Image credit: Toyota Hybrid Racing.
With the final round of the 2016 World Endurance Championship less than two weeks away, we take a look at the runners and riders, some welcome BoP changes and who’s in the running to lift the remaining silverware:
Porsche may have been crowned 2015 WEC LMP1 manufacturers winners at the Shanghai round, but the race for the driver’s Championship is going down to the wire in the desert. At the Bahrain International Circuit, with a twelve point difference between the No. 17 Porsche of Bernhard, Hartley and Webber and the 7 Audi of Lotterer, Treluyer and Fassler, it’s all to play for.
With 1 DNF for the drivers of car 17 at the opening round at Silverstone, an otherwise 100% top three finish rate for both cars has kept this title race alive. No other combination can challenge for the Championship.
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport said “the team will be giving everything to take the drivers championship”, strangely similar to the comment coming out of Stuttgart from Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1 Porsche Motorsport: “we will try to secure the title”.
Bahrain will also mark the end of a troubled and uncompetitive year for the current LMP1 World Champions, Toyota Hybrid Racing, who will be looking to put 2015 firmly behind them and move onto the all-new car for 2016.
And if the LMP1 Driver’s title race was not enough excitement to contend with, after sixty hours of racing the LMP2 driver’s and team championships will be decided at the same time. There is a sixteen point difference between the current leaders, the 26 car of G-Drive and closest rivals, the 47 car of KCMG. However, the team of the 28 G-Drive car will be eyeing a chance at the Vice Champions place lying 18 points behind the KCMG car.
In LMGTE-Pro there are three cars at the top with a possibility of winning, the current leaders Porsche Team Manthay in the 91 and the two cars from AF Corse, 51 and 71. There is also the GTE Manufacturer’s title up for grabs and the points difference here is as close as ever with only 4 points between the current leader Ferrari and Porsche.
As for LMGTE-Am it will be a Ferrari 458 which wins but will it be the 72 car from SMP or the 83 car of AF Corse.
Aston Martin Racing, which has been struggling following the mid-season Balance Of Performance (BOP) adjustments has been allowed to return to its original 2015 technical configuration in next weekend’s race with both GTE-Pro and GTE-Am Aston Martin Vantage V8s retuning to the original 29.1 mm air restrictor.
Furthermore, and perhaps based on the speed of the Am cars in Shanghai, the Aston Martin and both 991 and 997-based Porsche models in GTE-Am have received a 5 kg minimum weight increase for Bahrain. These weight changes do not apply in GTE-Pro.
With Aston Martin withdrawing the Young Driver AMR No. 95 Aston Martin from the Shanghai citing BOP concerns and Team Principal John Gaw stating at Shanghai that the ACO re-adjusted air-restrictor size “still wasn’t enough to enable us to fight for the podium in the GTE Pro class. Only thanks to clever strategy and some fantastic driving were we able to come close to winning GTE Am.”. We here at SCG have to wonder what was gained, other than handing the GTE championship to another manufacturer, by the apparently misguided mid-season change?
The provisional grid is comprised of 32 cars piloted by 90 drivers form 19 countries and there are eight titles to be decided at the fall of chequered flag under the stars in the desert.
The first free practice session starts in Bahrain at 12:15 on Thursday the 19th of November, with the green flag at 12:00 noon GMT on Saturday the 21st November 2015. Next weekend promises to be an action packaged festival of speed in the desert with the Formula 1 support series’, GP2 and GP3 joining in the action along with the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and Formula 2000 MRF Championship.