The Porsche 919 Hybrid held their superiority over the rest of the LMP1 field, topping two of the three free practice sessions for Saturday’s 6 Hours of Bahrain. However, the pair of Audis are closer than ever to the champions-elect.
Free Practice 1 was held yesterday under darkening skies but the threat of rain never materialised, giving the WEC field the chance to tweak their set-ups in preparation for the weekend’s final round. Porsche driver Timo Bernhard recorded the fastest time in FP1, a 1:42.800, just .017 seconds ahead of the André Lotterer-driven #7 Audi R-18 e-tron quattro.
It was the #7 car that topped the times in the second free practice session, with Marcel Fässler posting a fastest lap of 1:42.133 around the 5.412-mile Bahrain International Circuit for Audi. The #17 Porsche, however, remained in close attention less than a second behind. Free Practice 3 was dominated by the championship-leading #17 car, with Brendon Hartley going a massive 1.5 seconds quicker than teammate Marc Lieb in the #18 machine.
Arguably the best performance of the day came from ByKolles, with the CLM P1/01 showing pace on a par with the Rebellions in LMP1-L. Pierre Kaffer topped the timesheets in FP3 with a 1:48.696, just half a second down on the only Rebellion driver to go quicker (Mathias Beche in the #12 car in FP2).
Once again, it seems that Porsche has the advantage in terms of one-lap pace. The Audi strategists will have to pull something pretty special out of the bag if they are to take the spoils in Bahrain.
LMP2 saw its now-customary toe-to-toe battle in the timesheets. Luis Felipe Derani for G-Drive Racing was the fastest driver in the first three sessions, posting a 1:50.029 in FP2. Perennial rivals KCMG were not far off the pace, with Nick Tandy recording a lap of 1:50.774 in the night-time conditions of the second session. Winners last time out in Shanghai, the #36 Signatech-Alpine car once again proved to have good pace with Nelson Panciatici finishing top in FP1.
Qualifying for the 6 Hours of Bahrain takes place later today at 3pm Central European Time.
Image source: WEC press material (© Nick Dungan – AdrenalMedia.com)