Bruno Senna was left fuming over an alleged deliberate block by Jackie Chan DC Racing driver David Cheng in qualifying for the Six Hours of Bahrain on Friday, fearing it could have ramifications on the fight for the LMP2 championship.
While on a flying timed lap in qualifying, Senna’s Vaillante Rebellion co-driver Julien Canal came across a slow-moving Cheng on a cool-down lap, catching up quickly running up the hill towards Turn 12.
Senna and Canal claim that Cheng, driving the No. 37 Oreca 07 Gibson, impeded the No. 31 Oreca, causing a loss of time that left the duo third in class at the end of qualifying.
Crucially, the No. 31 Oreca finished behind its chief title rival, the sister No. 38 DC Racing entry, which qualified second in class.
“[Julien] was on new tires on the last lap, and Cheng on his slow-down lap slowed right down, clearly trying to get in the way, and he got in the way at the end of the second sector, beginning of the third sector which is the worst place on the track to do it,” Senna told Sportscar365.
“He had to overtake him, and lost easily three-tenths. That was enough to be P2 and ahead of the 38. So it’s very low from Cheng and from them.
“I don’t know who’s thinking about this. But obviously there’s two cars on the track, and one car was catching the other on a flying lap. There is no way that he couldn’t know. All he needs to do is look on the GPS and he would know.
“It’s a completely deliberate action and it’s really low. But they’re last so even if they get a penalty, it would not matter.
“David has been always lapped and always making our lives hell to overtake, and it’s not really what we expect in a championship of this level.”
Senna and Canal confirmed to Sportscar365 they had paid a visit to the stewards to complain about Cheng, but no action was taken.
Giving his side of the story, Cheng felt he did all he could to get out of Canal’s way as quickly and safely as possible, fearing a move to the inside could cause an accident.
“It’s Turn 12 by the time I got the message they were coming up,” Cheng told Sportscar365. “I saw them on the back straight quite far away going the same speed as I am on my cool-down lap.
“By the time I’m at the top of the hill and I’m coming around, the radio message to me is the Rebellion is coming up, stay clear of their way.
“To be honest, at that point, I am where I am. I had the choice of either ducking onto the inside as they’re coming around, so if Julien decides to duck under, typically that’s how most crashes happen, when you do something unpredicted, so you stay on the line.
“It’s a bit unfortunate because from my side, we’re not trying to do anything dirty to win the championship in any way like that. To be honest I think if we did, there’s plenty of chances before this race.
“For me it honestly is circumstance of catching the wrong traffic at the wrong time. It’s not the first time that anything like this happens in a race. Unfortunately, it happens.
“I honestly don’t think it was that big of an impediment. Like I said, I was well out of the way of the braking zone.
“Honestly I can admit, having a car in front of the braking zone draws the attention a little bit, so I’m sure it cost a little bit of time.
“But is there any safer way to do it? Probably not.”
Senna and Canal head into Saturday’s Bahrain finale four points clear of Oliver Jarvis, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent in the No. 37 Oreca, and the Brazilian was upbeat about his chances of a maiden championship win in any series.
“It’s looking good. The pace is very good. Our tire deg seems to be strong, so we’re going to have to do a really good job tomorrow,” Senna said.
“Our objective is still to finish in front of the 38, but if they don’t win, we can be behind them in any position and we’ll still win the championship.
“Our race is against them, and we need to make sure we do the best we can.”