Speed Chills - 6 hours of Bahrain

  • 'Practice makes Perfect' in Bahrain

    Thursday brought about the first two practice sessions of the last race for the 2017 World Endurance Championship. Albeit close, Toyota Gazoo Racing had the edge over Porsche LMP1 Team in both sessions and finished the day with two one-twos in their back pocket. There was a mix of teams at the top of LMP2, but Vaillante always featured, giving them a good advantage heading towards the race. Aston Martin Racing surged after their recent few race slumps, with Jonny Adam charging the #97 to an impressive finish. The Am championship fight looked to be on in the first practice session, but the Ferrari-running teams shone in the second.

    Toyota are pushing hard to take their third win in a row and fifth of the season. If they manage this, they will have won more races than Porsche this season without winning the championship, showing how important double points at Le Mans may be. Porsche always remained close to Toyota today, but Toyota’s half a second advantage in both sessions suggests they may have pole position in the bag. It should still be a close battle for the race win if early indicators are anything to go by.

    The #7 took glory for Toyota after a horrid end to their 6 Hours of Shanghai last time out. Mike Conway set a 1:42.313 at the start of the first session that was enough to keep them at the top of the board. Anthony Davidson took fastest lap in the cooler second session with a 1:40.095. The Porsche also swapped order between sessions, with the #1 taking third in session one and the #2 taking third this evening.

    In the second session, Earl Bamber and #26 G-Drive Racing newbie Leo Roussel had a moment of contact at Turn 11. The pair were summoned instantly to the race stewards at the end of the session to discuss what happened. It is unclear exactly what happened out on track and who is in danger of being penalised. At the time of publishing, no verdict had been given.

    Vaillante Rebellion were the team to try and beat in LMP2, looking to be favourites to take race victory on Saturday. The #13 kept the #26 G-Drive at bay in the first session to secure a fastest lap of 1:48.707. The #31 had looked to have a poor first practice session, but resolved that when Bruno Senna put in a staggering 1:47.664, a clear six tenths fastest than the sister car. With a one-two in the second session, it is looking ominous for the Rebellion team to be the ones to beat come race day.

    The #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing championship-challenging car had a bit of a quiet day, ending the first session seventh. They came back in the second session to take third behind the Rebellion pair. Having lost the championship lead for the first time of the season last race, the #38 team are fighting to take back the four points to take the LMP2 trophy at the end of the season, something they had thought was theirs until last race.

    GTE Pro is looking as close as it has done all year, with three different manufacturers featuring in the top three at the end of the first session. In the cooler track conditions, the grid settled into a two-by-two order which is hopefully something that will not be repeated when the race goes dark just after the start of the six-hour race.

    James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi, leading the GT Drivers’ World Endurance Championship, ended the earlier session fastest, with Aston Martin’s Adam placing the #97 just behind them. Ex-championship leaders Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell managed to improve to third after an oil leak in their Ford that put a 36-miunte red flag delay on the first session. The additional 30 minutes that were added to the first session to make up for lost time definitely helped the Ford team get back on track.

    In the second session, Adam was back on a mission, taking the wheel from team mate Darren Turner for a couple of laps to set a breath-taking 1:57.014. No teams could get close to that time, not even the sister car that had to settle for second, four-tenths off. Sam Bird in the third-placed AF Corse #71 was a further half a second off Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen, nearly a full second off Adam’s time.

    Aston Martin’s pace should be a cause for concern for the other three teams who are fighting for the championship. The better they place, the harder it will be for Ford and Porsche to stop AF Corse claiming the title. On the flip side, Aston Martin are pushing hard to have a perfect race for the Vantage’s last outing, so a send off in victory would be a fantastic way to end this era’s Vantage’s racing career.

    It seems, from today’s practice sessions, that the Dempsey-Proton Racing car may have an advantage on the #98 Aston Martin. To win the championship, the #77 must win and take pole whilst the #98 has to finished third or lower. Ten points separate the two teams with the Aston Martin ahead after taking race win last race out at Shanghai.

