8H Bahrain: #8 Toyota leads after two hours, GTE-Pro lead battle intensifies

The #8 Toyota GAZOO Racing lead the 8 Hours of Bahrain after a thrilling two hours of action, drama and tension.

The tension and pressure was set for the final race on the Season 9 calendar in Bahrain.

Sakhir was bathed in sunshine with an element of headwind to face the drivers at the start.

Also, farewells and tributes were being shown for Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima who are taking part in their final professional races before their retirement.

The opening two hours began what will be the second eight-hour race after Portimao.

At lights out, the start was filled with intense fighting for positions with drivers keen to make places before looking after their tyres.

The #91 of Gianmaria Bruni made a mistake to run slightly wide at Turn 1, giving opportunity to the #52 Ferrari behind to make a move on him.

In LMP2, #29 Racing Team Nederland of Guido Van Der Garde repeated his charging efforts like from last weekend after making a calculated dive at Turn 1 and took the lead.

Overall, the #36 Alpine Elf Matmut of Nicolas Lapierre overtook both Toyotas to take the lead in their A480 Gibson.

Meanwhile in GTE-Am, contact between Ben Keating (#33) and Paul Dalla Lana (#98) caused both Aston Martins to experience a puncture; left-front on the TF Sport and right-rear on the AMR NorthWest.

It was deemed a racing incident and only a warning each was issued.

The opening hour ensued intense several battles and drama across all categories.

Since James Calado took the lead on the opening lap from Kevin Estre, the pair fought with one another in delightful fashion with side-by-side action.

The #36 fended off the #7 Toyota of Mike Conway for 15 minutes, mixed in with side-by-side dueling to utilise the limits of the circuit.

Eventually, Conway made a move into Turn 11 after being propelled by the added hybrid boost as Sebastien Buemi repeated the same move a lap later.

It was clear the Alpine was struggling on tyres after falling back slightly.

The #29 built a dominant as it extended a gap to second place from 14 seconds after 40 minutes, to over 30 seconds into Hour 2 of the race.

Ferdinand Habsburg in the LMP2 championship-leading #31 Team WRT was making swift progress after making a series of calculated dives past the likes of Realteam Racing and JOTA.

Their LMP2 fight intensified with GTE-Am traffic at over 30 minutes in, but eventually giving them the chance to get P2.

Our first drama was from the Alpine who experienced gearbox (selection) issues at the 48 minute mark.

It make a short repair job in the garage and Matthieu Vaxiviere took over the seat when they went back out at the back of the field, skewing a chance for an overall podium.

Also, the #88 of Michael Wainwright experienced a damper failure on his GTE-Am Porsche.

Into the second hour, the GTE-Pro lead fight was still on the edge with a championship at stake.

The #28 of Sean Gelael made a mistake into Turn 11 when he spun after trying to pass GTE-Am traffic.

For much of this phase of the race, Porsche’s #92 was on the tail of the #51, who was equally chasing down the #91 who was leading.

The #22 who started on pole struggled as it fell to P6 after 1 hour and 40 minutes as Phil Hanson struggled on his double-stint, and Filipe Albuquerque took over with a fresh set of tyres.

With Robin Frijns at the wheel, the #31 was still producing exciting fights as he conquered a battle for third.

Approaching the third hour of the race, a Full-Course-Yellow was deployed after the #85 experienced a puncture.

It was suspectedly triggered by contact with the #777 over 10 minutes earlier where the Iron Dames car was awarded with a drive-through-penalty for spinning the D’station Racing car at the final corner.

GTE-Pro featured strategic games between Ferrari and Porsche on their choices to pit during the FCY.

OVERALL POSITION TEAM
1 #8 Toyota GAZOO Racing [HYPERCAR]
2 #7 Toyota GAZOO Racing [HYPERCAR]
3
#29 Racing Team Nederland (Pro/Am) [LMP2]
4 #70 Realteam Racing (Pro/Am) [LMP2]
5 #31 Team WRT [LMP2]
6 #28 JOTA [LMP2]
7 #38 JOTA [LMP2]
8 #22 United Autosports [LMP2]
9
#34 Inter Europol Competition (Pro/Am) [LMP2]
10 #1 Richard Mille Racing [LMP2]
11 #21 DragonSpeed USA (Pro/Am) [LMP2]
12 #20 High Class Racing (Pro/Am) [LMP2]
13 #44 ARC Bratislava (Pro/Am) [LMP2]
14 #91 Porsche GT Team [GTE-PRO]
15 #92 Porsche GT Team [GTE-PRO]
16 #51 AF Corse [GTE-PRO]
17 #52 AF Corse [GTE-PRO]
18 #36 Alpine Elf Matmut [HYPERCAR]
19 #83 AF Corse [GTE-AM]
20 #47 Cetilar Racing [GTE-AM]
21 #56 Team Project 1 [GTE-AM]
22 #57 Kessel Racing [GTE-AM]
23 #54 AF Corse [GTE-AM]
24 #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing [GTE-AM]
25 #98 Aston Martin Racing [GTE-AM]
26 #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing [GTE-AM]
27 #777 D’station Racing [GTE-AM]
28 #33 TF Sport [GTE-AM]
29 #60 Iron Lynx [GTE-AM]
30 #85 Iron Lynx [GTE-AM]
31 #86 GR Racing [GTE-AM]