There was an electric atmosphere yesterday at Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) as racing got off to a brilliant start in the FIA WEC Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain weekend.
Toyota Gazoo Racing showcased their blistering pace as they finished ahead of world champions Porsche in the second free practice held as part of the ninth and final round of the World Endurance Championship’s (WEC) 2017 season.
Diego Menchaca, meanwhile, emerged as the fastest man in the opening test of the World Series Formula V8 3.5. Pavan Ravishankar registered the best lap of the day in the MRF Challenge, and Al Faisal Al Zubair did the same in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East.
All of yesterday’s action was held behind closed doors at BIC. Doors will be open today and tomorrow.
Anthony Davidson in Toyota’s no. 8 Hybrid was the pace-setter with a best lap of one minute 40.095 seconds – more than two seconds quicker than the best time of teammate Kamui Kobayashi in the day’s first practice.
Davidson led teammate Mike Conway to another one-two classification in the night session, with Conway finishing 0.598 seconds behind in his no. 7 car.
Earl Bamber was the quicker of the two Porsches that were third and fourth on the timesheet. Bamber in the no. 2 drivers’ title-winning car was not far behind the top two, finishing 0.678s back.
Andre Lotterer in the no. 1 Porsche completed the hour-and-a-half practice 0.760s off the leaders’ pace.
All four were competing in the LMP1 class..
In the LMP2 category, Nicolas Prost of Vaillante Rebellion was the leading man with a best lap of 1:47.664 in his Oreca 07-Gibson.
Darren Turner steered his team’s Aston Martin Vantage to first place amongst LMGTE Pro runners with a fastest time of 1:57.014.
Keita Sawa of Clearwater Racing was the top performer in the LMGTE Am, taking his Ferrari 488 GTE to a best lap of 1:59.773.
Meanwhile, Rene Binder of Austria came away with the best lap of the day after a pair of collective tests in the World Series Formula V8 3.5, which is holding its ninth and final round over the weekend.
Binder had the best time of the day of 1:44.153 seconds with the cooler track temperatures in the evening session.
In practice two, Diego Menchaca was +0.576s behind the leader Binder. Mexican Alfonso Celis Jr., who is a Formula 1 test driver with Force India, was +0.835s off the pace in third.
Heading into the weekend’s season-ending races, Fittipaldi leads the championship with 223 points. He already has six victories this season. Right behind him on 213 points is Matevos Isaakyan of Russia, while his countryman Egor Orudzhev is third on 198 points. Mexican Alfonso Celis Jr., who is a Formula 1 test driver with Force India, is fourth on 192 points.
In the Teams’ Championship standings, SMP Racing with AVF lead with 411 points while Lotus are second with 397 points. Fortec Motorsports are in third place followed by RP Motorsport, Teo Martin Motorsport and Il Barone Rampante.
Singapore-born Pavan Ravishankar went fastest as the 2017 season of the MRF Challenge got underway at BIC.
With track conditions hotter than expected, Ravishankar set a best lap of 2:01.638 to go top of the sheets in free practice two. Seventeen-year-old Brazilian driver Felipe Drugovich, who is a favourite for the title, set the fastest time in the first sesson and is looking very strong heading into qualifying.
In the opening practice session, it was Drugovich who first went fastest as the other young drivers spent time familiarising themselves with the circuit. Halfway through the session Drugovich led and later went even faster posting a time of 2:01.684. French driver Julian Falchero impressed on his debut and slotted into second place with a 2:01.774, while behind him was Indonesian driver Presley Martono.
Free practice two saw Drugovich once again setting the early pace but the times started to tumble as the drivers continued to get used to the updated car.
Ravishankar showed his hand with seven minutes to go as he set a time of 2:01.638 – the fastest of the weekend so far. Polish driver Alex Karkosik continued his climb up the sheets as he set a time less than one tenth off a second off Ravishankar. Drugovich slotted into third.
Tom Oliphant and Al Faisal Al Zubair both opened the new season of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East on a positive note yesterday.
Oliphant topped the timesheet in the series’ first practice of the weekend, but it was Al Zubair clocked the best time of the day.
Oliphant registered a fastest lap of two minutes 03.643 seconds in free practice one.
Classified right behind him was Charlie Frijns from the Netherlands. Only 0.108s separated the pair at the top of the session’s timesheet. Al Faisal Al Zubair of Oman came third 0.303s behind Oliphant.
All of the quickest three in Practice 1 are competing in the series’ Gold class.
Setting the pace amongst runners in the Silver class was Magnus Oehman of Sweden, while the Bronze class was led by Rob Frijns of the Netherlands.
Team Bahrain’s Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, competing in the Silver category, was ranked eighth overall and third in his class. Teammate Shaikh Ali bin Mohammed Al Khalifa was ranked 14th overall and second amongst Bronze participants.
Later in the day, Al Zubair turned up the pressure to top the classification in practice two. He managed to pip Oliphant for the leading position – enjoying a gap of just 0.059s. His best lap of 2:03.147 was also marginally quicker than Oliphant’s leading time in the morning practice, securing him the fastest time of the day.
Former champion Zaid Ashkanani of Kuwait made up for a slow start to the day, finishing third 0.147s behind first place.
Oehman was once again the leader in the Silver class, while Shaikh Ali took over as the pace-setter in the Bronze category. Shaikh Isa was seventh overall and second in the silver category.
Tickets to the FIA WEC Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain are BD10 apiece for the entire weekend while all those aged 12 and younger can get in for free. Tickets can be purchased at the gate.