For the finale of the 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship, the sportscar series returns to the Bahrain International Circuit. This will, however, be the smallest field WEC has ever had for an event as the global pandemic has seen a lot of cars withdraw from the race.
The smallest field on the grid will be LMP1 as only the championship contending Toyota Gazoo Racing cars remain after Rebellion Racing dropped out of the last race of the season. With the championship going down to the wire, all eyes will be on the Japanese cars to see who comes out on top.
Advantage starts with the second-placed #7 car of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez as the FIA has decided to keep the success ballast penalties in place. However, as there are only two LMP1 cars racing this weekend, the success penalty system has been tweaked so that only the points difference between the two cars is calculated to the success ballast.
Had nothing changed, the leading #8 car of Brendan Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima would have had a 2.70s success ballast, with the sister car getting 2.16s – a difference of 0.54s. The difference of 0.54s remains between the two cars, but it is only the leading #8 that is hit with the penalty, meaning the two cars are very much expected to disappear from the rest of the WEC field.
LMP2 also sees a field size drop, with only six cars taking to the track instead of the usual eight full season cars. Cool Racing have become the most recent to not participate in the 8 Hours of Bahrain, with High Class Racing joining them on the side lines.
With the class-leading United Autosport drivers Filipe Alburquerque and Phil Hanson (not including Paul di Resta as he sat out of the 2019 6 Hours of Fuji) holding a 46 points lead over their closest competitors, the LMP2 Championship is wrapped up, with only 39 available to score this weekend. The runner’s up spot, however, is still up for contention, with JOTA and Racing Team Nederlands split by eight points.
GTE Pro is the only class that remains unchanged for the final race of the season, with all three manufacturers taking both of their WEC cars to the racetrack. Only three cars stand with a chance of claiming the World Endurance GTE Driver’s Championship: the two Aston Martin Racing entries and the #51 AF Corse.
The #95 Dane Train Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen Aston Martin entry currently leads the way over the sister car with a 15-point lead after the #97 car of Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin claimed victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Sadly, however, Lynn will not be able to contend for the driver’s championship as he has tested positive for Covid-19 and will sit out this weekend. It will be up to Martin to take victory for the car, who will now be partnered with Richard Westbrook.
James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi sit third with their Ferrari entry and are the only other team to be able to challenge for the championship, 26 points behind the class leaders.
Only one car from the GTE Am field will not be taking part in the finale: the #70 MR Racing team. The remaining ten cars will all take to the grid, but there has been a lot of changes to their driver line ups. Most of these come from the fact that, due to the schedule change, there are multiple race clashes on this weekend.
Jorg Bergmeister has been drafted in by Team Project 1 to replace Matteo Cairoli in the #56 car. Cairoli is racing at Paul Ricard trying to secure the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup, and since is not in contention for the WEC GTE Am title will race in France. Another driver with prior commitments is Matt Campbell from the Dempsey-Proton Racing #77 entry. Due to him racing for the factory Porsche in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship rescheduled Sebring 12 Hours (that WEC should have been racing with in March this year), Norwegian driver Dennis Olsen will fill his spot in the cockpit.
Thomas Preining, who has been a consistent driver for the sister #88, for all but the 2020 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, is also racing in the GT World Challenge. The #88 will be in the hands of Khales Al Qubaisi, Marco Holzer and Jaxon Evans.
The final line-up change is seen in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche where, to replace Andrew Watson, Alessio Picariello will make his WEC debut racing with Ben Barker and Mike Wainwright. Picariello claimed the European Le Mans Series GTE Title last weekend with Proton Competition last weekend.
Only two cars can take GTE Am title, and the battle is between TF Sport and the #83 AF Corse. Salih Yoluc, Charles Eastwood and Jonny Adam go into the weekend with an eight-point lead over the chasing Ferrari drivers François Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Nicklas Nielsen.