Brendon Hartley narrowly beat Mike Conway to put the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid on top of the leaderboard in Free Practice 3 for the FIA World Endurance Championship season finale in Bahrain.
Hartley clocked a time of 1:43.557 to lead the 60-minute run in the Toyota that is carrying the largest LMP1 success handicap into Saturday’s eight-hour race.
The New Zealander struck early, making use of the No. 7 car being consigned to its garage during the opening stages because of a five-minute stop-go penalty handed out for an overtake under yellow flag conditions during FP2.
When Conway eventually arrived on-track he quickly reeled off a time of 1:43.659 but this was as fast as the chasing Toyota could go, leaving Hartley ahead by 0.102 seconds.
The No. 8 machine that Hartley shares with Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi has a seven-point edge heading into the deciding round of the 2019-20 campaign.
However, its championship advantage following victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans means it has a 0.54 seconds per lap handicap to the No. 7 of Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez in Bahrain.
Fastest in LMP2 and third-quickest overall was Will Stevens in the No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson that is also driven by Gabriel Aubry and Ho-Pin Tung.
Stevens’ 1:48.598 flyer came in the opening half of the session and remained the benchmark until the checkered flag came out.
Phil Hanson was second for United Autosports on a 1:48.810, ahead of Signatech Alpine’s Thomas Laurent who posted a 1:48.134.
GTE-Pro went the way of Porsche, meaning all three manufacturers have led each of the three practice sessions in Bahrain.
After Aston Martin Racing led FP1 and the AF Corse Ferrari squad paced FP2, Michael Christensen put the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 top of the FP3 pile with a 1:56.790.
The Dane wound up almost a second clear of Nicki Thiim in the second-placed No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE that leads the championship standings.
Third outright in GTE and first in the Am sub-division was Ross Gunn, whose 1:57.947 effort put the No. 98 Aston marginally ahead of the factory No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo and the No. 97 Pro Aston Martin.
The Am-leading car also got involved in an incident that saw Paul Dalla Lana spin into the Turn 13 run-off after a tap on the rear of Andre Negrao’s Signatech Alpine LMP2.
Next up for the FIA WEC field is qualifying, split into GTE and prototype groups. The first session gets underway at 6 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET, 4 p.m. CET).
RESULTS: Free Practice 3