Toyota go Fastest in Final First Practice of 2017


Credit: Craig Robertson/Speed Chills

First practice of the 6 Hours of Bahrain started the weekend on shaky feet as the should have been 90-minute session had to be extended by half hour following a 36-minute red flag period. One track action had gotten back underway it was Mike Conway’s first flying lap time of a 1:42.313 that topped the timing board. Vaillante Rebellion started the weekend strong with the #13 coming out fastest in LMP2 after a slow start.

GTE Pro showed that, once again, the weekend will provide close racing as the top three was filled by three different manufacturers with GT Drivers’ World Endurance Championship leaders James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi topping the class. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche led the way throughout the two-hour session, holding the Am Championship challenging #98 Aston Martin Racing car just behind for second.

Toyota Gazoo Racing are looking to take their third consecutive victory to end the season. Where they have looked to be pulling away from Porsche LMP1 Team in the last few races, Porsche have kept them honest returning to the track. Although the Japanese team did finish the session with a  one-two, Porsche were not far off, with their slowest car just half a second off the fastest Toyota. It is certainly gearing up to be an exciting final race of the season.

It was a battle between #13 Vaillante Rebellion and #26 G-Drive Racing for the fastest lap of LMP2. Loic Duval jumped the car to second in his first flying lap in the World Endurance Championship since driving here with Audi Sport for their last race last season. The #13 team had the edge on the #26 when the red flag period slowed down track action. On the restart, none of the LMP2s seemed to make much improvement as the track cooled with the setting sun meaning that Mathias Beche, David Heinemeier Hansson and Nelson Piquet Jr finished the session fastest in their class. The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing car rounded off the top three, meaning that none of the Championship contending cars featured in the top end of the class.

Tincknell’s #67 Ford Chip Ganassi car had a oil leak issue that brought out a 36-minute red flag delay

Promising the prediction of more close racing this weekend, the GT Pro class ended with A Ferrari leading a Aston Martin and a Ford for the top three. Calado and Pier Guidi led the class from just before the red flag stoppage and managed to hold off a charging Jonny Adam in the #97 Aston Martin Racing. It had initially looked to be a potential slump of a weekend for the Aston-running crews, but Adam’s late surge after the session restarted saw him climb from the bottom of the time sheet to second in class.

It was a brilliant comeback for Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK car. It was this car that brought out the red flag: dropping oil around the track, the car came to a halt at Turn 6. Using the extended session time to their advantage, the Ford mechanics managed to fix the oil leak and turn the car around to return to the track with around 15 minutes on the clock. Tincknell put in a fantastic lap to jump them to third on the timing board, ahead of the sister Ford.

The Am championship battle is as close as ever going into this race. The Dempsey-Proton car currently sits 10 points behind the leading #98 Aston Martin, but had the advantage over the British team when the chequered flag came out on this session. Christian Ried, Matteo Cairoli and Marvin Dienst led the session from the go but remained only a tenth up on the #98, proving the pace could be closely matched this weekend.

Even though the session was delayed by half an hour, the day’s schedule should remained unchanged as there was a window of time between the end of the first practice session and the next track action. Free Practice 2 should take to the track at 19:30 local time, 16:30 GMT.