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Sunday, June 23, 2024

FIA WEC Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain weekend starts

FIA WEC Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain weekend starts
FIA WEC Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain weekend starts

(Manama) – There was an electric atmosphere at Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) as racing got off to a brilliant start in the FIA WEC Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain weekend. Toyota set the pace in the weekend’s opening free practice session held as part of the ninth and final round of the World Endurance Championship’s (WEC) 2017 season.
Diego Menchaca, meanwhile, emerged as the fastest man in the opening test of the World Series Formula V8 3.5. Pavan Ravishankar registered the best lap of the day in the MRF Challenge, and Al Faisal Al Zubair did the same in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East.
All of today’s action was held behind closed doors at BIC. Doors will be open Friday and Saturday at “The Home of Motorsport in the Middle East”, and will be welcome to attend and enjoy everything on offer both on and off the race track.
Toyota Gazoo Racing maintained their recent good form at BIC today by topping the timesheet in free practice one of the WEC’s Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain. Kamui Kobayashi steered Toyota’s no. 7 car to a best lap of one minute 42.313 seconds around BIC’s 5.412-kilometre Grand Prix track. He was followed by teammate Kazuki Nakajima in Toyota’s no. 8 Hybrid. The pair of Japanese talents were a narrow 0.199 seconds between each other as they led the field of 26 challengers in the four competition categories.
Trailing Toyota on the overall classification and in the LMP1 class were Andre Lotterer and Earl Bamber from world champions Porsche, who were third and fourth, respectively. Lotterer was behind the wheel of the no. 1 Porsche Hybrid, and he finished the early session 0.334s from first place. Bamber, part of a Porsche trio who have already clinched the drivers’ world title, followed 0.500s off the pace. Each of the top four were competing in the LMP1 class.
Leading the LMP2 category was Vaillante Rebellion’s David Heinemeier Hansson, who clocked a best lap of 1:48.707 in his Oreca 07-Gibson challenger. In the Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance (LMGTE) Pro, it was James Calado driving a Ferrari 488 GTE for AF Corse who set the pace with his 1:58.579 lap. The LMGTE Am cars were led by Christian Ried of Dempsey-Proton Racing, who ended the session in his Porsche 911 RSR (991) with a fastest lap of 2:00.428.
The second practice of the day was scheduled to be held at night under BIC’s state-of-the-art floodlights. A third practice will take place on Friday morning, to be followed by qualifying in the early evening. Diego Menchaca of Mexico set the pace in the weekend’s first collective test in the World Series Formula V8 3.5, which is holding the ninth and final round of its 2017 world championship at BIC.Driving for Fortec Motorsports, Menchaca clocked a best lap of 1:45:246.
Brazilian Pietro Fittipaldi, who is the grandson of two-time Formula 1 World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi, was classified second in his Lotus 0.315s behind. Konstantin Tereschenko of Russia was third for SMP Racing by AVF. He was 0.449s off the leading pace.The field was scheduled to return to the track for a second collective test in the early evening.
Heading into the weekend’s season-ending races, Fittipaldi leads the championship with 223 points. He already has six victories this season. Right behind him on 213 points is Matevos Isaakyan of Russia, while his countryman Egor Orudzhev is third on 198 points. Mexican Alfonso Celis Jr., who is a Formula 1 test driver with Force India, is fourth on 192 points.
In the Teams’ Championship standings, SMP Racing with AVF lead with 411 points while Lotus are second with 397 points. Fortec Motorsports are in third place followed by RP Motorsport, Teo Martin Motorsport and Il Barone. Singapore-born Pavan Ravishankar went fastest as the 2017 season of the MRF Challenge got underway at BIC.
With track conditions hotter than expected, Ravishankar set a best lap of 2:01.638 to go top of the sheets in free practice two. Seventeen-year-old Brazilian driver Felipe Drugovich, who is a favourite for the title, set the fastest time in the first sesson and is looking very strong heading into qualifying.
In the opening practice session, it was Drugovich who first went fastest as the other young drivers spent time familiarising themselves with the circuit. Halfway through the session Drugovich led and later went even faster posting a time of 2:01.684. French driver Julian Falchero impressed on his debut and slotted into second place with a 2:01.774, while behind him was Indonesian driver Presley Martono.
Free practice two saw Drugovich once again setting the early pace but the times started to tumble as the drivers continued to get used to the updated car. Ravishankar showed his hand with seven minutes to go as he set a time of 2:01.638 – the fastest of the weekend so far. Polish driver Alex Karkosik continued his climb up the sheets as he set a time less than one tenth off a second off Ravishankar. Drugovich slotted into third.
The MRF Challenge heads into Friday’s events with Qualifying first scheduled at 9.50am. The first of four races this round is then scheduled for 1.25pm. Tom Oliphant and Al Faisal Al Zubair both opened the new season of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East on a positive note today in Sakhir. Oliphant topped the timesheet in the series’ first practice of the weekend, but it was Al Zubair clocked the best time of the day. Oliphant registered a fastest lap of two minutes 03.643 seconds in free practice one. Classified right behind him was Charlie Frijns from the Netherlands. Only 0.108s separated the pair at the top of the session’s timesheet. Al Faisal Al Zubair of Oman came third 0.303s behind Oliphant.
All of the quickest three in Practice 1 are competing in the series’ Gold class. Setting the pace amongst runners in the Silver class was Magnus Oehman of Sweden, while the Bronze class was led by Rob Frijns of the Netherlands.
Team Bahrain’s Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, competing in the Silver category, was ranked eighth overall and third in his class. Teammate Shaikh Ali bin Mohammed Al Khalifa was ranked 14th overall and second amongst Bronze participants.
Later in the day, Al Zubair turned up the pressure to top the classification in practice two. He managed to pip Oliphant for the leading position – enjoying a gap of just 0.059s. His best lap of 2:03.147 was also marginally quicker than Oliphant’s leading time in the morning practice, securing him the fastest time of the day.
Former champion Zaid Ashkanani of Kuwait made up for a slow start to the day, finishing third 0.147s behind first place. Oehman was once again the leader in the Silver class, while Shaikh Ali took over as the pace-setter in the Bronze category. Shaikh Isa was seventh overall and second in the silver category. The Porsche field will next be out on track for the first Qualifying session on Friday at 12.35pm.

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