    However, Ferrari could play a part in the championship decider after showing they may have a better pace in the night, when the track is cooler. Ferrari-running cars Clearwater Racing #61 and Spirit of Race #54 took one-two for the manufacturer respectively. If they can get between the Porsche and the Aston Martin fighting for the Am title, they could help or hinder either of the car’s chances.

  • 2016 6 Hours of Bahrain

    Audi win their last race in LMP1 for the forseeable future. Neel Jani, Mark Lieb and Romain Dumas are world champions for Porsche!

    Video Credit: FIA WEC

  • 2017 FIA WEC Fan Survey Results

    In September, the World Endurance Championship banded together with Motorsport Network and Nielsen to put together and extensive fan survey. As the WEC has gone through some changes over the past couple of years and looks to be having even more of a revamp from next year onwards (with things like the winter ‘super season’ and LMP1 being more focused on privateers than manufacturers), it was necessary for the WEC to see how fans felt about the sport to increase their engagement, not decrease it. Today, the WEC have released the results of the survey, promising they will take every aspect into consideration when making decisions about the series going forwards.

    WEC had responses from 179 countries across the world, with approximately 54,500 surveys being completed. They took a sample of about 37,200 surveys to produce the results that will be presented below. It rates as the largest survey to have ever been conducted among sportscar fans.

    It was discovered that the WEC has a well-established fan base, with around 58% of those who took the survey claiming they had watched it for over six years (since before WEC had been inaugurated). The other 42% showed promise of a younger fanbase coming into the sport, with most of those stating they had watched for at least three years. Responses from Europe were most popular, with 65% of the responses coming from the continent. Americas were next, with 20%, leaving 10% to have come from Asia-Pacific and the remaining 5% coming from outside these regions. With a good balance of loyal, long-term fans and newer, younger fans the series appears to have a strong support basis going forwards.

    The majority of WEC fans appeared to be hard core motorsport enthusiasts, on average not having much interest in other sports outside motorsports. The brand health of WEC looks healthy, but a startling 80% of those who participated said that the WEC was not as healthy as it was three years ago. With the demise of LMP1 and the loss of teams over the last few years, this is not a surprising conclusion.

    The fans are happy with WEC, describing it with key attributes of technological, competitive, innovative, exciting and global. The competitive of WEC in comparison to Formula One sees the endurance series come out on top, and in expensiveness the WEC also appears better value for money. So long as WEC can continue to deliver exciting, close racing in state of the art cars, the results of the survey suggest fans will still be happy with the series.

    Official websites and motorsport websites come out as the top source of information, with TV coverage coming in as second best. With younger spectators, it seems that on demand and live streaming videos are more desired, with the WEC YouTube account seeing a 60% rise in usage compared to last year. Fans would prefer to pay nothing for additional content, but are willing to pay up to $25, as revealed by the survey.

    In discussing the spectacle of WEC, is was indicated that fans desire a diverse range of things from the series. The range of classes on the track is very appealing to spectators, whilst the format of the race weekend, input of manufacturers into the sport and race events are the key elements of the WEC that sees fans attracted to the sport. Unsurprisingly, the LMP1 class rated as the most followed category in the series, but the positive that WEC can pull from this is that 80% of fans said they followed GTE classes as well as LMP1. It does mean that the WEC are going to have to make sure LMP1 stays as successful as it has been in the coming seasons, with the new privateers taking more of a focus than the hybrids, as it appears from the survey results to be the most anticipated series of the championship.

    A championship of eight to ten races was concluded to be the ideal length by the fans in this survey. With this season having raced nine races, including Le Mans, it seems the fans are satisfied with how many race events occur in a season. When asked about which circuits are most appealing to fans around the world, the top five circuits were listed as: Le Mans Circuit de la Sarthe, Fuji Speedway, Sebring International Raceway, Silverstone, and Spa-Francorchamps.

    In conclusions, the WEC draws from the results that it is currently in good health. Fans agree that the sport is good and enjoyable to watch, but 90% do also believe that more should be done to entice more spectators. Given the success and the enormous amount of responses to the survey, the WEC wish to conduce another before the start of the 2020/2021 season to see how fans have reacted to the radical changes that are about to come into action. It does seem that the WEC are taking the results seriously, and plan to used the fans comments to make positive steps in the future of the World Endurance Championship.

