Tyre management will be a key factor in the GTE-Pro battle at the 6 Hours of Bahrain, according to Ferrari works driver Sam Bird.
The 29 year old has the chance to become Britain’s first-ever World Endurance Cup champion alongside team-mate Davide Rigon this weekend.
Bird and Rigon will start fifth on the grid for today’s race, which gets underway at 16:00 local time.
“I enjoy coming to Bahrain, it’s got interesting corners and it’s a technical track,” Bird told The Checkered Flag.co.uk.
“It’s great to be back here as it’s a top-notch facility. The season has gone so quickly though! It only seems like a month ago we were back at the Prologue in Paul Ricard.”
The tyre war in GTE-Pro involves Michelin (supplying to Ferrari, Porsche and Ford) and Dunlop (supplying to Aston Martin).
So far this weekend the Dunlop rubber has shown better performance on the abrasive Bahrain circuit, although Ferrari did top the final free practice session on Friday morning. Tyre degradation is a big issue in the Arabian desert, as Bird explains:
“This is a track that demands good speed in qualifying but patience during the race because the rate of tyre degradation is high,” he said.
“The surface is quite abrasive, especially on some of the combined-entry corners so that can be quite difficult. I find that the rear tyres are susceptible to this abrasion more than anything so we need to look after those to make sure they don’t go away quickly.”
“Tyre management is key – it’s probably the most important aspect to manage if you want to do well here.”
Before the race, Ford was issued a balance of performance penalty following its resounding victories in Japan and China.
An extra 20kg will be carried by each of the two Ford GTs, although when asked Bird said that he doesn’t think this will give the Ferraris too much of an advantage.
“Weight in a GTE car doesn’t matter as much as weight in a single seater,” he explained.
“It will obviously hurt the Fords a little bit, but I don’t think it will cripple their pace. I don’t expect the pace shown by Ford during practice and qualifying will reflect how they do in the race – it should be a really close contest. Aston Martin as well have shown good pace all weekend so we’re expecting the battle with them to be equally tough.
“I’m looking forward to the battle and hopefully to getting a top result.”
The WEC 6 Hours of Bahrain takes place later today (November 19) at 16:00 local time.