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Bahrain Pre-Race Notebook

John Dagys’ pre-race notebook for FIA WEC season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain…

Photo: Porsche

***The No. 86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR will start from the pit lane, after an engine change and rebuild following its fire in Free Practice 3. While it missed qualifying as a result of the damage, the stewards determined it was not in the case of force majeure, and will therefore not be allowed to join the grid, and start effectively a lap down.

***Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 66 Ford GT will be allowed to take the start of the race, albeit from the back of the field after Stefan Mucke failed to post a time during qualifying. Mucke had both his flying lap times deleted after exceeding track limits, meaning only Olivier Pla was able to post a valid time.

***Porsche picked up its 20th LMP1 pole position in its final qualifying at Bahrain on Friday, giving it a final pole percentage of 55 percent from its time in the class. Perhaps more remarkably, 14 of those 20 poles have been part of a front-row sweep.

***While having lost out on the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles, Toyota can still have bragging rights with most wins on the season, with the Japanese manufacturer and Porsche both currently tied with four victories apiece. “For the moment we’ve made eight races, five times we’re dominated in performance, three times we’ve been beaten,” Toyota’s Pascal Vasselon said. “We feel the season doesn’t reflect the balance of performance. We’re really keen to win this race.”

***Harry Tincknell conceded to Sportscar365 that the No. 67 Ford may not be the first or second-fastest in the GTE-Pro class ahead of the title showdown, but said he and Andy Priaulx “do everything we can. It’s a long six hours, and we know anything can happen.”

***Ganassi could clinch its 200th victory on Saturday, should either the Nos. 66 or 67 Fords visit victory lane. The legendary American team has achieved a total of 199 wins in IndyCar, NASCAR, IMSA, Global Rallycross and WEC competition.

***SMP Racing has yet to finalize its driver lineup, with Vitaly Petrov, Mikhail Aleshin, Sergey Sirotkin, Kirill Ladygin and Victor Shaytar having all taken part in the car’s initial running at Motorland Aragon last week. “We’ll try to get as many as we can of our own Russian drivers. We have very high quality drivers now,” SMP Racing Sporting Director Mika Salo told Sportscar365.

***Aleshin, who was wearing a sling in his left arm during Friday evening’s launch, said his injury was from a “biking accident.”

***DragonSpeed’s confirmation of a BR1 comes with confirmation that Gibson will also step up to the LMP1 ranks with a new GL458, a 4.5-liter normally aspirated V8 engine based on its LMP2 powerplant. “Work has been underway for a while on the new LMP1 power unit and we will aim to ensure that we can deliver the required combination of power, fuel efficiency and good reliability from the moment the DragonSpeed Dallara Gibson goes on track,” said Gibson Technology Operations Director John Manchester.

***While the BR1 has already hit the track, with an AER-engined variant for SMP, the initial Ginetta LMP1 car has begun its initial build this week, with testing set to begin late next month ahead of its launch at the Autosport Show in January. Ginetta technical director Ewan Baldry is present in the paddock this weekend.

***Renowned car collector Magnus Walker is here this weekend as a guest of Porsche (pictured above, with its GTE-Pro drivers), as part of the German manufacturer’s #919Tribute weekend. 

***A current WEC team is understood to be finalizing a multi-car effort in the Blancpain GT Series for next year, as part of an expanded effort for 2018. An announcement confirming the program could be made later this month.

***Both Proton and AF Corse will not take part in the Rolex 24 at Daytona with GT Le Mans entries, although it’s understood the Italian squad could again field a Ferrari 488 GT3 in the GT Daytona class as a customer effort.

***Watch the Six Hours of Bahrain across the FOX Sports family of networks, with the first hour on FS1 beginning at 8 a.m. ET. Coverage resumes at 10:30 a.m. on FS2 with the entire race available on FSGO. Eurosport, meanwhile, will be live for the final 75 minutes of the race, beginning at 4:45 p.m. BST with commentary from Mark Cole. Click Here for the full worldwide TV distribution.

Luke Smith contributed to this report.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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