  • Audi take Pole in final WEC Race

    In a close battle for pole position, where track limits was the talk of the day, Audi have clinched pole position for their final World Endurance race. The crew of the #8 Audi R18 took pole ahead of reigning World Champions Porsche #1 by 0.264 seconds. In LMP2, for the third time in a row, G-Drive #26 start on class pole ahead of this year’s class Champions, #36 Signatech Alpine.

    The battle for LMGTE Pro pole went to Aston Martin, but for the sake of the Championship, it will be the wrong Aston starting ahead. Johnny Adams helped Darren Turner put the #97 on class pole returning for his first race since winning the GT3 Drivers Title in British GT. The sister car, #95, will start alongside #97 second in class. AF Corse were hoping to seal the Am Championship today by taking pole position and putting too many points between them and Championship rivals #98 Aston Martin to be knocked off the top step. But it was not to be as the #98 crew made it a GT Pole lock-out for Aston Martin by stealing class pole in the closing seconds of the GT qualifying session.

    Track limits were the biggest issue the teams faced today. A lot of drivers lost their times for exceeding track limits, with most incidents occurring at Turn 13. The Toyota pair were handed a great disadvantage as both Anthony Davidson and Mike Conway had times deleted. With the fresh rubber having being pushed already on the track it left Toyota having to set half their flying times on scrubbed tyres. Championship contenders Toyota #6 came out on top of the sister car for fifth on the grid but that would not have been the start to the weekend they were after.

    Audi looked to be on the pace from the offset and with Brendon Hartley having a messy first lap it put Porsche on the back foot and opened the door for a final Audi 1-2 starting order. Andrea Lotterer initially put Audi #7 on provisional pole, going a tenth of a second faster than Oliver Jarvis. Luca di Grassi had to put in a blistering lap to take a final pole position for Audi and the Brazilian did not disappoint. With the fastest lap of the session, di Grassi set a time of 1:38.828 and was the only driver to set a time sub 1:38s.

    It was looking to be an Audi 1-2 but the Porsche crew put an end to that hope. Both Timo Bernhard and Marc Lieb came out to set the second times for their teams and did exactly what they needed to do. Impressive lap times from both of them saw the two Porsches, in numerical order, climb up the time sheet. It was not enough to demote pole sitter Audi #8 but it was enough to drop Audi #7 to fourth as Andrea Lotterer failed to improve on his lap time.

    Toyota #6 needs to win the race tomorrow and have Porsche #2 finish fifth or lower to take the 2016 Driver’s Championship.

    In an extremely close battle for LMP2 pole, Rene Rast – returning to G-Drive for the final round of the season – and Roman Rusinov just managed to clinch their sixth pole of the season. Rast had had the advantage when he handed over the car to Rusinov (the only G-Drive racer who can take second place in class off of RGR Sport), but the class Champions were not ready to be put to the side. Stephane Richelmi set in a brilliantly fast lap time compared to Rusinov and put the #36 just 0.002 seconds off the average time of the G-Drive car. It is a race for second in the LMP2 Championship tomorrow, and G-Drive #26 has the advantage. With the pole point and both #36 Signatech Alpine and #44 Manor in between them and rivals #43 RGR Sport they have had the best start they could want to the weekend.

    Johnny Adam and Darren Turner set identical times of 1:56.953 in the #97 Aston Martin, leaving them with an advantage of just over a tenth to the sister car and Pro class Championship leaders. AF Corse placed a car in third, but just like Aston Martin, it is the wrong one to be challenging for the Championship. The #51 AF Corse took the position behind the leading Aston Martins with the Championship challenging #71 had to settle for fifth.

