Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Harry Tincknell believes the Six Hours of Bahrain will be a “proper showdown” in GTE-Pro, with a three-way fight brewing for the inaugural GT Drivers’ World Championship.
Tincknell and co-driver Andy Priaulx head into Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship season finale back in title contention after scoring top class honors in Shanghai, their first podium since the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
While having led the championship through the summer months, an incident-filled run at Fuji last month dropped the Ford duo to fifth in the standings, but have since recovered to third, and only 7.5 points from leaders James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi.
The win in Shanghai came at a crucial time for the No. 67 Ford GT, in what Tincknell believes was a flawless race from the pit box.
“It was an absolutely vital win,” he told Sportscar365. “I wanted to go to Bahrain still fighting for the championship and we’re more than doing that now.
“It was such a fantastic result but such a team effort.
“I think it was the closest fight we’ve had probably since this program started in the WEC. Every pit stop had to be fantastic. Every strategy call had to be spot-on and it was.”
Despite not having relinquished the points lead until Fuji, courtesy of their win in the season-opener at Silverstone and podium in the double points-paying Le Mans round, it’s been an up-and-down year for the No. 67 Ford GT.
“I think since Le Mans we’ve just been hunted and we’ve slowly seen our really healthy points gap be hunted down,” Tincknell said.
“I was quite emotional on the rolling down lap [in Shanghai] because we’ve been under pressure the whole way through and just haven’t had the pace to be able to fight for those top results. You don’t know when the tide is going to change.
“I don’t think we necessarily have the quickest car; you just have to look at qualifying. We did the best we could with what we had and that was enough [in Shanghai].
“My aim was to leave [Shanghai] still fighting for the championship. To have it back in our own hands is fantastic but it’s not going to be easy.”
Tincknell is hopeful a recent test in Bahrain will help pay dividends, after their Ford was hampered by a late-season Balance of Performance adjustment last year.
All GTE-Pro cars, except for the Aston Martin, have been hit with a 2kg minimum weight increase for this weekend, which will likely have no significant effect for the title protagonists.
“Last year we got hit with a massive BoP [adjustment] for the last round,” Tincknell said. “We were really in contention after two wins in Fuji and Shanghai.”
AF Corse’s Calado and Pier Guidi hold a narrow two-point lead over the Porsche duo of Fred Makowiecki and Richard Lietz, with Tincknell and Priaulx a further 5.5 points back, and still in the thick of things.
A win for either the Ferrari or Porsche would deliver the drivers’ title, no matter the result of the competition, while the same could be achieved for Tincknell and Priaulx if they grab pole on Saturday to cut the gap to 6.5 points.
“I think GTE-Pro has been an absolutely fantastic battle all year and for sure we’re going to have a proper showdown in Bahrain,” Tincknell said.
“It’s all going to be about tire life. It’s going to be nearly 40 degrees [Celcius]. It’s a very high-deg track.
“This year with only four sets and two joker tires for the whole race, it puts extra demands on the tires and I think it’s all going to be won or lost there.
“It could be exactly the same as Shanghai, where you see at different points cars strong and weak as they’re battling new tires vs. old tires.”