Round 4 of the FIA World Endurance Championship 2019/20 was run at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain.
The 8-hour race was started in the afternoon sun, in comfortable 24 degrees, and would end up with about 6 hours of running in the dark.
Rebellion Racing #1 with Norman Nato, Gustavo Menezes and Bruno Senna had grabbed Pole Position, ahead of Team LNT Ginetta #5 with Charlie Robertson, Ben Hanley and Jordan King, while Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 with Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley had to settle for third.
In LMP2, it was United Autosports #22 with Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson on Pole, ahead of Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 with Gabriel Aubry, Will Stevens and Ho-Pin Tung, while the guest entry from G-Drive Racing #26 with Job van Uitert, Jean-Eric Vergne and Roman Rusinov was P3.
It was a Porsche 1-2 in GTE Pro, with #91 driven by Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz on Pole, ahead of #92 with Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre, while AF Corse Ferrari #51 with James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi were third, right in front of their sister car #71 with Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina.
Aston Martin Racing #95 with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen were fifth, ahead of their teammates Alexander Lynn and Maxime Martin in #97.
Porsche also had a 1-2 in GTE Am, with Team Project 1 Porsche #57 raced by Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Larry ten Voorde (as a substitute again), ahead of Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 with Khalid Al Qubaisi, Adrien De Leener and Thomas Preining, while AF Corse Ferrari #83 with Nicklas Nielsen, Francois Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard was third.
It was a very dramatic start to the race, with a lot of troubles in Turn 1.
There was contact between Rebellion Racing #1 and Team LNT #5, ended up spinning in front of the whole field. That gave ripples through the whole feel, so only Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 actually came normally through the turn, while United Autosports #22 was on an overall second place, ahead of G-Drive Racing #26 and Cool Racing #42.
Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 also had a spin in the first turn.
AF Corse Ferrari #51 took the GTE Pro lead, ahead of Porsche #92 and AMR #95. #51 had made a rough move on the Polecar Porsche #91, so they dropped all the way back to P5 in the category, after receiving a big shove in the rear in Turn 1.
GTE Am had shuffled the pack too, with Team Project 1 Porsche #57 ahead of AF Corse Ferrari #83 and Team Project 1 Porsche #56.
All the mess resulted in a Safety Car, since there was a lot of debris on the track, plus the stewards would be able to look at all the incidents.
The race went green again, after 10 minutes of cleaning up.
Team LNT Ginetta #5 dived to the pits instantly, since they had quite a lot of damage to the rear, following the contact between Robertson and Senna. The repairs cost #5 two and a half minutes in the pits, before they could rejoin.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 quickly moved up the field, to an overall 10th position, where Buemi had to start fighting the LMP2 cars.
After examining the videos, the stewards decided that it was a Race Incident in Turn 1 between Rebellion Racing #1 and Team LNT Ginetta #5 – perhaps it was penalty enough for #5, to have been stuck in the pits for one and a half laps for the repairs. The same decision fell on the #51 and #91 incident.
Thomas Flohr in AF Corse Ferrari #54 had a solo spin right in front of Toyota Gazoo Racing #7, but thankfully avoided contact.
It took 90 minutes of racing, before we were back to an overall LMP1 1-2-3-4, with Rebellion about 25 seconds away from the lead of the race.
Team Project 1 Porsche had a 1-2 in GTE Am, with #57 ahead of #56, while AMR #98 had made its way into third.
Cetilar Racing #47 had a solo spin in Turn 13, but other than some lost seconds, it didn’t cost them more.
Rebellion Racing #1 grabbed third overall before they had to refuel.
Red River Sport Ferrari #62 had a parallel spin with Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 , but Bonamy Grimes in #62 was able to rejoin again swiftly.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 had to change the front of the car, during their first pitstop. They had been involved in the contact in Turn 1, and was running around with a big hole in the carbon fibre, which didn’t help them down the straights, where they already had a disadvantage due to the success handicap, that they were carrying.
AMR #95 was the first GTE Pro car to pit, with Sørensen jumping out, and Thiim jumping in, and got four new Michelin tires on the car too.