    The Am pole shoot out went down to the wire as it was only in the last moments that #83 AF Corse lost pole position and an unchallengeable Championship lead. The advantage had been with the Ferrari team for the entire 20-minute qualifying session but it was Pedro Lamy who stole the advantage back. Lamy had originally had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits so returned to the car in the last few minutes. With his new time, Lamy brought the #98 Aston Martin’s average time to 0.348 seconds faster than the #83 AF Corse and took class pole. The gap between #83 and #98 in the class Championship is 24 points. Aston Martin can only win if AF Corse fail to finish the race.

    #4 Bykolles LMP1 Privateer CLM/AER and #88 Porsche GTE Am Abu Dhabi Proton-Racing did not set times in their respective qualifying sessions and will start at the back of the grid tomorrow.

  • Emotional 1-2 Sees Audi out

    It was six hours of raw emotion during the 6 hours of Bahrain as Mark Webber and Audi Sport saw out their final races in the World Endurance Championship.

    The overall podium could not have been more perfect as Audi placed both of their cars on their final podium with Webber and the #1 crew taking the bottom step. A flawless race from Loric Duval, Oliver Jarvis, and Luca di Grassi saw them go from pole to win in Audi’s final appearance. An incredible recovery drive saw the #26 G-Drive team, who had been stripped of their pole position after failing parc ferme with non-homologated brake cooling ducts, bring themselves from the back of the grid to take the LMP2 class win. They stood above #43 RGR Sport and LMP2 Champions #36 Signatech Alpine for the last race of the season.

    LMGTE Pro saw Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen take their second class win of the season and take the GT Driver’s Championship title. They trumped over the two chasing AF Corse Ferraris, with the #51 ending ahead of the sister car #71. A retired Aston Martin saw the crew of the #83 retain the LMGTE Am Class title. Emmanuel Collard, Francois Perrodo and Rui Aguas came third, taking the title once their only rivals were out of the race. It was the Abu-Dhabi Proton Racing #88 that took the race win, with #78 KCMG completing the podium in second.

    It was a strong win for the #8 Audi, crossing the line 16 seconds ahead of the sister Audi #7. Everyone was hoping for a clean race for the Audis in their final outing, and after their recent run of bad luck, it was a nervous six hours for all watching and the team. But Porsche had no answer to Audi’s pace as the German team secured a strong 1-2 for their final race. Duval lead from pole to the first stops. It was after the driver changes that saw #8 lose the lead. Andre Lotterer’s pace was too much for then leader Oliver Jarvis and the #7 took the lead. Audi #8 had no answer and could not close the gap enough to retake the lead. It was a slow third pit stop for the #7 that saw advantage swing back to the #8 crew and promoted them back to the front of the grid.

    Audi split strategy in the third hour, putting Treluyer and the #7 Audi back ahead of the #8. But Duval was a man on a mission and he caught and passed the sister car on track before performing a double stint on used tyres in the fifth hour. It was this performance that gave Audi #• the advantage they needed to take their final race win.

    It cannot be forgotten that Porsche #2 took the Driver’s World Championship. Like the sister car the year before, it was not handed to them easily. Neel Jani was ahead of Timo Bernhard after the first round of pit stops, but contact when he was hit by the #78 KCMG GTE Am Porsche 911 saw the Championship contenders encounter a broken left rear wheel. This forced them to take an extra pit stop and lost them a lot of time on track. The car was three laps down when it returned to the track, with everything to fight for between the beginning of the second hour and the chequered flag. They still managed to do what they needed to, with the car finishing in sixth place in class and taking the championship by 13.5 points.

    Toyota’s Kamui Kobayashi, Stephane Sarrazin, and Mike Conway had an outside chance of taking the title from Porsche #2, but that chance never arose as Porsche #2 – even after their issues – never dropped low enough in the order to potentially be outscored by Toyota. Also, the Toyota team needed to finish second or higher to get enough points, something which Audi never made possible.

    G-Drive #26 had an incredible race as they came from the back of the field to take the LMP2 win. It was the team’s third LMP2 victory of the season. This race saw the return of Rene Rast to the cockpit, who had been covered by Will Stevens as Rast sat out the last few races. It was a close race in the end as only four seconds split #26 from the RGR #43 car. The #43 had been leading the LMP2 field for most of the race. It was a last minute surge that saw Rast pass RGR driver Filipe Albuquerque for the lead with only 18 minutes of racing left. The duo tussled for the last few laps but it was Rast who had the superior pace and managed to take the satisfying win for his team.

    Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen triumphed with a 12-second victory over the chasing AF Corse GTE Pro cars. Jonny Adam (returning to the Aston Martin #97 after his success in British GT) and Darren Turner had been leading for Aston Martin for the beginning of the race. When it lost a wheel straight after a pit stop Adam was lucky enough to be able to limp the car back to the pits to carry on. But the victory was now out of their reach and handed to the sister car of Thiim and Sorenson. Adam and Turner finished fifth behind the two Ferraris (completing the podium) and Ford #67.

    The pressure came off the reining GTE Am Champions when their only title contenders retired from the race. It was a horrible ten minutes for Aston Martin as Adam and Turner lost their wheel and moments later the engine failed on Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, and Paul Dalla Lana’s Aston Martin. It was a shame for the Am Aston Martin team because they had had a long run of successful races and race wins.

  • G-Drive disqualified in Bahrain

    After taking their sixth pole position of the season, G-Drive #26 has been disqualified from qualifying and lost their LMP2 class pole position. The car failed scrutineering after taking class pole by just 0.002 seconds.

    The accumulative pole position time of 1:49.690 was set by Roman Rusinov and returning Rene Rast to take the team’s sixth pole position of the season. However, after it was discovered that the car was running non-homologated brake cooling ducts it was disqualified from the session. The team will need to resolve this before the 6h race starts.

    This was devastating news for the whole team, but especially for Rusinov who is the only #26 G-Drive driver who can take second in the LMP2 Driver’s Championship from the #43 RGR Sport crew. He had had the advantage starting from pole with RGR qualifying fourth but this disqualification puts the #26 at the back of the field and hands the advantage back to RGR #43.

    #26 G-Drive needs to finish scoring 12 points more than #43 RGR Sport for Rusinov to take second place in the LMP2 Driver’s standings. If G-Drive win, RGR need to finish fifth or lower to be outscored. As long as RGR Sport finish fourth or higher they will hold onto second in the LMP2 standings.

    After the disqualification, 2016 LMP2 Champions #36 Signatech Alpine take pole position, the #44 Manor Racing car will start second in class and RGR Sport #43 takes third on the LMP2 grid.

  • How will WEC 2016 unfold?

    The final round of the 2016 World Endurance Championship has finally arrived. Teams landed in Bahrain earlier this week to prepare for the final race of the season. For some team, the championship battle could not be closer with some driver’s titles and the GT Teams Championship still waiting to be decided.

    For the World Endurance Drivers Championship, there are just two cars feasibly possible of taking the 2016 crown. Last race’s results saw Audi fall out of the title hunt and it become mathematically impossible for reigning Champions in the Porsche #1 to retain their title. In the final race, the battle is between Porsche #2 crew of Neel Jani, Romain Dumas, and Marc Lieb – who have lead most of the season and won the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans this year – and Toyota #6 team of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and Stephane Sarrazin. The Porsche team have a 17-point lead over their Japanese rivals and it would have to see them fail to finish the race and Toyota #6 finish second or higher for them to lose the Championship.

    Porsche rounded up the Manufacturer’s Championship last round with a fourth win for the reigning Champions in Porsche #1. Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley could take third in the Driver’s Championship this weekend. Their current point gap to Audi #7 (currently in third) is just two points, so outscoring the departing team by three points would put Porsche #1 in front after Webber’s final race.

    LMP2 saw #36 Signatech Alpine take the LMP2 title last race out at Shanghai. With the championship winners decided, the focus turns to the second-place battle. As of the moment, RGR Sport #43 hold second place, with Bruno Senna, Ricardo Gonzalez, and Filipe Albuquerque sharing the cockpit. But it has been last year’s LMP2 Champion team G-Drive who has come back to life in the latter stages of the season and now threatens that second place. Only Roman Rusinov can take second place from the RGR crew, as Will Stevens and Alex Brundle do not have enough points by their names to take the place. Stevens has been standing in for Rene Rast for the last few races in the G-Drive #26 car. 11 points split RGR Sport from G-Drive and a win for G-Drive and a fourth place from RGR would see Rusinov take second in the LMP2 Championship.

