Toyota’s Sebastien Buemi set the outright pace in the opening practice session for the 8 Hours of Bahrain while Aston Martin Racing topped the GTE-Pro leaderboard.
Buemi defied his No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid’s 0.54 seconds per lap theoretical success handicap disadvantage to the teammate No. 7 Toyota by posting the leading time of 1:43.457.
This put the Swiss driver, who shares the No. 8 machine with Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima, just under half a second clear of Mike Conway in the sister Toyota.
Third-fastest overall and quickest in the LMP2 category was Giedo van der Garde, who turned in a time of 1:47.955 aboard the Racing Team Nederland Oreca 07 Gibson.
Andrew Negrao came through in second for Signatech Alpine, ahead of JOTA’s Antonio Felix da Costa and United Autosports’ Paul di Resta.
Porsche appeared set to run first and second in the GTE-Pro class until Maxime Martin made an improvement in the final 15 minutes behind the wheel of the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE.
Martin, who is racing this weekend without his regular co-driver Alex Lynn due to a positive COVID-19 test for the Briton, went six-tenths clear with a 1:56.560 flyer.
This was enough to beat both Porsche 911 RSR-19s which established themselves at the top of the order early on courtesy of Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen.
Nicki Thiim was fourth in the sister Aston, while the two AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evos both lapped slower than the fastest GTE-Am competitor.
The No. 51 Ferrari, which was the best of the Italian cars, ended up two seconds off the class pace in the hands of James Calado.
The GTE-Am pace was set by Ross Gunn who set a time of 1:57.666 in the No. 98 Aston Martin, while a late improvement from Ben Barker set Gulf Racing’s Porsche 911 RSR second in the table.
A short red flag occurred within 10 minutes of the start of the session for marshals working on the track.
RESULTS: Free Practice 1