Race Preview – Round 7 Bahrain

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Saturday sees the FIA World Endurance Championship arrive at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir for the third running of the 6 Hours of Bahrain. As was the case in 2013, the race will start in daylight and be run into the Arabian night. In fact, with the race due to start at 4.00pm local time and sunset at 4.48pm, a great deal of the race will be run in complete darkness. With just one round in Sao Paulo remaining after this weekend, the 6 Hours of Bahrain could see a number of titles decided.

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In LMP1, the #8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid of Anthony Davidson and Sébastian Buemi will be looking to build on two successive victories in Fuji and Shanghai, and repeat their triumph here in Bahrain last season, and seal the driver’s title before the final round in Brazil. Davidson’s and Buemi’s 42-point lead over the #2 Audi squad of Lotterer, Fässler and Tréluyer effectively means that only a Toyota DNF could cast doubt on the outcome of the 2015 World Drivers Championship.

It’s a similar story in the LMP1 Manufacturers’ World Championship, although Toyota’s advantage over Audi is a comparably thin 29 points. Round 7 will also mark the race debut of Mike Conway for Toyota in the #7 entry. The British driver has been restricted to testing duties for Toyota so far this year, but with Kazuki Nakajima otherwise engaged at the final Super GT round of the season at Motegi , Conway has been given the chance to put the TS040 Hybrid through its paces for the first time in race conditions.

For Porsche, Bahrain marks the penultimate chance to record a FIA WEC race victory after two consecutive third places. The team from Weissach will be looking to build on the encouraging displays at rounds 5 and 6 in East Asia and achieve a race victory that would surely give all involved a huge boost. That being said, the pace of the two Toyotas has been a cut above in the dry since Le Mans and, with Bahrain’s long straights, the clear power advantage is likely to give the Japanese manufacturer the edge.

It’s all change at Lotus with former GP2 driver Simon Trummer and young French driver Nathanaël Berthon joining Pierre Kaffer in the #9 entry. Rebellion will take the grid with their usual two full-season entries and customary driver line-up.

In LMP2, the G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2 has been the car to beat since Le Mans, a fact hammered home by a comprehensive victory last time out in Shanghai. In fact, the Russian team headed by Roman Rusinov has almost completely eradicated the large gap opened up by fellow Russian squad SMP Racing after the latter’s Le Mans victory. SMP go into round 7 with just an eight-point advantage in the teams’ championship.

As planned, ESM won’t be racing in Bahrain and so the seven-car field is reduced to five, with G-Drive Racing, the two SMP entries and KCMG joined by the OAK Racing Morgan-Judd.

The title battle in GTE Pro took a dramatic turn in Shanghai with drivers’ championship leaders Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni in the #51 Ferrari 458 out in the first lap following a major shunt with the KCMG Oreca LMP2. A major engine failure in the leading #97 Aston Martin gifted Porsche a 1-2 and cut Ferrari’s lead at the top of the manufacturers’ championship to just seven points ahead of the German marque.

In GTE Am, things are a little more clear cut with the all-Danish #95 Aston Martin Racing leading both the teams and the drivers’ championships. It’s been a year of domination for AMR, which the British team taking winning all but one of the FIA WEC rounds. The #95 car simply needs to finish ahead of #98 entry driven by Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Christoffer Nygaard to wrap up both the teams’ title and the drivers’ championship for Kristian Poulsen and David Heinemeier Hansson.

Image source: fiawec.com