    The LMGTE Am class is all tied up as we come into the season finale. Reigning Am Champions AF Corse took the class Championship once again with the #83 car. The team consisted of F Perrodo, E Collard, and R Aguas. The #98 Aston Martin of Mathias Lauda, Paul Dalla Lana, and Pedro Lamy, who have won most of the recent rounds in the Am class, have taken a competent second place in the class Championship. Third went to the #88 Abu-Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche 911.

    However, in LMGTE Pro, the Championship battle could not be closer. Both the driver’s and teams championship are yet to be decided in the Pro class. It is the only class that has three teams potentially still able to take the Championship. Pro class is currently being lead by Aston Martin with the #95 crew. Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thim lead the class with a 12-point advantage on second-placed AF Corse #71. The only way Sam Bird and Davide Rigon can take the title from #95 Aston Martin is if they win and the #95 finishes fourth or lower. But thanks to its recent turn of form the #66 Ford could also take the title this weekend. It is a big ask for Stefan Mucke and Oliver Pla, but if they get pole, win the race, and #95 finishes ninth they would become the 2016 Pro Class Champions.

    The main GT Teams Championship battle is between Ferrari and Aston Martin, where the gap is just ten points. There is a maximum of 52 points available to both teams to score this weekend, but all Aston Martin have to take the Teams GT Championship away from Ferrari is outscore them by 11 points. Ford are just about in the Teams battle but their gap is 39.5 to Ferrari in the lead. It would be asking for al of the Ferraris and Aston Martins to not finish the race for Ford to realistically be in for a shot at taking the Teams GT Championship.

    The 6 Hours of Bahrain looks to be shaping up for another thrilling Championship finale, just as it was last year with the tight battle between Porsche #1 (then #17) and Audi #7. Last year’s endurance around the Bahrain International circuit saw a power shortage delay qualifying as the circuit was plunged into darkness when the track lights all turned off and an exciting but tense battle between Audi and Porsche. Last year Porsche only needed to continue its form and win to take the Championship but a disaster in the first hour saw them battling for the minimum points needed to take the 2015 title. Will the situation be the same this year? Or will Porsche’s second World Endurance Driver’s Title be an easy one to secure? Tune into the race at 11:00 GMT on Saturday 19th November for a race that promises to have you on the edge of your seat.

  • Porsche Bow Out of LMP1 with Pole

    The fairytale starts as Porsche want it: taking pole position in their final outing of the LMP1 919-Hybrid, but the story is far from over. Toyota are hot on their heels and seem to have the pace advantage in the race. The LMP2 championship battle is going to be one to not take your eyes off. The leading #31 Vaillante Rebellion starts down the grid whilst their rivals in the #38 are on the front row. With just four points splitting them, it will be a tense six-hours. AF Corse have pole for the last race, but not with the championship contending car. In the Am class, #98 Aston Martin Racing may very well be on their way to claiming their first title after claiming another pole position this season.

    Porsche led a one-two into the final practice session of the weekend, giving them an edge before the teams took on qualifying. It was a fairly calm 60-minutes for the LMP1 teams, with Timo Bernhard setting his time board-topping 1:42.438 within the first five minutes of the session. No one seemed to be able to close in on that time, with the closest being Neel Jani in the sister car, six tenths off the pace.

    But this was not the case in qualifying. Toyota used a strategy that saw them leaving the pits five minutes after everyone else in an attempt to get some clear track. It worked, and Mike Conway set the first sub 1m40s lap time of the weekend with a 1:39.517. It was clear after Porsche’s second drivers had climbed in the cars it was going to be a big ask to get them ahead of the Toyotas.

