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Bahrain Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday notebook from Bahrain International Circuit…

Photo: Porsche

***Brendon Hartley gave the No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing crew its first FIA World Endurance Championship pole since Fuji 2019, in what was then with the Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 car. The No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid Le Mans Hypeecar has scored three poles out of five races this season, most recently at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***Hartley credited the crew for bouncing back from Sebastien Buemi’s accident in Free Practice 2 to have the car fully repaired in time for FP3. Left-front damage was sustained to the car, which required suspension and bodywork repairs.

***Buemi was deemed at fault for the accident with the No. 85 Iron Lynx Ferrari 488 GTE Evo of Sarah Bovy, resulting in a reprimand and withdrawal of four penalty points. When summoned to the stewards, the Swiss driver explained he locked up the front tires upon exiting the pits, resulting in the contact with Bovy.

***Egidio Perfetti also received a reprimand and docking of two penalty points for not reducing his speed to 80 km/h within the required time during the red flag that Buemi and Bovy caused in the session.

***Toyota has yet to complete a full double stint on tires in what Hartley said is a bit “going into the unknown” for Saturday’s 6 Hours of Bahrain due to the expected high level of tire degradation across all classes.

“I think that second stint is going to be really crucial,” Hartley said. “It’s hard to know how much deg we’re going to have. I think it’s going to be a crucial factor in tomorrow’s race for us.”

***Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe technical director Pascal Vasselon believes the additional weight its LMH car carries compared to the grandfathered Alpine A480 Gibson LMP1 car will play a significant difference in degradation as well. The Toyota weighs in at 1066 kg compared to the Alpine at 952 kg.

“We don’t expect an easy race tomorrow,” Vasselon said. “We expect the Alpine to have significantly less tire degradation. It’s difficult to anticipate everything but clearly we can be in trouble. It’s a circuit that’s fundamentally difficult for the LMH cars.”

***Vasselon revealed that Toyota now has a dedicated test car that it utilized in September’s two-day test at Barcelona, as well as a previous test at Portimao. It plans to conduct an additional test later this month with the car while its two race cars are en route back to its Cologne base.

***Alpine Endurance Team boss Philippe Sinault told Sportscar365 that he’s been pleased with the pace of its Alpine A480 Gibson so far this weekend, with “improvements” made every lap as the French squad “manages” the revised Balance of Performance for the weekend that has had an effect on the car’s power management. 

***Tom Blomqvist’s 1:49.885 lap time in the No. 28 JOTA Oreca was disallowed post-qualifying for a track limits violation, relegating him to his second-best time of 1:49.932, which was still good enough for LMP2 class pole.

***Norman Nato revealed that a piece of glass became lodged in his foot during training last week. The Realteam driver has since had the glass removed and is back to full fitness this weekend.

***Rino Mastronardi, who scored Iron Lynx’s first WEC class pole in GTE-Am, was a last-minute substitute for Claudio Schiavoni in the No. 60 Ferrari. Mastronardi dedicated the pole to his fellow Bronze-rated driver, who is understood to be unwell but could return in time for next weekend’s 8 Hours of Bahrain.

***Mastronardi, who was part of the team’s European Le Mans Series GTE championship-winning lineup, said “the package is still the same” with Matteo Cressoni as one of his co-drivers along with team boss Andrea Piccini, who completes the car’s WEC lineup. 

***Click Here to view a list of starting drivers for tomorrow’s race.

***Team WRT has set its sights on expanding into a two-car LMP2 operation in the WEC according to team principal Vincent Vosse, who told Sportscar365 that it would be the team’s “goal” for 2022. “Officially there is nothing confirmed,” he said. “Unofficially this would be our goal, to have two cars in WEC. It doesn’t mean it’s done and it doesn’t mean we would do anything else.”

***Both of WRT’s Silver-rated drivers Charles Milesi and Yifei Ye have been among the numerous drivers upgraded from Silver to Gold by the FIA for 2022, which will result in the Belgian squad seeking new Silver talent next year for its LMP2 effort. 

“There will always be strong Silvers,” Vosse said. “The new Yifei and the new Charles are probably waiting somewhere in F2 or F3 or Formula Renault or whatever. We do not know [if Charles or Yifei] will be part of our team next year; it’s difficult to say. They deserve what they got this year.”

***Recently crowned ELMS champion Louis Deletraz is on-site this weekend supporting WRT.

***Dempsey-Proton Racing is set to continue as a two-car Porsche GTE-Am operation next year according to team principal Christian Ried, who, however, has cautioned the continued travel challenges for drivers particularly in Asia.

***Sportscar365 understands that Proton had several interested drivers for its No. 88 Porsche for Bahrain that would have faced 21-day hotel quarantines upon their return, which ruled out their participation this weekend. Both China and Hong Kong are among the strictest countries for international travel in the region.

***Porsche’s Neel Jani said he would welcome the arrival of Corvette Racing as a full-season competitor in GTE-Pro next year as long as they “take it seriously.” He said: “They were slow at Spa and flying at Le Mans.” As previously reported by Sportscar365, Corvette could contest dual full-season programs in both WEC and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

***Buemi has downplayed the prospects of a clash with next year’s season-opening 1000 Miles of Sebring and a round of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship in China that is currently scheduled for the same weekend. Sportscar365 understands the Chinese round is unlikely to go ahead due to continued travel restrictions.

***MotorTrend will broadcast the first and last 90 minutes of the race live on Saturday for U.S. viewers, with the full race available on MotorTrend on Demand. Eurosport will carry the full race for European and UK viewers, with the WEC app available worldwide (except being geo-blocked in the U.S. and Canada). Click Here for the full broadcast schedule.

***Martin Haven, Allan McNish and Graham Goodwin will anchor the official broadcast coverage, with Louise Beckett and Duncan Vincent in the pit lane.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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