Ferrari jumped Porsche during the fourth round of GTE-Pro pit stops to take both the race and championship leads at the 8 Hours of Bahrain title decider, while the overall leading No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid held 19 seconds over its sister car at halfway.
A quicker pit stop from the AF Corse crew vaulted the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo ahead of the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 for the lead of the GTE-Pro race after three and a half hours, as both cars took on four sets of Michelin tires.
The highest finisher out of those two cars will clinch the FIA World Endurance Championship GT drivers’ title for the relevant full-season pairing, after they went into the race level on points.
After narrowly jumping ahead of Michael Christensen on pit road, James Calado went on to eke out the lead margin to 3.5 seconds over the Dane in the half-hour of racing leading up to halfway.
Ferrari driver Daniel Serra was pressuring Christensen for second in order to put a car between the title rival entries.
Christensen is supporting full-season drivers Kevin Estre and Neel Jani, who have already taken turns in the No. 92 Porsche, which led the opening hour until Calado made a move at the final corner on Estre.
The No. 92 Porsche moved ahead of the No. 51 Ferrari near the start of the third hour, while those positions remained until the fourth set of stops when Calado got ahead.
Porsche’s No. 91 entry also took a turn in the lead, however that car has been running a different pit strategy to the other GTE-Pro competitors.
At the head of the overall field, Toyota’s No. 8 car held a firm lead at halfway, although the No. 7 machine only needs to finish in order to win the world championship.
Mike Conway initially led the race in the No. 7 Toyota, but Sebastien Buemi moved ahead of the Englishman at Turn 1 after an hour and 20 minutes of racing.
The No. 8 Toyota driven by Buemi, Hartley Kazuki Nakajima then kept its lead through to the four-hour mark.
Its advantage came down significantly during the third round of pit stops, during which the No. 7 gained six seconds on the leading car, but roughly the same difference went the other way when the Toyotas made their fourth stops under a Full Course Yellow.
After suffering early gearbox problems, the sole Alpine A480 Gibson ran five laps down on both Toyotas at the halfway stage, having lost a lap on-track since its issue.
Team WRT and JOTA’s No. 28 crew were first and second in the LMP2 tactical battle after four hours, mirroring the championship positions of the two title protagonists.
Ferdinand Habsburg ran 13 seconds ahead of Sean Gelael, who had bounced back from a spin earlier in the race when he tripped up whilst trying to lap a GTE-Am Ferrari.
United Autosports’ Fabio Scherer was around half a minute behind Gelael entering the second half.
The GTE-Am class has been so far dominated by the Cetilar Racing Ferrari of Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto and Antonio Fuoco.
Bronze-rated driver Lacorte, who started from pole, has done most of the legwork so far.
Ferraris ran first and second at halfway, with Alessio Rovera in the points-leading No. 83 AF Corse machine trailing Cetilar by 22 seconds.
TF Sport has fought its way back up to the points positions after contact for Ben Keating on lap one, but the Aston Martin squad needs to beat the AF Corse crew if it is to have any chance of capturing the title.
Three Full Course Yellows have occurred so far. The first was for debris following contact between Katherine Legge’s Iron Lynx Ferrari and the D’station Racing Aston Martin.
The second was for Axcil Jefferies’ Dempsey-Proton Porsche becoming stranded on the apex of Turn 1 after a rotation, while the third was for debris at Turn 8.