WEC ready for thrilling 2017 Bahrain finale
The 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship draws to a close under the floodlights of the impressive and popular Bahrain International Circuit at Sakhir on Saturday 18th November.
The 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship draws to a close under the floodlights of the impressive and popular Bahrain International Circuit at Sakhir on Saturday 18th November, and the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain is guaranteed to be an emotionally charged race throughout the 26-strong field of competitors.
Porsche secured its third consecutive World Endurance Manufacturers Championship in China, while Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley also wrapped up the World Drivers’ title with a fine second place in Shanghai. The final round of the season also marks the departure of Porsche from LMP1, and – although the pressure for the championship titles is off – the marque will be looking to finish its WEC campaign is as positive a way as possible.
The GT FIA World Endurance Manufacturers Championship title was joyously clinched in Shanghai by Ferrari, but the GT Drivers championship is still to be won. The Championships are also still wide open in LMP2 and LMGTE so there will be plenty of tension and expectation amongst the protagonists as they approach the Bahrain finale.
The 5000 lights illuminate the 5.412km track, turning night into daylight, and the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain will run from 4:00 pm local time to 10:00 pm.
Aside from the top level WEC action, there is a comprehensive support race package from the World Series Formula V8 3.5, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge ME, and the MRF Challenge. However, much attention will undoubtedly fall in Bahrain on Porsche and its departing all-star driver line up – including current F1 driver Brendon Hartley. It’s going to be joyful for some, tense for others, emotional for all, and a celebration of the very best of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Toyota and Porsche both looking to end season on a high
Porsche has won four of the eight rounds so far, but Toyota’s victory at the last two races (to add to two at the start of the season) demonstrates just how they have never stopped working and developing their car, and how important their programme is to the Japanese manufacturer.
New World Champions Brendon Hartley, Earl Bamber, Timo Bernhard have won 50% of the 2017 races in the No.2 919 Hybrid, while Toyota’s Kazuki Nakajima, Sébastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson are also level with 50%. The ninth and final victory of the season will be crucial to both manufacturers as they look to finish their seasons on a high – Porsche for the final time in LMP1 and Toyota as it finalises its future in the WEC.
Will Toyota’s qualifying kings – Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway – make it five pole positions in 2017? Don’t bet against them in the No.7 TS050, and will André Lotterer, Neel Jani and Nick Tandy finally get a win in 2017? Tune in to Bahrain to find out!
The battle in LMP2 set to continue to the final lap of the season
The LMP2 battle in China was one of the best-ever races in terms of entertainment and competition, and the eventual result saw a change in the FIA World Endurance Drivers’ Trophy classification for the first time this season.
Leaping ahead of the No.38 Jackie Chan DC Racing line up into top spot is the Vaillante Rebellion duo of Bruno Senna and Julien Canal from the No.31 ORECA 07. They, together with their team mate Nicolas Prost, have won three of the last rounds and now hold a 4-point lead over the Chinese-team’s Ho-Pin Tung, Oliver Jarvis and Thomas Laurent who had a challenging end to the 6 Hours of Shanghai.
The fight for the title, and the race victory, will be intense and not to be missed!
In third place in the standings, and still within a mathematical chance of title victory is Gustavo Menezes from the No.36 Signatech Alpine Matmut entry. The American and his team mates Nicolas Lapierre and André Negrão have been consistently improving in the second half of the season, and are searching for their second 2017 victory to finish the year.
The only new name on the entry list for the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain is that of an extremely well-known WEC name – Loïc Duval – who makes his LMP2 debut for the No.26 G-Drive Racing team alongside Roman Rusinov and Léo Roussel. The 2013 World Endurance Champion will surely receive an extremely warm welcome on his return to the WEC paddock.
Multiple title possibilities in closest ever LMGTE battle
Easily the closest LMGTE Pro season to have ever taken place comes to a head at the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain as Ferrari, Ford and Porsche all attempt to take the coveted crown.
James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi saw their advantage trimmed in China last weekend by the Porsche duo of Frédéric Makowiecki and Richard Lietz. With just two points now separating the rivals, a thrilling climax is guaranteed.
With Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx’s second class win of the season in Shanghai, they too are now within 7.5 points of the leaders. Even No.71 AF Corse Ferrari driver Davide Rigon is still in with a chance but must rely on extraordinary misfortune for others in the desert.
As ever in the LMGTE Pro class, the racing will be close and intense. Last season Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen sealed the title with victory in Bahrain and, although they are out of contention this year, the Danes could have a direct influence in where the silverware goes.
The LMGTE Am category has been ultra-close this season with three entrants consistently close in the standings.
Going in to the Shanghai race the Dempsey Proton Porsche trio of Marvin Dienst, Matteo Cairoli and Christian Ried and Aston Martin Racing drivers, Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, were completely level on points.
However, a third win of the season for Aston Martin and a third place for Dempsey Proton ensured that a 10-point gap was opened up. Still in with a mathematical chance of snatching the title are Keita Sawa, Weng Sun Mok and Matt Griffin in the Clearwater Racing Ferrari. As the Singapore-entered team gets ready to sign-off its first WEC season it finds itself 20-points behind the leaders.
The Gulf Racing Porsche team celebrated its best ever WEC result of second position in China last time out, and will be determined to carry that momentum through to Bahrain. Mike Wainwright returns to the team for the finale after missing the last two rounds at Fuji and Shanghai.