TOYOTA GAZOO Racing remained on top in Bahrain when practice for the final race of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) began under lights.
After securing the Hypercar World Championship thanks to a one-two victory in last Saturday’s six-hour race, the battle for drivers’ honors takes center stage for the season finale, the 8 Hours of Bahrain.
Le Mans winners Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, in the #7 GR010 HYBRID, hold the upper hand in the title race, with a 15-point advantage, with 39 still available. But title rivals Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley set the pace in first practice in their #8 GR010 HYBRID.
Brendon’s lap of 1min 48.490secs at the beginning of the session was 0.408secs faster than Kamui’s best time for the #7. The GR010 HYBRIDs have locked out the top two positions in every session so far in the first-ever WEC double-header.
Nico Lapierre completed a HyperCar 1,2,3 in the #36 Alpine, a second off the session-topping time with temperatures noticeably cooler than last week, though still in the high 20s Celsius.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is closing in on more endurance racing history this week when it can become the first team to win every race in a WEC season, and extend its record-breaking run of victories to nine. Saturday’s race will also be Kazuki’s 59th and final race with the team as a driver.
The No.92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 of Neel Jani leads LMGTE Pro as Porsche v Ferrari title fight gets set for Saturday.
LMP2 saw the #70 RealTeam Racing Oreca lead the way with Norman Nato, whose left foot injury is healing well posting a 1:50.792, edging out the best time from Tom Blomqvist in the #28 JOTA car by just 0.028 of a second.
Giedo van der Garde was next up, under two tenths off in the #29 Racing Team Nederland car, the two TDS Racing Pro-Am LMP2 cars in the top three.
In GTE Pro the Ferrari pair did not take to the track for over half an hour of the session and, thereafter, did not post representative times, trailing all of the GTE AM field, this after a pre-weekend BoP adjustment failed to raise smiles in the Prancing Horse stable.
That left Porsche to post the top two times, Neel Jani in the #92 with a 1:57.657 ahead of Richard Lietz in the sister #91 911 RSR-19.
Augusto Farfus topped GTE AM in the #98 AMR enter Vantage, a 1:58.093 topping Matteo Cairoli’s best in the #56 Team Project 1 Porsche by just under a quarter of a second with Cetilar Racing’s Antonio Fuoco third quickest in the fastest of the Ferraris, the #47 GTE Am car two seconds faster than the faster of the two Pro class 488s.
Below are the main headlines from FP1.
- Toyota Gazoo Racing 1-2 in night session to open Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain
- Brendon Hartley’s early session 1m48m.490s lap leads sister No. 7 car by 0.4s
- No.7 crew have a 15-point lead in points standings with 39 points to play for this Saturday
- Kamui Kobayashi proves to be fastest driver in No.7 points leading car
- Alpine Elf Matmut place in third position as Nicolas Lapierre is 0.9s of leading Toyota
- Neel Jani takes top spot for Porsche in LMGTE Pro class leading a Porsche GT Team 1-2 in 90-minute session
- Michael Christensen joins Jani and Kevin Estre in No. 92 for this race, while Frederic Makowiecki is added to Gimmi Bruni and Richard Lietz No.91 crewed car
- A 1m57.657s lap from Jani outpaces No.91 Porsche by 0.3s, which will aim to protect sister cars title quest this weekend
- Ferrari miss first 32-minutes of session but No.52 car of Miguel Molina and Daniel Serra place third, while James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi are fourth in class
- Realteam Racing Oreca-Gibson LMP2 leads class as Norman Nato’s early best lap of 1m50.792s is just good enough for top position
- No.28 JOTA entry driven by Tom Blomqvist is just 0.028s off Nato’s time
- Racing Team Nederland, which leads the Pro/Am title chase, are third as Giedo van der Garde sets a 1m58.008 best time
- Title leaders, Team WRT, are sixth in class behind No.38 JOTA in fourth and United Autosports USA in fifth
- No.98 Aston Martin heads LMGTE Am as Augusto Farfus peaks with a 1m58.093s lap
- Brazilian’s best is 0.2s ahead of No.56 Project 1 Porsche as Matteo Cairoli sets a 1m58.321 best
- Cetilar place third as Antonio Fuoco laps in 1m58.629s for Monza winners
- Just 0.957s covers the top seven in ultra-competitive class
- No.83 points leading Ferrari finishes session in fifth place while chasing TF Sport Aston Martin is sixth
Practice 1 Times