Last Lap previews the final leg of a double-header for the FIA World Endurance Championship with the 8 Hours of Bahrain to end Season 9.
The first part of the double-header in Bahrain may have not been the most memorable WEC race, but it produced some thrilling battles and strategic games right to the end.
However, an eight-hour race will prove a great test once again to the strength of the drivers and the ability to perform by the teams.
Throughout this preview, we will look at some of the key talking points on the final push to conclude Season 9.
The challenge of the Sakhir International Circuit
As evident from last weekend’s race, this is a track which poses many unique challenges in terms of tyre management and wheel-to-wheel racing, as well as the heat/humidity itself.
For this weekend, the challenge will be on the eight-hour race length which will mean drivers are going to spend more time in the race seat as the day transitions to the night.
Especially in LMP2, teams were working with different strategies to utilise their allocated 18 tyres to the maximum.
This worked for some and not for others, as exemplified with the #22 of Filipe Albuquerque struggling towards the end on double-stinted tyres and could not hold a podium position against both JOTAs – especially fellow compatriot Antonio Felix Da Costa.
The #28 – with Da Costa at the wheel – had double-stinted right tyres and single for the left side.
For this weekend, the tyre allocation for all apart from GTE-Am entries is at 26 (for qualifying and the race) which should provoke another opportunity to control tyre management as the race gets colder i.e. heading into the evening.
Expect to still see GTE-Am drivers unafraid to race each other wheel-to-wheel due to their added allocation of 34 tyres each this weekend.
It will be much like last week, each of the 13 class entries should be able to change tyres at each of their scheduled pit stops; these tend to be around the hour mark.
Sakhir’s heavy braking zones and 30 degrees Celsius upward temperatures will emphasise the value of tyre management and will catch out the aggressive drivers.
A change of BoP in GTE-Pro
A much-needed adjustment of the Balance of Performance was made so that all GTE Ferraris would receive a turbo boost pressure increase of 0.004 bars and two more litres on fuel capacity, upped to 91.
At last weekend’s six-hour race, there was almost no fighting between Ferrari and Porsche as there should have been.
AF Corse were distant from the pace of their German rivals as a consequence of leading the FIA WEC GT Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ standings into that penultimate round.
By bringing the performance closer, we should hopefully witness the highly-anticipated authentic fights to these prestigious titles.
The #51 crew of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi still lead the Drivers’ Standings following their second Le Mans win, but at just one point ahead of the #91 crew of Kevin Estre and Neel Jani.
The same goes for the Manufacturers’ Standings but now Porsche lead by 1 point over Ferrari which, on a positive, has carried the tension to win right to this final race.
Championship titles to be decided
This is it. The final race of Season 9 which begun back in May at Spa-Francorchamps. And there are titles to be won.
Nine championship titles will be settled in the desert after Toyota claimed the first Hypercar Team’s Championship last weekend.
In Hypercars, it is advantage to the #7 after winning last weekend despite the #8 claiming pole, and the team enforced team orders throughout that race.
Both GR010 Hybrids will still fight for the title as the #8 will seek another pole position plus a race victory whereas the #7 crew will want to secure another Driver’s Championship after their first Le Mans win in August.
LMP2 is getting interesting between Team WRT, who won Le Mans and are WEC debutants this year, and the two JOTAs.
In the Pro/Am sub-class, Racing Team Nederland lead over DragonSpeed who had a race to forget last week after electrical issues throughout the race plus losing a wheel after a pit stop.
GTE-Pro is still tense despite the lack of entries due to the 1-point margin on both championships.
The #83 AF Corse crew look to do exactly what the #7 wish to do: Defend their Driver’s and Team’s Titles to combined with their recent Le Mans success.
TF Sport remain close rivals to the #83 and it should be a close fight throughout the 8 Hours of Bahrain.
A farewell for two greats of the WEC
Both upcoming retirees incidentally built much of the success in their sportscar careers with Toyota.
Davidson was one of the underrated if not forgotten drivers in Formula 1, but his efforts in endurance racing will remain far from that.
Despite the one championship in 2014 and no Le Mans wins, he was well affiliated for his on-track ability to fight with other drivers and his outgoing charisma, enthusiasm and knowledge as a racing driver.
Nakajima began the journey with Toyota since he was announced as one of their LMP1 drivers in 2011.
He grew with Toyota throughout the years with the primary goal to win the Le Mans 24 Hours.
He raced well with competitors and endured the tragic misses of the 2014 and 2016 races.
Alike Davidson, he will not reside forgotten as he claimed three of the first consecutive Le Mans victories for Toyota.
His Formula 1 years may have not turned everyone’s heads, but his time in the WEC has certainly done so.
Round 6 Schedule (excluding Free Practice)
|Qualifying – GTE Pro and GTE-Am||Friday 5 November||2.20pm to 2.40pm BST|
|Qualifying – Hypercar and LMP2||Saturday 6 November||2.40pm to 2.50pm BST|
|Race – 8 Hours of Bahrain||Saturday 6 November||11am to 7pm BST|
To see the full provisional entry list for the 8 Hours of Bahrain, click here.