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Bahrain Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Thursday notebook from Bahrain International Circuit…

Photo: Marius Hecker/Adrenal Media

***The addition of Monza to the FIA World Endurance Championship schedule was an “important” element in order to extend the European portion of the season for the launch of the Le Mans Hypercar class, according to WEC CEO Gerard Neveu.

***Silverstone and Monza will open the 2020-21 schedule, which was released on Thursday.

“You have to consider this is a very short period for them to be on time,” Neveu said. “I think if we provide four extra weeks after the first race in Silverstone they will be able to work at their main factory and to send a car for the next rounds.”

***The Silverstone season-opener will be preceded by a two-day pre-season test at the British circuit on the Monday and Tuesday of race week. A WEC spokesperson told Sportscar365 that it will not be considered the ‘Prologue’ as it will not be a standalone event as in the past.

***Neveu said it was “not logical” to hold a seperate pre-season test for the upcoming season. “It was clearly a wish from the paddock,” he said. “When we asked them, what do you prefer, I’d say 90 percent said a week before the first race, at the beginning of the week.”

***Silverstone will return to being a six-hour race, and held on Saturday of the weekend, with the four-hour European Le Mans Series round moving to Sunday. Neveu said he expects the WEC race to run until around 7 p.m. local time.

***The WEC’s first trip to Africa, for the 6 Hours of Kyalami, could clash with the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, which is traditionally on the first weekend of February. The clash was avoided at the last minute for 2020 due to the cancellation of the WEC round at Sao Paulo, which was replaced by a one-off outing at Circuit of The Americas that’s scheduled three weeks later.

***Neveu confirmed that both Monza and Kyalami are under single-year contracts, with options for two-year extensions.

***Despite having considered a return to a nine-round calendar, Neveu said they have to have the support of the “majority” of the paddock before doing so. “We don’t feel like it was the right time to do it, so we have to wait,” he said. “Maybe if we have four, five, six Hypercar manufacturers, in 2022-23, but that’s not yet at the moment.”

***As was the case in Shanghai, LMP1 times are significantly slower to the previous track records, with the No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid’s best time from Free Practice more than five seconds slower than Lucas Di Grassi’s 1:38.828 lap set during the 2016 event in the final race for the Audi R18 e-tron quattro.

***Gustavo Menezes says changes to the LMP1 success handicap for each event can be felt “immediately” behind the wheel. After Rebellion Racing’s victory in Shanghai the No. 1 car has had ballast added for Bahrain, however Menezes still believes it’s going to be an “interesting race”.

***Ben Barker says his Gulf Racing Bronze-rated co-driver Michael Wainwright has “stepped up” this season and as such has resulted in stronger, more consistent performances from the No. 86 Porsche 911 RSR entry they share with Andrew Watson. The trio’s best GTE-Am class finish this season was fourth at Silverstone.

***Ginetta’s No. 6 LMP1 car completed a limited total of 25 laps across Thursday’s two practice sessions because of a recurring battery problem. All other cars in the top prototype class turned in at least 35 laps in each session.

***Saturday’s race marks the first of three extended points-paying races on the 2019-20 calendar, with both Bahrain and the 1000 Miles of Sebring awarding 1.5x points. The 24 Hours of Le Mans, meanwhile, has returned to 2x points after awarding 1.5x in each of the editions during the ‘Super Season’.

***Anthony Davidson, who won last time out in Shanghai in LMP2, is not expecting tire degradation to play as big of a factor this weekend. “Here [in Bahrain], it’s an abrasive surface, but there aren’t many high-speed corners so in terms of thermal build-up and energy in the tire it’s not as bad as Shanghai,” he told Sportscar365. “This is the first track we come to where it’s really a bit more stop-start.”

***LMP1, LMP2 and GTE-Pro teams are allowed to use up to 6.5 sets of tires between qualifying and the race, in addition to three sets in Free Practice. GTE-Am, meanwhile, is permitted 8.5 sets in the race, along with an additional set in practice.

***Aston Martin has opted for Michelin’s medium and hard tire compounds this weekend in GTE-Pro, with Ferrari choosing the French tire manufacturer’s soft and medium options. Porsche, meanwhile, split its approach with soft and mediums in the front and medium and hards on the rear of the second-generation mid-engined 911 RSR.

***Job van Uitert could get an additional outing in Racing Team Nederland’s Oreca beyond the 1000 Miles of Sebring, with team principal Frits Van Eerd believed to have potential business commitments on the weekend of the re-scheduled race at Circuit of The Americas.

***Van Uitert, who is running with G-Drive Racing this weekend, was already confirmed in the Dutch entry for Sebring due to the conflicting Sayna E-Prix for Nyck de Vries.

***TDS Racing is in discussions about its plans for next year which could see the French team expanding its full-time WEC presence to supporting two cars. The outfit currently operates Racing Team Nederland’s WEC Oreca and G-Drive’s Oreca-based Aurus 01 Gibson.

***Team principal Xavier Combet said: “The goal is to be in WEC next season with a minimum of one car, maybe two. We are also really interested to come back to ELMS. The number of cars is really exciting and we can see this year, even with a top driver lineup, the fight went on until the end of the championship.”

***Seven-time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi is eyeing a 24 Hours of Le Mans appearance in the future. The Italian is competing in this weekend’s Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi, driving a Ferrari 488 GT3.

***Speaking to Endurance-info, Rossi said: “The 24 Hours of Spa and 24 Hours of Le Mans are on the list of races that I intend to compete, not to mention the 24 Hours of Nürburgring. In the end, five or six endurance races interest me.”

Daniel Lloyd & Slade Perrins contributed to this report

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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