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FIA WEC: Bahrain, Hours 2 & 3 Report

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As the clock ticked over one hour at Bahrain, all the prototype runners had made their first stops, adding fuel but not changing drivers. Polesitter Nico Lapierre continued to lead, but his Toyota team-mate Sebastien Buemi in the #8 car rapidly brought the gap down from four to two seconds.

Kristensen in the #2 Audi and Treluyer in the #1 lay third and fourth, with the Dane 12 seconds behind Buemi and catching him at a considerable rate. Nico Prost in the Rebellion Lola had already dropped two laps adrift of the works LMP1s at this stage.

Minassian (Pecom Racing), Martin (G-Drive) and Wirdheim (Greaves) remained the leading trio in LMP2, covered by 20 seconds. To correct earlier reports, Pecom did short-fuel at their pitstop, which explains Minassian’s 10-second cushion over Martin.

In GTE Pro, Vilander in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari took the effective class lead from Joerg Bergmeister’s Porsche on lap 33 – the two cars being among the first batch of GT runners to make their pit stops. Darren Turner had taken over the #97 Aston Martin from Stefan Mucke, who had struggled badly with tyre degradation for almost his entire stint, but the car remained in touch with the leaders – just under six seconds covering the tree of them.

Nikki Thiim in the #95 Aston was the last GT runner to stop, handing the car over to Nygaard who emerged at the head of the class when the order shuffled out after the stops. Davide Rigon (8Star Ferrari) and Markus Palttala (Imsa Matmut Porsche) were second and third.

1:06 Lapierre clocks the fastest lap of the race so far (1:44.440) in response to the pressure from Buemi.

1:08 Buemi moves into the lead after a slow middle sector from Lapierre. The Frenchman radios the team complaining of understeer and says the Larbre Corvette pushed him off the track.

1:15 Vilander and Bergmeister continue to duel over the GTE Pro class lead – allowing Turner to close down the gap (while he himself is being caught by Fisichella in the other Pro Ferrari).

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1:19 Kristensen in the #2 Audi dives down the inside of Nygaard’s Aston at turn one, but the GTE driver spots him on the inside and Dane-on-Dane contact is avoided.

1:23: Richard Lietz reports his relief that the #92 Porsche feels okay after being hit by the Lotus. Passing the Ferrari on the straight is not possible and into corners is still a high-risk move, he says.

1:24: Nicolas Prost pulls the Rebellion Lola off the track with what looks like a small fire in the engine bay – marshals extinguish the blaze, but the car is a retirment. The #88 Proton Porsche has also made an unscheduled visit to the pits.

1:29: Slight contact for the #8 Toyota while lapping the #45 Oak with David Cheng at the wheel – Buemi makes a scheduled stop on the same lap to hand the car over to Sarrazin. Duval takes the #2 Audi over from Treluyer on the same lap.

1:32: Lapierre pits from the lead in the #7 and hands the car to Wurz. Sarrazin retakes the lead.

1:39: Jon Lancaster is running third in P2 after taking over the Greaves Zytek and immediately on the pace. The #88 Porsche is still in the garage with work going on in the engine bay.

1:42: Turner pits the #97 Aston Martin from third in GTE Pro.

1:45: Kraihaimer returns from a talking-to by race director Eduardo Freitas and apologises for ruining the #92 Porsche’s race – but complains of problems with first, second and third gear in the Lotus LMP2.

1:53: An earlier-than-expected stop for Lancaster in the #41 Greaves Oreca. Fuel taken on and driver stays on board. It was a errant helmet tear off in the radiator!

1:57: Wurz pulls the #7 to a stop at the pit exit – a trail of oil is visible on the track surface. It looks like game over. Wurz reports a noise, a loss of power and a smell of oil.

Wurz climbs out of the car, stalks back down the pit lane to some commiseration from Dr Ullrich – One bulet left in Toyota’s 2013 gun.

Prototype order at the two-hour mark:

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LMP1
1. #8 Toyota
2. #2 Audi +15.2
3. #1 Audi +9.5

LMP2
1. #49 Pecom
2. #26 G-Drive +12.9
3. #25 Delta-ADR +53.3
4. #24 Oak +54.7
5. #41 Greaves +53.0
6. #35 Oak +20.0

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There’s drama for the new GTE Pro leader soon after the top of the hour as Fisichella spins and continues, the #71 yet to pit.

2:06 Fisichella pits, Nygaard leads GTE overall in the Am leading Aston, yet to pit.

Craig Dolby gets it wrong into T8 and allows Alex Brundle by into 3rd in LMP2 – Minassian is tramping away in the lead of the class – Could a P2 car end up on the overall podium?

Alex Wurz meanwhile confirms that it was a most unusual engine failure that stopped #7.

2:14 – Kristian Poulsen retains the GTE AM class lead after the #95’s latest stop, 10 seconds aged of Enzo Potolicchio in the 8Star Ferrari, a further 20 seconds ahead of Raymond Narac in the #75 Porsche.

Marcel Fassler begins the latest pit cycle at the head of the field, he brings the #1 Audi in from third, the gap between the top 3 around 30 seconds.

2:18 Minassian pits from the LMP2 lead after an epic stint, Alex Brundle inherits the lead but pits next time around.

Perez Companc rejoins in the lead in #49.

Sarrazin meanwhile pits from the lead in the #8 Toyota, again losing a second or two to the chasing Audis.

3:22 Mike Conway is closing in very fast on the class leading Pecom Oreca but Perez Companc is responding.

3:26 As things stand at this moment Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval are confirmed as World Drivers champions, Allan McNish is yet to begin his required 45 minute stint.

3:38 – Perez Companc has a brief off track excursion – that’s all Mike Conway needed to take the lead in LMP2.

Trouble for the #88 Porsche, rear suspension issue it seems. Christian Ried is struggling back to the pits, the car having already had a 40 minute stop for an earlier issue. he makes it back for what’s likely to be the final appearance in the WEC for the 997 GT3 RSR in this teams hands.

As things currently stand the teams and Manufacturers titles in GTE would go to Aston Martin, But Gimmi Bruni would take the Drivers championship, the #97 crew need to finish ahed of the #51 Ferrari.

In GTE AM, With JCW still to drive, the #96 Aston would lose the drivers title to Narac and Vernay, and the team title to 8 Star.

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2:48 – Darren Turner wants that drivers title though, he sets the fastest lap of the race so far for the #97 Aston – 2:00.841, then another – 2:00.802 – 90 seconds off the lead but with a pit stop in hand.

2:51 – Major drama, as McNish is ready to get into the #2 car it grinds to a halt – Duval stranded at the exit of T10 – He has not yet done the required 45 minutes.

The Race Director orders #2 to be moved into a safe position – Duval is unable to select a gear it seems. In 10 minutes an LMP2 car will be in an overall podium position.

If the car has not done 70% of the race distance – and it hasn’t – then no driver points will be awarded – Car has to do 70 per cent and cross the line to be classified.