Team LNT Ginetta #5 and MR Racing Ferrari #70 had contact in Turn 1, where #5 pulled into the side of #70 during braking. Charlie Robertson thought it was all the way past Motoaki Ishikawa, but he definitely wasn’t, ripping the wing mirror off the #70, who also had to avoid into the run-off area.
G-Drive Racing #26 and Signatech Alpine Elf #36 plus High Class Racing #33 were fighting for third in the LMP2 category, where van Uitert in #26 was hampered by older tires, while the others had fresher tires on their cars. Both managed to fight their way past the Dutchman, to continue their tough battle for P3 – but still with 7 hours of racing to do. One lap later, Yamashita in #33 managed to find a way past Andre Negrao in #36, having 5 seconds up to Racing Team Nederland #29 in second.
The troubles continued for Team LNT Ginetta #5, who had to pit and change their Fuel Flow Meter. That cost them almost two more minutes. As a bonus, they were awarded a Drive-through penalty for hitting #70.
G-Drive Racing #26 continued to drop like a stone, and had almost dropped all the way back to 7th, since the older tires made him lose about four seconds per lap, compared to the fastest LMP2 cars.
It didn’t last long until Yamashita in High Class Racing #33 had made his way into second in LMP2.
The slightly early pitstop for AMR #95 had moved them into first in GTE Pro, after the other cars had pitted too.
Team LNT Ginetta #6 tired to defend against Toyota Gazoo Racing #8, in a battle for third, but ended up losing the position, when Mike Simpson tried to out-brake the Toyota – which he definitely couldn’t do, and had to run through the run-off area.
Egidio Perfetti in Team Project 1 Porsche #56 lost three positions in GTE Am in less than a lap. TF Sport Aston Martin #90 was first to overtake, and a few corners later, AF Corse Ferrari #83 with Nicklas Nielsen overtook him, before Gulf Racing Porsche #86 was the third car to go past him.
AF Corse Ferrari #83 was however shown the Mechanical Flag, since the cockpit temperature was higher than allowed per regulations. So the team swapped Nielsen for Collard, and then cleaned out the cockpit air intake, so the temperature could go down again.
Red River Sport Ferrari #62 got a fire seconds pitstop penalty, due to the earlier contact with the Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77. They were however already last in the GTE Am category, so no positions were lost for the Ferrari team.
AMR #98 took the GTE Am lead, when Ross Gunn overtook Team Project 1 Porsche #57 with Ben Keating, but the American in the Porsche was near the end of a double stint – for a Bronze rated driver.
Just shy of the two-hour mark, the Team Project 1 Porsche #56 with David Heinemeier Hansson was pushed into the garage, with the mechanics starting to dismantle the car. A cracked exhaust made the repairs necessary, to avoid other things in the engine bay being overheated, and eventually turn into a fire. So that team was once again unlucky.
Team LNT Ginetta #6 with Chris Dyson behind the wheel, had a spin at Turn 10, but quickly rejoined.
Two hours into the race, it was Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 leading LMP1, United Autosports #22 in LMP2, Aston Martin Racing #95 in GTE Pro, and Aston Martin Racing #98 in GTE Am.
Team Project 1 Porsche #57 tried an alternative strategy, where they let Ben Keating stay in the car for his third stint in a row, so all his drive time would be used, so they would be able to put in Larry ten Voorde and Jeroen Bleekemolen for the rest of the race.
Michael Christensen in Porsche #92 had closed the gap to Nicki Thiim i AMR #95, so the two Danes were fighting for the GTE Pro lead over several laps.
Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 and TF Sport Aston Martin #90 were fighting for fifth in GTE Am, with the positions changing several times, before #88 eventually made it past for good.
AMR #98 and MR Racing Ferrari #70 had a bit of contact in Turn 2, which cost a bit of carbon fibre from both cars, but no major issues.
G-Drive Racing #26 and Red River Sport Ferrari #62 had a bit of contact in the final corner, but nothing serious.
Two and a half hours into the race, the Rebellion Racing #1 had to be pushed into the garage, with issues on the gearbox. Senna had reported, that the car sometimes would skip past second, and the issue only got bigger and bigger for Gustavo Menezes, so he eventually had to pit.