    But Jani was determined to give the Porsche one last pole position. Pushing the car to the limit, he produced a lap time that even his team mates were astounded by, putting the #1 in close contention with the proivional pole-sitting #7 Toyota. Nick Tandy climbed back into the Porsche cockpit, with pressure on his shoulders, with the mind set of not letting Jani’s lap time go to waste. A small personal improvement saw the #1 Porsche take its final pole position by just over two tenths of a second.

    The sweltering heat of Bahrain played its hand on the LMP2 field this morning, with both the #24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing and the #36 Signatech Alpine bringing out a brief Full Course Yellows as they slowed and stopped on track. The Jackie Chan DC Racing cars seemed best equipped for the high morning track temperatures as they secured their first one-two of the weekend, also being the first time either of their cars have been fastest in a practice session this weekend. The 1:48.879 set by Ho Pin Tung in the #38 gave them half a second advantage on the rest of the field. After battling with the #37 for second place, G-Drive Racing #26 had to settle for third.

    The #36 got back on top of the pace after it’s earlier issue and put in an impressive lap average to take pole by four tenths. Gustavo Menezes declared that team mate Andre Negrao had “pulled the boat along” with his lap time, making Menezes job simple when he got in the car.

    Lining up beside them tomorrow will be the #38 Jackie Chan car. A bad qualifying for both Vaillante Rebellions sees the #38 crew on the front foot going into the race. Just four points separate the two and with the #31 Rebellion starting four sixth it is going to need to be the recovery drive of all drives from Bruno Senna, Nicolas Prost and Julien Canal if they are to secure the 2017 LMP2 Trophy.

    After a short red flag period brought out by the #86 Gulf Racing Am Porsche, which caught fire and stopped on track at Turn 9 – leaking fluid, the GTE classes were in qualifying simulation mode for the end of free practice three. The leaders of both classes changed every lap, with lap times tumbling as the end of the session drew closer. James Calado put the #51 AF Corse fastest with a 1:57.972, ahead of championship rival Andy Priaulx in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK car. The second AF Corse Ferrari, #71, rounded off the top three, half a second off the sister car.

    Qualifying quickly became a Ferrari affair with consistent laps from the #71 AF Corse pair too much for anyone else to contend with. The prediction had been that the two Astons would be fighting for pole position in the final qualifying session, but in the end there was no stopping Sam Bird and Davide Rigon who had struggled throughout the practice sessions.

    Andy Priaulx was set to place his championship contending #67 second on the row, but the weekend’s rapid Adam put an early end to that, dropping in a lap time that was quick enough to demote the team. Harry Tincknell said after the session that they were happy with the performance, but that it was all to play for tomorrow. As the underdogs for the championship now, they have the least to lose in the race, but starting ahead of the other championship contenders is definitely a positive.

    James Calado explained that they were focused on the race in the championship leading #51. He said that they were happy starting from fourth and were looking to have a nice, simple race to get them back home to the championship. If the race finished with the grid positions as they have qualified, there would not be enough of a points gain for the #67 to take the title. Porsche GT Team #91 starts further down the grid and has the most to do tomorrow if they want any chance of stealing the title.

    It had looked like the #98 Aston Martin Racing car was going to take its first fastest lap of the weekend, but it did not seem to be able to keep up when the fast laps started pouring out at the end of the session. Glory went to the #61 Clearwater Racing team that has recently confirmed it’s return to WEC for the 2018/19 ‘Super Season’. Championship contending #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing was second, with the #54 Spirit of Race taking third.

    After it’s earlier fire, the #86 car sat out of qualifying, using the time to repair the car so it will be ready for the race tomorrow. It was Paul Dalla Lana’s day as his second driver lap pulled the #98 ahead of the #61 Clearwater Ferrari that had looked to have pole position in the bag. In terms of championship battles it’s a positive for the Aston Martin as now they take an 11-point advantage into the final six-hour endurance of the season, making it harder for Dempsey-Proton to steal the title from under their nose. The trio have come close to taking the title in the past, but this would be the first time they had actually secured it if all goes their way in tomorrow’s race.

