind Luca Di Grassi.
“I am also still very much involved in the development of the Red Bull Formula 1 car with quite a lot of simulation testing,” he added.
“F1 remains an objective but only if there is a real good chance of racing in a competitive team. I’m enjoying my current motor sport racing career, being competitive in both championships and winning races. This year, I have so far won 10 races all together.”
After the WEC showdown in the kingdom his next race will be on December 2 and 3 in Hong-Kong, the first two races of the new Formula E 2017-2018 Championship Season 4.
But for now, Buemi is focusing all his energy on Bahrain which will feature some of the top names in motor sport and many of the world’s most prestigious marques including Ferrari, Aston Martin and Nissan, alongside Porsche and Toyota.
An entry list of 26 cars has been confirmed by the WEC for Saturday’s six-hour race, which flags off at 4pm and ends at 10pm.
This year’s event in Bahrain will be the sixth edition of the desert endurance race. A trio of supporting championships will also be staged - the India-based MRF Challenge, the Bahrain-bred Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East and the World Series Formula V8 3.5 Championship.
Four cars will be competing in the Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) class, nine cars will be running in the LMP2 class, eight in the Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance Professional (LMGTE Pro) category and five in the LMGTE Am class.
The GT FIA World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship title was clinched in China by Ferrari but the Drivers’ Championship is still to be won. The title races are also still wide open in LMP2 and LMGTE, so there will be plenty of hotly-contested action in Bahrain.
Plenty of entertainment is also being lined-up by the event’s hosts off the track aimed at attracting the whole family. It will include bungee jumping, street shows, roaming performers, children’s theatre shows and a kids’ area.
Tickets to the FIA WEC Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain are BD10 for the entire weekend and children aged 12 and younger can attend for free. Tickets can be purchased online at www.bahraingp.com, by calling the BIC Hotline on 17450000 or by visiting the BIC stand at the ground floor of Centre Bahrain opposite Gate No. 3.