FIA WEC

Analysis: FIA World Endurance Championship – 8 Hours of Bahrain

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Start of the 2019 Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain, FIA World Endurance Championship
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

The final FIA World Endurance Championship race of the decade saw Toyota Gazoo Racing take another one-two finish, but it didn’t always look like that would be the outcome of the race.

With the success ballast hindering Toyota’s pace once again, it looked like the Privateers were in for a battle. Team LNT had the advantage, barely suffering from any success ballast, but it was the Rebellion Racing trio of Bruno Senna, Gustavo Menezes and Norman Nato who had the advantage come race start. It all fell apart, however when the pole-sitting Rebellion and second placed #5 Ginetta of Jordan King, Ben Hanley and Charlie Robertson came together in the first corner, causing damage on both cars which meant they were unable to challenge up the front for the win.

Pace advantage was with the #7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi as they had less of a success ballast added to their car due to the new format of how the success ballast is calculated. They led the race from the start to the final flag. The trio now lead the championship with 97 points to the sister car belonging to Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, who sit on 89 points. This will mean that at the newly reinstated 6 Hours of COTA the #8 Toyota will have the pace advantage.

With the new success ballast calculation – the 40 point cap working backwards from the leading car rather than forwards from the last placed car – the success ballast will not plateau, meaning that Toyota will continue to be at a disadvantage to the Privateers. The 1,000 Miles of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be the most important races for Toyota to capitalise on as these races yield more points to the winning cars.

The prediction is that Toyota will still remain in front of the Privateers, but this new shift in the success ballast will be causing a bit more stress than expected for the Japanese team.

#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing on track at Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain, 2019
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Not yet having scored a race win this season, the trio of Gabriel Aubry, Will Stevens and Ho-Pin Tung lead the LMP2 championship in the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing. The championship is much closer in this class, with Bahrain class winners United Autosports sitting second, just three points behind them. Phil Hanson and Filipe Alburquerque sit second in class as a duo because Paul di Resta did not take part in the 6 Hours of Fuji as he had a clash with the 2019 DTM final.

The competition is still wide open in the LMP2 class, with the top five positions covered by just 14 points. Racing Team Nederland, JOTA Sport and Signatech Alpine are all still in contention to take the LMP2 manufacturers and drivers trophies. One bad race from any of the front runners could see the whole championship shifted.

#37 Jackie Chan DC Racing on track at Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain, 2019
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Taking their second victory for Aston Martin Racing this season, Dane Train Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen are leading the GTE Pro championship, ahead of the duo of Porsche GT Team cars. Reigning class champions Kevin Estre and Michael Chrisensen are second in class, now 14 points off the leaders after they struggled home with a seventh place finish in Bahrain.

The second Aston Martin in the hands of Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin is the most consistent of all the GTE Pro cars, having finished third at every race so far in the 2019/20 season. They sit fourth in the championship, on equal points with the third-placed #91 Porsche of Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz who only hold third place due to the fact they have a race victory this season.

AF Corse are having a season to forget, being the only manufacturer in the Pro class to not have scored a win this season. James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi arguably should have won in Silverstone with the #51, but had the victory stolen from them through a penalty that was revoked after they had served it. Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina had looked to be on track to take the team’s first win of the season in Bahrain in the #71, but a penalty for spinning their tyres in the pit lane put an end to that hope.

Already 20 points behind third/fourth place in the championship, Ferrari will need things to turn around for them in the new year to have any hope of retaining the GTE Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles at the end of the season.

#95 Aston Martin Racing on track at Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain, 2019
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

The GTE Am championship is the closest competition of the 2019/20 season, with Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating in the #57 Team Project 1 only leading the championship on podium count backs, as the #83 AF Corse of Emmanuel Collard, Nicklas Nielsen and Francois Perrodo also sit on 73 points.

The leading duo of cars hold a 12.5 point lead over third-placed Aston Martin Racing’s #98 crew of Paul Dalla Lana, Darren Turner and Ross Gunn who are only 2.5 points up on the sister Aston Martin #90 TF Sport. Jonny Adam, Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc were leading the Am championship ahead of Bahrain, with two consecutive wins to their names, but a retirement last weekend has seen them drop down the order, showing how close this championship is.

#57 Team Project 1 on track at Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain, 2019
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship
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