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Bahrain Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Thursday news and notes from Bahrain International Circuit…

Photo: Porsche

***In addition to its farewell liveries (pictured above), Porsche has also fitted its four GTE-Pro pilots with special driver suits for this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship season-ending 8 Hours of Bahrain. The full-season gray kit has been replaced by a black suit, complete with similar stripes seen on the pair of Manthey-run 911 RSR-19s.

***Michael Christensen told Sportscar365: “It’s very important that we really want to give a good end to this great era I have been privileged to be a part of. That’s important, but also the fact that the 911 RSR is also for now at least history after this race in the Pro category. So there’s many levels to the importance of the race.”

***JOTA comes into this weekend’s LMP2 title decider with a strong lead as Roberto Gonzalez, Will Stevens and Antonio Felix da Costa hold a 28-point cushion over their nearest rivals. Team co-owner David Clark said he believes the long-term assimilation of Gonzalez into the driving crew is a key reason for the team’s current momentum.

***Clark said: “I think it’s quite a great job the team has done, to be honest with you. I think the benefit of integrating Roberto and the drivers for quite a long time has paid dividends for us. The team is in a fantastic place. There’s no stress there and no pressure. Let’s hope that at five past 10 [on Saturday], we’ve [done] the right thing and are getting the right trophy.”

***Proton Competition is set to continue with its GTE-Am program in the WEC next year despite its planned Porsche 963 effort in the Hypercar class according to team boss Christian Ried, who told Sportscar365 that he’ll continue driving one of the Porsche 911 RSR-19s. Ried is the only driver to have taken part in every WEC race in its 10-year history.

***Ried indicated that Proton’s operational partnership with Multimatic Motorsports, however, will not likely continue into next year. “The Multimatic deal was only for this year because they stopped the Mazda program and the next program for them is in 2023 so there was nothing for them in 2022 and we had a lot of things to do,” he told Sportscar365. “So we just did this year with them in WEC. I don’t think we’ll do next year.”

***Francois Perrodo was due to drive the Alpine A480 Gibson LMP1 car during Sunday’s rookie test, until the FIA and ACO canceled his participation because the sporting regulations state that Bronze drivers are not allowed in Hypercar machinery during official WEC sessions. Alpine is considering running its LMP1 car at the test anyway despite Perrodo being unable to drive.

***Perrodo could still sample the A480 privately, according to Alpine team principal Philippe Sinault. “We will do it another time and another place,” he suggested.

***Sinault declared that Alpine is able to fight for the world championship this weekend because of the Balance of Performance in Hypercar. “It’s thanks to the BoP that we are there,” he said. “It’s not possible to have a Toyota, Glickenhaus and LMP1 on the same grid. I think for the future it will be more easy, because we can compare the same family of cars. It has not [been] easy.”

***Peugeot changed the gearbox on its No. 93 Peugeot 9X8 after encountering a “glitch” during Free Practice 1, according to technical director Olivier Jansonnie.

***The French manufacturer led both sessions on Thursday, but Jansonnie said there was no need to get excited. “It doesn’t look too bad, but it’s only Free Practice. Tire degradation is very important here, so the lap times very much depend on the strategies the teams have deployed today. But at least for ourselves, we managed to do what we wanted to do.”

***A delegation from Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing, including competition director Michael Harvey, is on-site this weekend ahead of the team’s Hypercar class effort with a Cadillac V-LMDh next year. Sportscar365 understands that staff from the team also attended the TotalEnergies 6 Hours of Spa and 24 Hours of Le Mans this year as reconnaissance missions.

***GM sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser said that she figuratively grew “two inches taller” following the successful completion of Cadillac’s 24-hour endurance test at Sebring International Raceway last week.

***Klauser told Sportscar365: “It was high effort to get there and make sure we had all the parts to run the full 24 hours. To get to the end was what our team needed, the extra motivation to feel really good and accomplished. We still have a lot to do. The Rolex [24] is around the corner but I think that made us feel like we’ve got this and can start working on fine-tuning some stuff.”

***Corvette Racing will “probably not” have a second Chevrolet Corvette C8.R in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans according to Klauser, who said they will be “chassis-limited” with the GTE-spec machinery next year amid its split focus on ramping up the customer Corvette Z06 GT3.R program that will launch in 2024.

***ARC Bratislava will not return to the WEC next season, amid the anticipated removal of the Pro-Am classification from LMP2. “I fulfilled my dream, I got the Slovak team and the Slovak flag to the world championship and to the biggest event in this motorsport discipline – the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” said team owner and driver Miro Konopka.

***The FIA has partnered with U.K.-based artificial intelligence firm as part of a ‘concerted effort’ to tackle the issue of online abuse in the motorsport community, which will see the firm’s AI-enabled content moderation platform assist the governing body in detecting and reducing growing levels of abusive contact on social channels. A successful trial is said to have already been completed.

***Michelin has been fined €1,000 ($1,016 USD) by the FIA. It was stated that three cars were “not correct” in the initial tire declarations received before the start of the event.

***D’Station Racing driver Charlie Fagg, meanwhile, received a €500 fine for being late to Thursday morning’s driver briefing.

***United Autosports also faces a fine, in the form of €250, due to a person, not wearing safety clothing, handing over a piece of duct tape in the pit box during Free Practice 2.

***Gulf 12 Hours promoter Andrea Ficarelli was spotted in the Bahrain International Circuit paddock on Thursday. Ficarelli’s Driving Force Events group is also organizing the Bahrain ProAm 1000, which is scheduled to run at BIC on Jan. 28.

***Joel Camathias has announced his retirement from racing at the age of 41. The Swiss racer moved into GT racing in 2004, competing in numerous series including the WEC where he secured five consecutive GTE-Am podiums in a Proton-run KCMG Porsche 911 RSR alongside Ried and Wolf Henzler.

***Free Practice 3 will be broadcast live on YouTube for the first time, utilizing the full official WEC commentary team. The session is due to start at 11 a.m. local time on Friday (3 a.m. ET) while qualifying is scheduled for 4:50 p.m. (8:50 a.m. ET).

Davey Euwema and 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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