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Hartley Beats Kobayashi in Opening 8H Bahrain Practice

Toyota 1-2 in opening practice for 8H Bahrain; Porsche leads Ferrari in GTE-Pro…

Photo: Jose Bispo

Brendon Hartley beat his Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Kamui Kobayashi by four-tenths of a second to lead the opening Free Practice session for the 8 Hours of Bahrain.

Toyota ran first and second in Thursday evening’s 90-minute session, which saw the vast majority of quick lap times set during the early stages.

Hartley’s time of 1:48.490 in the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid stood as the best, with Kobayashi coming through on a 1:48.898 in the championship-leading No. 7 car.

Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway are defending a 15-point advantage over Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima heading into Saturday’s race.

Alpine ranked third overall, with Nicolas Lapierre clocking in just under a second off the outright pace aboard the ORECA-built grandfathered LMP1 car run by Signatech.

Realteam Racing topped the LMP2 Free Practice timesheets for the first time this season courtesy of Norman Nato who banked a 1:50.792 early on.

Nato narrowly beat JOTA Oreca driver Tom Blomqvist by just under three hundredths of a second, while Giedo van der Garde ended up third for Racing Team Nederland.

The Oreca 07 Gibsons from Realteam and Nederland are both run by TDS Racing.

The top-six cars in LMP2, which also included the other JOTA machine and the Orecas from United Autosports and Team WRT, fell within a range of 0.407 seconds.

Porsche Leads GTE-Pro; Ferrari Off the Pace 

Porsche and Ferrari were hesitant to hit the track with their GTE-Pro cars, as both manufacturers remained in their garages for the opening minutes of Free Practice 1.

The battling factory teams have been embroiled in a Balance of Performance debate following a dominant 1-2 for the Porsche GT Team in last weekend’s 6 Hours of Bahrain, although it is unclear why they took so long to head out for Thursday’s session.

The first Manthey-supported Porsche 911 RSR-19s emerged after 11 and a half minutes, while the first Ferrari 488 GTE Evo to arrive was the No. 52 car after 33 minutes.

Neel Jani ended up setting the pace in the No. 92 Porsche that the Swiss driver shares with Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen.

Jani’s 1:57.657 marker came after 18 minutes of running, before either of the works Ferraris had turned their first laps.

The fastest Ferrari lap was a 2:00.631 from Miguel Molina in the latter stages of the session, albeit three seconds off the pace and slower than all of the GTE-Am cars.

Richard Lietz was second to Jani in the No. 91 Porsche, while Alessandro Pier Guidi was fourth in the No. 51 Ferrari.

Augusto Farfus went quickest in GTE-Am for the NorthWest AMR squad with a 1:58.093.

The No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE ended up leading by 0.228 seconds from the No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche with Matteo Cairoli at the helm.

Cetilar Racing’s Antonio Fuoco, D’Station Racing’s Andrew Watson and AF Corse’s Alessio Rovera completed the top five.

Free Practice 2 is scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. local time.

RESULTS: Free Practice 1

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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