Saturday 18 November 2017

FIA WEC - 6 Hours of Bahrain: GTE Finale – Desert Dash Decider

This year has seen a transition of the Balance of Performance (BoP) in the GTE categories from a manual to automated process.  The result is a beautifully poised battle in both Pro and Am, and the Technical Team led by Vincent Beaumesnil should be commended for what they have achieved. You will always hear complaints and whingeing, but once again in conjunction with our new partners @ TheBPillar we hope to shed some light here on the battles in GTE and the prospects for top step in each category.

GTE-Pro is the primary example, we have a category top-three in Bahrain of Ferrari #71, Aston Martin #97 and Ford GT #67, but only the third of these cars is in the running for the championship, although it could be contended that the #71 Ferrari of Bird & Rigon could continue to play a pivotal role in securing a world championship victory for its sister car #51 of Calado & Pier Guidi. 

That is correct, today we could crown Ferrari FIA World Champions in a road relevant category for both Drivers and Manufacturer, any wonder they are questioning spending and rattling the Formula 1 quitting cages…

As a slight aside here, spare a thought for Gianmaria Bruni who chose to take the Porsche contract, presumably hopeful of progression to an LMP1 919 Hybrid drive, was contractually blocked from 2017 WEC participation and now sees his former team inching onto the top step of a GT World Championship. Decisions, Decisions…

Turning to the B-Pillar Data Analysis (click it to enlarge), and in the knowledge that the cars are very balanced it is possible to see that driver performance and consistency as a team is in our opinion a key factor to success. 

Analysis Kindly Prepared by Matt Griffin @thebpillar

The lower variances on faster averages all seem to reflect the top contenders this year. The one anomally that stands out is the pole sitting #71 of Bird/Rigon, which has not reached the heights of its win at Spa, but has served its sister car well by taking significant points from competitors.  

The championship deciders are predominantly across two awards. The GT Pro FIA World Endurance Teams Trophy, led by #51 (146pts) Ferrari of Calado/Pier Guidi, from the #91 (133pts) Porsche of (Makoweicki/Lietz) and third currently the #67 (131pts) Ford GT of Priaulx/Tincknell. The same contenders are in the running for the Drivers Championship, but the tally of points is calculated in such a way as to make that even closer – 

#51 Calado/Pier Guidi  135pts
#91 Mako / Lietz         133pts
#67 Priaulx / Tincknell 127.5pts

Not since the 1984 F1 World Championship could half of one point prove so vital…  With 25points for the win everything is still to play for in this Desert Decider! 

By no means least we come to the GTE-Am category which is set to expand in 2018.

We have followed for some time now the progress of the #98 Aston Martin enjoying victories previously with Paul/Pedro/Mathias at Spa and experiencing the commiserations of getting so close at Le Mans. Things have really clicked this year, and much of that has been down to Paul Dalla Lana and his pace as the Gent (we can’t refer to him as Am) in the car. It is not normally our way to pick out one driver, they are a team, as above at Spa they win together, and at Le Mans they all felt the pain together.  But the graphic analysis below from The B-Pillar shows why Paul Dalla Lana and the #98 crew are in the dominant leading position in this category. 

Analysis Kindly Prepared by Matt Griffin @thebpillar

Paul Dalla Lana is THE King of Bronze’s he tops the pack consistently and we hope he does not mind us pointing out (and I am the last to point fingers) he is no jockey like driver! 🙂

The standings in GTE-Am are as follows – 

                                                Drivers    Team
#98  Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda      167pts     173pts  Aston Martin Racing
#77  Deinst/Reid/Cairoli             156pts     162pts  Dempsey Proton Racing (Porsche)
#61  Sawa/Griffin/Mok               147pts     161pts  Clearwater Racing (Ferrari)

The #98 took the category Pole, with the #61 Clearwater jumping the #77 Porsche for second on the -Am grid.

One little gem (to see who stuck with this to the end!) – We understand from our new colleagues (@thebpillar) that Christian Ried holds a quite unique record… He has completed a racing lap in EVERY Round of the WEC (apart from the heavily curtailed, did that even happen, race at Fuji in 2013)!  Not a lot of people know that 🙂 

So that is the set-up, the preview of the finale at Bahrain, a fabulous circuit well worth a visit. It drops from the 2018-19 ‘Super’ Season but its understood to be a firm favourite to return to the future winter calendar.  Certainly looking out on a chilly, grey British scene brightened only by the colours of autumn, we look forward to its return, and are starting the fund-raising for a trip now!  Lets hope Bahrain delivers the championship finale that across the categories this World Championship deserves. 

Enjoy the coverage on TV, Radio, Twitter or by write-up.  See you at the track. 

This article has originally been contributed by Nick Holland for Sportscarglobal.
Give him a follow on his twitter account @Nick Holland for more news and insights about the world of endurance racing !