Embarking on the final practice session of the 2017 World Endurance Championship, Porsche LMP1 Team came out on top for the first time this weekend. Jackie Chan DC Racing followed Porsche’s suit in emerging from the pack this morning to take a dominate one-two finish in LMP2. Ferrari looked to have their edge back this morning, claiming fastest laps in both GTE Pro and Am with AF Corse and Clearwater Racing respectively.
Out of the gate, Porsche had and advantage in this morning’s session. Timo Bernhard was first in the car for the #2 team and set a benchmark time of 1:42.436. It was about two seconds off the pace of the lap times that were being set in FP2, but fast enough to keep the #2 on top throughout the 60-minute session. The time was fastest than the sister car in the hands of Neel Jani by 0.686 seconds and had a 1.296 second advantage on the fastest #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing.
It was a better start to the day for the Jackie Chan cars as they locked out the top two positions in LMP2. the #38 team were the car to beat from the start of the session, holding back the #13 Vaillante Rebellion. It was towards the end of the session that the #37 joined the sister car, half a second off the #38’s 1:48.879.
The sweltering heat of Bahrain appeared to be getting to the LMP2s this morning. Two cars had a sudden loss of power, bringing out brief Full Course Yellows. The #24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing was the first to lose power, just a few minutes after session started. Ben Hanley managed to limp it back to the pits but the car came to a halt at pit entry. He was pushed down the pit lane and managed to get the car back out, finishing sixth in class, ahead of the #25 which had a late session spin.
Nico Lapierre also found his #36 Signatech Alpine shuddering to a halt on track. This brought out the second full course yellow of the session as Frenchman managed to drag the car back into the pits. A third full course yellow disrupted the session as there was debris at Turn 2 and 7 that the marshals began to clear. During this period, the #86 Gulf Racing caught fire at Turn 9 and had to pull off the track. With the car dropping liquid and powder needing to be put on track, the session was put in a short red flag session to clear the track.
After the red flag, the GTE cars were on a mission, putting in fastest lap after fastest lap. The car at the top of the order was so frequently changed; it looks like qualifying is going to be 30 minutes of hard, close racing later on. James Calado managed to place the #51 AF Corse on top after a slow start to the session, finishing with a 1:57.972. Andy Priaulx had been fastest in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK, but could go no faster than two tenths off Calado’s time. The second AF Corse Ferrari #71 rounded off the top three of the class that, at the start of the session, the two Porsche GT Team cars seemed to dominate.
Ferrari was also on top of Am with the Clearwater Racing fastest at the end of the session setting a 2:00.661. The session had started with Pedro Lamy setting an uncatchable time in the #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage but as the session went on the track conditions improved. The #98 finished fourth, pushed out of the top three by championship rivals #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing and #54 Spirit of Race.
The WEC paddock take a break before qualifying, which starts at 17:00 local time, 14:00 GMT. This should give the #86 Gulf Porsche team enough time to repair any damage on the car and turn it around, ready to take part in the dusk session where tomorrow’s starting grid will be decided.