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Bahrain Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook ahead of the 2019-20 season finale in Bahrain…

Photo: Michelin Motorsport

***Toyota will allow a title contest to play out between its crews in tomorrow’s race. Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon said: “This time there will be no team orders. Both cars will run their race strategy as they like. They will define alone when they stop and which tires they use. It will be two independent decisions for this race.”

***The pole-sitting No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid’s two-driver qualifying average was almost two seconds quicker than the equivalent best effort from last year posted by Rebellion Racing, and 3.2 seconds faster than the quickest Toyota from 2019. This is because of adjustments to the success handicap system that has made the Toyotas faster and also established a greater performance difference to the LMP2 cars.

***Vasselon offered an explanation for why the No. 8 car’s 0.751s deficit to the No. 7 was slightly larger than the expected 0.54s per lap success handicap difference:

“The gap was more than expected and it can probably be explained by an aggressive setup from car No. 8,” he said. “It tried to compensate for the handicap going in quite aggressive and the car was a bit too unstable on the nose.”

***United Autosports chalked up its eighth consecutive LMP2 pole position across all competitions, dating back to the 4 Hours of Le Castellet European Le Mans Series race in July. The team took all but one of the available poles in the WEC and ELMS this year.

***Anthony Davidson believes tomorrow’s contest could be “savage on tire management” for the LMP2s considering the hotter daytime conditions than last year. The JOTA driver explained that drop-off in the second leg of a double tire stint in 2019 was tough to manage but that the challenge will likely be exacerbated this time around.

***Francois Perrodo reckons the GTE-Am success ballast for Bahrain has created an uphill struggle for his title-chasing No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo in the race: “The extra weight kills you on a high-power circuit like this,” Perrodo told Sportscar365.

***Perrodo, Nicklas Nielsen and Emmanuel Collard qualified seventh out of ten GTE-Am cars, while their championship rivals at TF Sport, who are eight points ahead and driving an Aston Martin that is 18 kg lighter, are set to start on the front row.

***Cetilar Racing changed the engine of its Dallara P217 Gibson after hitting trouble in Free Practice 1. Team driver-owner Roberto Lacorte told Sportscar365: “The engine was totally burned. Yesterday we drove with 100 hp less. It was totally gone.”

***The continuation of a six-car GTE-Pro grid is currently anticipated for next season with program leaders at Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin all recently confirming that their established entries are set to continue.

***Porsche factory motorsport boss Pascal Zurlinden, who is at Sebring this weekend, told Sportscar365 that it “will run a two-car team operated by Manthey, as planned” while Ferrari’s intentions to return with two AF Corse cars were reported last week.

***Aston Martin Racing managing director John Gaw said that the British team’s factory program is good through to the end of the 2022 WEC season, in accordance with its five-season commitment announced in 2017.

***The contract was initially set to end after five calendar years in 2021, but the WEC’s switch to a winter schedule spanning two years prompted AMR to shift ahead to the end of 2021-22. The WEC’s reversion to a single-year calendar next year means 2022 is now the fifth season of the initial agreement.

***AMR program operator Prodrive has two motorsport commitments in the Gulf region this week, with the company’s Dakar Rally car currently testing in Dubai with Sebastien Loeb and Nani Roma ahead of its debut in the famous cross-country event in January.

***Proton Competition and Gulf Racing recently tested their new Porsche 911 RSR-19s for the first time, after the European Le Mans Series 4 Hours Portimao. It marked the first outing for the RSR-19 in customer hands.

***Proton owns four examples of the car and ran two in Portugal, while Gulf Racing and Mike Wainwright own a single example. It’s understood that Porsche is still deliberating whether the new rear-facing exhaust layout that was included on its delivered cars will appear in WEC competition next year.

***Several ELMS teams tested at Portimao, including United Autosports which used the time to evaluate drivers for 2021. TF Sport’s Le Mans GTE-Am winners Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc – who drove for United in the 2018-19 Asian Le Mans Series – were among those to get behind the wheel of the team’s Oreca 07 Gibson.

***Paddock discussions are giving rise to the possibility of a bumper GTE-Am entry next season, with double figures expected again. One team manager estimated that half the entire grid could be made up of cars in the Pro-Am GT division. It’s understood that many Am drivers are being drawn to the cheaper running costs associated with the six-round 2021 calendar.

***The 8 Hours of Bahrain gets underway at 2 p.m. local time (6 a.m. ET, 12 p.m. CET) on Sunday. It will be the eighth Bahrain WEC race and the second held to the eight-hour duration.

***Motor Trend is showing the first 90 minutes and final hour live on TV across the U.S and Caribbean, while the full race broadcast is available at Motor Trend online.

***Eurosport 2 will present almost five hours of live race coverage, showing the first two and a half hours and the final two hours across its international channels. Mark Cole, Tom Gaymor, Damien Faulkner and Chris Parsons are on commentary duties from 1:45 p.m. local time (10:45 a.m. GMT). BT Sport is also showing the race live in the UK.

***Click here for the full international broadcast schedule.

An earlier version of this story stated that Toyota will abandon its rule of freezing its cars’ positions at the final round of pit stops. Further clarification from Toyota confirmed that the positional freezing rule will continue to be observed in the race.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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