We’re halfway through the 2019 FIA WEC 8 Hours of Bahrain and up front it’s a Toyota 1-2, the Japanese factory team in full control after the issues for their rivals in the opening hours.
The #7 leads, as it has done since the opening lap, and with Jose Maria Lopez at the wheel is over a minute ahead of the sister #8 TS050 HYBRID. It’s been a dominant run, and that looks set to continue.
The delayed #5 Team LNT Ginetta is up to third but two laps down, after the #1 Rebellion – which fought its way back to second after its incident at the start – suffered gearbox and suspension issues in the third hour which forced the team to pit the R-13 for repairs. The issue, according to the team, was caused by the damage sustained from the contact with the #5. The #1 now sits fourth, three laps off the lead.
“I think the Ginetta missed a memo that’ it’s an eight hour race,” a disgruntled Bruno Senna said of the incident with Charlie Robertson (who later apologised for his misjudgment).
“I didn’t do anything, I didn’t squeeze him off the track and he hit me, it dropped me to dead last. We have damage on the car, there’s something going on with the suspension, it’s not ideal. We’re going to have to do something very special here to win. The fighting spirit is still on.”
Team LNT’s #6 Ginetta is fifth, it too has lost time in the pits.
In LMP2, United’s ORECA continues to dominate too, the British team now holding a 51 second lead over the G-Drive Racing Aurus which has successfully fought back from its tyre issue in the opening hour. The #38 JOTA ORECA is the first of the Goodyear runners in third, and is just a few seconds behind the Aurus, so still very much in with a chance of a strong result.
The Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA currently sits fourth, with the Signatech Alpine fifth.
GTE Pro has been the most action packed of the four classes so far in this one, with door-to-door, nose-to-tail action between the three marques for multiple lengthy sequences. But the biggest headline after the tussling in the opening hours, in which Aston, Porsche and Ferrari all took turns in the lead, is that disaster has struck Porsche.
Just before the halfway mark, within the space of 10 minutes, both GTE Pro Porsches hit trouble.
The #92 came in with mecahnical trouble first. “Kevin Estre reported some issues with car behaviour in last two laps, so we had to look at the car, we’ve had to change a damper,” Michael Michael Christensen said.
Moments later the #91 was also forced to pit for hasty repairs after a puncture.
“I don’t know what happened as I was out of the car, after the stop Gianmaria (Bruni) reported a puncture, we have damage on the underfloor now. Now the time lost is so much that it’s just about finishing,” Richard Lietz explained.
This is huge in the championship fight, as the two Porsches were sitting 1-2 in the standings heading into this race, which is worth 1.5x points. The tally could look very different by the end of the night…
Currently the #95 Aston Martin leads after a rollercoaster race so far, ahead of the two AF Corse Ferraris (the #71 leading the #51) and the #97 Aston Martin. Both Porsches are now off the lead lap.
They are also behind the leading pair in Am. The #57 Project 1 Porsche holds a minute lead after sterling drives from Ben Keating and Larry Ten Voorde so far. They’ve been untouchable and represent Project 1’s sole chance of winning now, after the #56 sister car lost 31 laps due to an exhaust issue which forced it into the pits.
The #86 Gulf Racing Porsche is third, with the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche fourth. The #88 Dempsey Proton Porsche was fourth moments before Hour 5 began, but Khaled Al Qubaisi made an error under braking into Turn 14, and was sent spinning into the barriers. This damaged the front end of the 911, which required attention in the garage.
Four to go!
Featured image courtesy of Toyota Gazoo Racing/James Moy