Preview: FIA World Endurance Championship 2019/20 – 8 Hours of Bahrain

by Alice Holloway
Race start, 4 Hours of Shanghai 2019

The final FIA World Endurance Championship race of 2019 occurs this weekend as the endurance paddock makes its return to Bahrain. We’re reaching the halfway point of the season, and still the talk circulates around the success ballast in the LMP1 class.

The calculation remains the same, but the Automobile Club de l’Ouest has made some changes in how the points difference between the cars affects how much success ballast they will receive. Moving forwards, the 40-point restriction will work backwards from the leading car, rather than forwards from the last-placed car. This means that there is a ‘phantom car’ that is always 40 points behind the championship leader, and success ballast will be determined by that car.

LMP1-leading #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing, therefore, receives the full 40-points success ballast, giving them a reduction of 2.72 seconds per lap. The second-placed #7, however, only receives a 37-point success ballast, meaning they are slowed by 0.2 seconds less – 2.51 seconds per lap.

There has been no specific reason given for this change in how the success ballast will be calculated.

Shanghai winners Rebellion Racing, who this week confirmed their participation in the Le Mans Hypercar class by announcing their partnership with Peugeot, will be handed 1.36 seconds per lap which is likely to swing the advantage back into the hands of Toyota this weekend. Toyota will be strong this weekend regardless as the track suits their car, but now being less than two seconds slower again than their competitors (with two seconds being the normal advantage Toyota have on the privateers) the deficit they felt in Shanghai will not be as prominent.

#8 Toyota Gazoo Racing LMP1 car in pit lane, Bahrain 2019
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

The LMP2 field sees the return of Job van Uitert as G-Drive Racing makes its WEC return. The usual eight cars increase to nine as the 2018 European Le Mans Series champions join the grid. Jean-Eric Vergne and Roman Rusinov join van Uitert as they have all season in the Aurus 01/Gibson #26.

The rest of the LMP2 field remains the same. Racing Team Nederland will be looking for a return to the podium this weekend to help them finish the year at the front of the class championship. It’ll be a tight fight between #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing and them as the pair of cars are split by two points.

Shanghai winners JOTA will be looking to continue their strong form, with Roberto Gonzalez, Antonio Felix da Costa and Anthony Davidson back at the wheel.

#42 Cool Racing LMP2 car in pit lane, Bahrain, 2019
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Porsche GT Team will be hoping to stay ahead of Aston Martin Racing during the 8 Hours of Bahrain, currently holding a strong lead with their two cars at the front of the class. Ten points separates the reigning class champions Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen from the sister car, but the leading #95 Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen only sits five points behind the second-placed Porsche.

AF Corse are still waiting for a break in their luck this season, after having lost their Shanghai win in a post race infringement. The team have yet to finish on the podium, so will be looking to this weekend to amend that.

#57 Team Project 1 LM GTE Am car in pit lane, Bahrain 2019
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

The entry list remains at 31 cars as the additional Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche that joined the grid in Shanghai falls off of the entry list for the Middle East race. The #88 Dempsey-Proton is still yet to confirm its full line-up, with only Thomas Preining confirmed to be in the car.

The red arrows of TF Sport are aiming for a hat-trick of wins to finish off the year on a high, whilst Silverstone winners AF Corse #83 will be looking to do anything to knock them off their winning streak. Just three points separate the two teams at the end of the year, with Team Project 1 #57 21 points behind in third place. The Am championship may already be turning into a two horse race.

Entry list for the 2019 Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain in the FIA World Endurance Championship
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

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