  • Toyota win in Bahrain, Porsche fill podium

    Porsche LMP1 Team were hoping to end their final season in the World Endurance Championship with a victory but it was not to be as the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing claimed the win. It was a close battle for the LMP2 championship as pit strategy played a big part in the closing stages. It was the #31 Vaillante Rebellion that took the win, gifting Bruno Senna and Julien Canal the LMP2 Endurance Trophy. GTE Pro and Am had looked to have an exciting race at the start, but by the halfway point it had settled into a fairly static race. The #71 AF Corse took a lights-to-flag victory whilst the sister car took second, securing the GT Drivers’ World Endurance Championship. After four years of trying, Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda finally secured the 2017 Am Endurance Trophy.

    The winning trio of Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Anthony Davidson were the only LMP1 car to not suffer any incidents during the six-hour race. Toyota had the pace on Porsche, but it should have been a closer battle than it was. Because of the carnage behind them, the #8 was the only car to end up on the lead lap at the chequered flag.

    Porsche had to be happy with a double podium at the end of the race, but with that having been unlikely it was a nice send off for the German team. An incident between the #92 Porsche GT Team and the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing in which the #7 made contact and took the #92 out of the race saw the second Toyota drop out of contention, leaving the path clear for Porsche to take a two-three.

    Championship-winning #2 Porsche were taken out of the victory contention early on when a bollard got wedge under Timo Bernhard in the first few minutes. Due to contact between the #1 and the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche that gave the #1 a puncture, the #2 car were able to make up some lost time and take second with the sister car behind.

    Starting from sixth, the #31 Vaillante Rebellion made a great start in the hands of Senna, getting up to second behind a flying Vitaly Petrov in the #25 CEFC Manor TRS Racing within the first hour of the race. It was exactly where they needed to be to secure the championship.

    As the race progressed, tyre and pit stop strategy began to come into play. With the challenging #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing taking stopped about every 20 minutes, the Rebellion duo countered that with longer stints. It put the #38 ahead in the middle of the race, but come the end there was a big pit stop window available for Senna to use and retain the win.

    With a power steering issue, it was predicted that Senna would use his last stop for new tyres and a driver change, bringing them very close on track to the #38 Jackie Chan car. However, in fear of being caught, Senna soldiered on with the issue and only took fuel in his last stop, leaving him with a 30 second advantage on Oliver Jarvis in the #38 behind.

    A crack in the fuel tank cost the #38 some pace, but Jarvis was pushing hard. They finished behind the #31 Rebellion, with ten seconds being the gap between winning and losing the championship.

    #71 had led the race competitively from the start, but the full course yellows that hit the track to clear the stricken #92 Porsche came at the wrong time for them. Having just had their pit stop, they went from a 20 second lead to a 30 second deficit in one lap. AF Corse tried a different strategy, but it did not pay off.

    As they had used the #71 as a guinea pig for the strategy, they had cost them time on track, meaning the #51 sister car was ahead. With just five minutes to go, AF Corse ordered for a car swap so that the #71 took victory. With both the championship rivals of the #51 behind, it did not matter that the car finished second. James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi took the championship.

    It had looked at one point that Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell could claim the win. They were leading with the #51 in third behind the #71, meaning there was enough points between them for the Ford Chip Ganassi team to steal the victory. A fire up issue in their pit stop lost them too much time to stay in the Ferrari fight, so they had to settle with taking their last podium of the season with third.

    Aston Martin, after a promising start to the weekend, could not give the Vantage the send out they wanted to. They could do no better than sixth and seventh at the chequered flag, with Jonny Adam and Darren Turner’s #97 leading the duo.

    After a fight between the #61 Clearwater Racing and the #98 in the first few hours of the race, the Aston Martin got the edge on the Ferrari and took a pleasant dominant race to class victory by 1m17s, claiming their first AM Endurance Championship. The team have had 12 race victories in their four-year career, with four of those being won this season, all pole to flag.

    The two Ferrari-run Am teams joined them on the podium, with Clearwater ahead of Spirit of Race.

    The championship battle everyone was hoping for never really appeared as the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing was not a threat to the Aston at any point of the weekend.