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Bahrain Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Thursday notebook from Bahrain International Circuit…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

***A total of 31 cars are again entered for this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship season-ending 8 Hours of Bahrain with the No. 46 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR-19 withdrawn for the second consecutive race due to lack of funded drivers.

***There have been several changes to the entry list since last weekend’s six-hour, however, including two-thirds of a new lineup in the No. 44 ARC Bratislava Oreca 07 Gibson, which sees Nelson Panciatici and Olli Caldwell replacing Kush Maini and Oliver Webb, respectively.

***Caldwell currently drives for Prema in Formula 3. The team is entering the LMP2 class next year with Iron Lynx. The 19-year-old contested the 2018 Gulf 12 Hours with Bullitt Racing and was due to pilot an R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 at the 2020 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, until his crew’s car was withdrawn due to a crash in practice.

***Tatiana Calderon returns to the No. 1 Richard Mille Racing Oreca, restoring an all-female lineup after Gabriel Aubry served as the team’s third driver last weekend.

***Axcil Jefferies is set for his WEC debut in the No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche, taking Adrian De Leener’s seat alongside Khaled Al Qubaisi and Julien Andlauer in the GTE-Am class entry.

***Claudio Schiavoni is back behind the wheel of the No. 60 Iron Lynx Ferrari after being replaced last weekend by Rino Mastronardi due to personal reasons, according to the Italian team.

***As previously announced, Fred Makowiecki and Michael Christensen have been added as third drivers in the Nos. 91 and 92 Porsches, respectively, with AF Corse opting for its season-long two-driver lineups, as was the case last weekend and in the 8 Hours of Portimao as well.

***Toyota Gazoo Racing celebrated the first-ever Hypercar world championship with a group photo on Wednesday. The No. 7 driver trio of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobyashi and Jose Maria Lopez can win the drivers’ world championship with a second place finish on Saturday or winning pole and just being classified at the finish.

***JOTA celebrated Halloween in the paddock with a pit stop video featuring Colonel Sanders and tire changers dressed up as chickens, owing to the team’s sponsorship from KFC Indonesia.

***Andrea Piccini is unlikely to drive full-time next year as he focuses on the management of the expanding Iron Lynx operation.

***Lamborghini’s head of motorsport Giorgio Sanna, who is not in Bahrain this weekend, has said the company feels “more close” to making a decision on whether it will green-light an LMDh program. “The final decision is still not taken. But as I said a few months ago, the target is to take a decision shortly,” Sanna told Sportscar365.

***According to Sanna, the deliberations focus on how LMDh relates to Lamborghini’s brand and product strategies. “We are talking about something that is not one, but probably two steps more than what we are doing today,” he said. “The investment from the company’s side will be the highest investment in motorsport that the company has done in its entire history.”

***Despite its factory GTE-Pro program set to come to an end next year, new Head of Porsche Motorsport Thomas Laudenbach said Manthey Racing will “play an important role” in Porsche Motorsport in the future. The German manufacturer owns a majority stake in the company that also competes in NLS and at the Nürburgring 24.

***Laudenbach told Sportscar365 that it’s “a bit too early” to say what Porsche has learned from its partnership with Multimatic on the LMDh project but said it’s been a beneficial working relationship so far with the Canadian-based firm. “I think we’re right in the middle of our partnership,” he said. “That’s fair to say. In the end, for sure there’s been a lot of things learned but also we could give input towards.”

***While Porsche has largely steered the LMDh program, Laudenbach revealed that Audi has taken on elements of the program to further straighten the project. “It’s really on the daily work and the little bits and pieces concerning [things] like software, processes, etc. We divided up some things that are done in Ingolstadt and some things done were done in Weissach.”

***Team WRT team principal Vincent Vosse declined to comment regarding whether a deal with Audi has been reached to campaign the manufacturer’s LMDh cars in 2023, as widely expected. 

***Vosse, however, told Sportscar365: “It is very important and it’s the reason why we are here. It’s clearly to get prepared and to put ourselves on the map for manufacturers in LMDh.”

***Allan McNish, who is expected to head up Audi’s LMDh program in a manufacturer principal role, is set to be on-site during next weekend’s Motul Petit Le Mans to continue discussions with U.S.-based teams for Audi LMDh machinery. 

***Sportscar365 understands at least one current WEC LMP2 team is considering a full-season customer Audi LMDh effort in the WeatherTech Championship.

***WRT is undertaking its final “double commitment” weekend of the year with an Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo entered in the ADAC GT Masters season finale at the Nürburgring for Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts, in addition to fighting for the LMP2 title in Bahrain.

***It has been clarified that Scott Huffaker will test the No. 33 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GTE in Sunday’s Bahrain Rookie Test. The Silver-rated American currently serves as the third driver in PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ LMP2 lineup in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, an entry driven by Ben Keating.

***Keating is in search of a new Silver-rated driver for his 2022 campaign with TF Sport, following the promotion of Dylan Pereira to Gold for next year.

***Other North American drivers that are set to take part in the test at the wheel of Astons include The Heart of Racing’s Roman De Angelis, Pirelli GT4 America driver Kenton Koch and current LMP3/Porsche Carrera Cup North America rising star Dylan Murry.

***The Porsche Sprint Challenge Middle East has joined on as a support series this weekend after the six-hour race was run without any supporting events. A test session for the single-make series was held earlier this week.

***DragonSpeed is about “ten days” out from finalizing its LMP2 program for the Rolex 24 at Daytona according to team principal Elton Julian. The team, which won the race in 2019 and 2020, is expected to field a single Oreca in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.

Daniel Lloyd 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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