Porsche led the way during first practice for the final round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, with the #17 car narrowly eclipsing the two Audis at Bahrain International Circuit.
Timo Bernhard set the fastest time of the 90 minute session, recording a 1:42.800s effort that edged out the #7 Audi R-18 e tron quattro of Andre Lotterer by 0.017s.
Bernhard, as well as Porsche 919 Hybrid team-mates Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley, can seal the FIA WEC drivers’ title this weekend with a third place finish, assuming the #7 Audi of Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer takes pole position and a win.
Third in practice was the #8 Audi following a 1:43.403s lap from Lucas di Grassi, while the #18 Porsche finished fourth with a 1:42.454s from Romain Dumas.
Toyota assumed fifth and sixth overall with its pair of TS040 Hybrids, with Sebastien Buemi setting the fastest lap for the Japaense manufacturer at 1:45.371s.
There was a close margin at the top of the LMP2 order as well, as 6 Hours of Shanghai winners Signatech Alpine edged out the championship-leading #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier.
Frenchman Nelson Panciatici led the way for Signatech – which was the only team to complete more than 40 laps during FP1 – submitting a 1:52.054s marker that was enough to beat G-Drive’s Sam Bird by three hundredths of a second.
Strakka Racing ensured a complete mix of chassis makes in the top three, as Jonny Kane registered a 1:52.686s time aboard the British team’s Gibson 015S Nissan.
The AF Racing-entered BR01 Nissan, driven by Nicolas Minassian, David Markozov and Mikhail Aleshin, finished fifth fastest on its maiden FIA WEC practice outing.
GTE-Pro was headed by the #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni, who have an outside chance of winning the GT drivers’ championship this weekend. Finn Vilander couldn’t quite break the two minute barrier at the 5.4 km circuit, but his 2:00.135s effort was enough to pip Davide Rigon in the sister #71 Ferrari 458 Italia by 0.370s.
Third in Pro was the Porsche 911 RSR of Patrick Pilet and Fred Makowiecki, while the #97 Aston Martin of Darren Turner and Jonny Adam ended the morning in fourth.
Aston Martin Racing did top the GTE-Am timesheets, however, with the #98 car going quicker than any of its Pro entries. Former F1 driver Pedro Lamy was the man behind the wheel, recording a 2:01.280s best nine laps into the session. Lamy was closely followed by Paolo Ruberti in the Am class Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R, who was just one tenth shy of the Portuguese driver.
Andrea Bertolini completed the top three in the SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia, which leads the GTE Am standings by 19 points heading into the Bahrain season finale.