Thursday 16 November 2017

FIA WEC 2017 - 6 Hours of Bahrain: Toyota dominates Thursday practice

It seems only a few months ago when the 2018 season kicked off in Monza early April, and now we're already into the final raceweekend at Bahrain. A race into the night to finish another exciting season in the FIA World Endurance Championship, but also - again - a race after which a few goodbyes will be waived. Sunny, cloudless skies in Bahrain today & temperatures rising up to just under 30° Celsius this afternoon made it almost perfect conditions for the start of the final WEC weekend of 2017.

The afternoon session was red flagged for almost 40 minutes when Harry Tincknell lost oil out of his #67 Ford GT and stopped on track.  Another 30 minutes were added to the session, the cars now driving into sunset and finishing under the floodlights.

Mike Conway set the fastest laptime of the afternoon in his #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid with a 1.42.313. Sébastian Buemi took second place in the #8 Toyota, just under 0.2 seconds behind Conway.  The Porsches were third (#1) and fourth (#2) fastest, 0.334 and 0.500 seconds behind the leading Toyota. 

Vaillante Rebellion was quickest in LMP2, the championship leading #13 Oreca of Nelson Piquet Jr going round in 1.58.579. Piquet was a fraction of a second (0.022) faster than Loïc Duval in the G-Drive LMP2. Duval had to park the car early in the session, but that didn't stop him from putting in an impressive lap at his return to the FIA WEC. Third quickest was Alex Brundle in the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca, with a time of 1.49.083. Completing the top 5 were the #36 Signatech Matmut Alpine of Gustavo Menezes and the #24 CEFC Manor Oreca of Jean-Eric Vergne. 

Ferrari on top in GTE Pro with Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 AF Corse F488 GTE. The Italian held off Jonny Adam in the #97 Aston Martin with 0.322 seconds. Despite having to park his Ford GT early in the session, Harry Tincknell still managed to do a lap of 1.59.413, enough to put him on third place in the afternoon. 

Matteo Cairoli was fastest in the GTE Am class, with a lap of 2.00.428 in the #77 Proton Competition Porsche. Pedro Lamy put his Aston Vantage V8 in second position, 0.125 seconds behind Cairoli.  Third fastest was Ben Barker in the #86 Gulf UK Porsche.

Toyota Gazoo Racing continued to dominate both Porsches in the evening session, finishing first and second again. Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 TS050 Hybrid now went fastest in an uninterrupted session, putting a 1:40.095 on the timetables. Jose Maria Lopez now put the #7 sister car on second place, 0.598 seconds behind Nakajima. Brendon Hartley was the fastest Porsche driver this evening, just 0.080 seconds behind Lopez.

Swiss team Vaillante Rebellion set the pace again in the LMP2 class, now with both cars on the top spots of the leaderboard. Bruno Senna was quickest under the lights in a 1.47.664, 0.574 seconds faster than Nelson Piquet Jr in the sister car.  Thomas Laurent in the 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca was third fastest in 1.49.002, 7 thousands of a second ahead of André Negrao in the Signatech Matmut Alpine.

It's the final race in the GTE Pro class for the Aston Martin Vantage this weekend, but they sure won't be sent in retirement without a decent fight.  Both Astons set the fastest times in class this evening. Jonny Adam in the #97 beat Marco Sorensen in the #95 sister car with almost half a second. Adam's fastest time a 1.57.014. Best of the rest was Davide Rigon in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari F488 GTE.

In the Am class, the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari was the first to dive under the 2 minute mark today.  Matt Griffin set a 1.59.773, beating Francesco Castellacci in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari with 0.408 seconds. Pedro Lamy in the championship leading #98 Aston Martin set the third fastest time this evening.
Track action resumes tomorrow morning with the third and final free practice session at 11h20 local time.  Qualifying is due to start at 17h00 in the afternoon.

Free Practice 1 results
Free Practice 2 results

Kristof Vermeulen.