Mike Conway opened up a 24-second lead over his Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Sebastien Buemi in the opening hour of the 8 Hours of Bahrain.
Pole-sitter Conway kept his No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid ahead of Buemi’s success-handicapped No. 8 car into the first sequence of corners before breaking clear over the course of the opening stint.
Both Toyotas, which are the only LMP1 cars competing in the 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship season finale, pitted on the same lap around 40 minutes into the race.
Buemi took two new rear tires at his first service while Conway opted to double-stint his first set of Michelins, but the gap between the two Toyotas grew in the opening part of the second stint which fed into the second hour of racing.
United Autosports led the opening stages of the LMP2 class contest after Paul di Resta defended his pole position off the line from Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Will Stevens.
Di Resta, in third place overall, led Stevens by eight seconds after an hour with Anthony Davidson a further 1.5 seconds back in the JOTA Oreca 07 Gibson that is the Jackie Chan DCR entry’s teammate.
In GTE-Pro, Kevin Estre established himself in the lead from pole but the Frenchman came under pressure from Aston Martin Racing’s Marco Sorensen near the end of the opening stint.
Sorensen was less than a second behind the driver of the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 for several laps before both pitted exactly on 60 minutes.
James Calado spent the first stint in third position for AF Corse, while the Englishman came under pressure from three cars behind driven by Gianmaria Bruni, Maxime Martin and Davide Rigon.
The GTE-Am lead changed at the start when Salih Yoluc got his TF Sport Aston Martin past Aston Martin Racing driver Paul Dalla Lana.
However, Dalla Lana refused to let the Turkish driver run away and closed back in before diving up the inside at the Turn 8 right-hander.
The resulting contact at the apex led to Dalla Lana spinning around, while Yoluc lost some momentum enabling Ben Keating to charge through into the lead for Porsche squad Team Project 1.