Alessandro Pier Guidi in AF Corse Ferrari #51 managed to close the gap to AMR #95 and Porsche #92, so it was a three-way battle for the GTE Pro lead. AMR #97 also managed to close the gap, so it was four cars in line – with Porsche #91 only a few seconds behind.
Rebellion Racing #1 ended up losing three laps to the leading Toyota Gazoo Racing #7, before Menezes was sent back on track.
The GTE Pro fight got physical when Thiim in #95 had a bad exit of Turn 10, so Pier Guidi in #51 got a bit of a run on Christensen in #92. There was contact between #51 and #92, but the Ferrari got past. One lap later. Pier Guidi took the GTE Pro lead, since he also made his way past Thiim. Thiim was however on the second stint on his tires, while all the competition was on significantly newer tires.
Racing Team Nederland #29 influenced the GTE Pro battle, when Frits van Eerd was fighting his way through the group, and Alex Lynn in AMR #97 was so surprised by the Dutchman’s early and hard braking into Turn 11. That resulted in #29 being turned around, and #97 having to go over the run-off area.
DHH in Team Project 1 Porsche #56 was back on the track again, but 27 laps down, which was equivalent to about 55 minutes behind the second to last GTE Am car – Red River Sport Ferrari #62. There was however still more than 5 hours to go, so the competition could still run into troubles.
AF Corse Ferrari #71 and Porsche #91 also had a tough battle, with Miguel Molina in #71 being everywhere in the mirrors of Richard Lietz.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 and #8 had a massive lead to the LMP competition, after just three hours of racing, with the nearest car being Team LNT Ginetta #5 – two laps down.
Ben Keating completed his tipple stint, having kept the car in top-3 all the way through. Impressive stuff from the American businessman, after three long hours in the car.
Red River Sport Ferrari #62 got a Drive-through for ignoring Blue Flags.
Top-3 in GTE Am was running within a second of each other, with Aston Martin Racing #98 leading, ahead of Gulf Racing Porsche #86 and Team Project 1 Porsche #57. That was swapped shortly after, with #57 leading #86 and #98.
Three and a half hours into the race, Porsche #92 took the lead of GTE Pro, with Estre overtaking Pier Guidi in AF Corse Ferrari #51, while Sørensen in AMR #95 slowly caught both of them while running P3. But just like we saw earlier in the race, Sørensen had the tire advantage.
While United Autosports #22 had run away in front of LMP2, it was closely fought battle for second, where G-Drive Racing #26 was under pressure from Jackie Chan DC Racing #37, JOTA #38 and Signatech Alpine Elf #36, who were all within a few seconds of each other.
MR Racing Ferrari #70 had a spin in Turn 1, when Ishikawa almost ran into the rear of Racing Team Nederland #29, so he had to step hard on the brakes, resulting in a spin.
The track was declared wet with 4 hours and 20 minutes left, with a few drops starting to fall in Turn 14.
Porsche #92 was pushed into the garage shortly after, when Estre had big issues with the car, that had to be repaired. That cost them two laps in the pits, losing every chance of a victory. The team found out that it was a damper that had collapsed, and had to be replaced.
Cetilar Racing #47 got a Drive-through penalty, since the mechanic holding the fire extinguisher, was also the guy pulling off the earth cable. He wasn’t allowed to do that, while holding the fire extinguisher. There were already last in the category.
Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 had a high-speed off in the final corner, where local racer Khaled Al Qubaisi last the car during braking, slamming both front and rear into the armco, spreading debris all over the track. Qubaisi was able to drive the car back to the pits, but there was a massive repair job needed.
That resulted in the first Full Course Yellow of the day, so the cars had to reduce the speed to 80 kph, while the debris was removed, plus various other cleanings on the track was done. Four and a half minutes later, the track went green again.
Porsche #91 had a pit right after the race went green, since Bruni reported big problems with the car. He entered the pits with a punctured front tire, that was completely ripped apart. The damper didn’t seem to be broken this time, but the very big hammer was out, to repair the wheel hub – not normally something that is in the repair guide for the German car brand. They lost af couple of minutes, but still rejoined in front of #92.
Halfway through the race, it was still Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 LMP1, United Autosports #22 leading LMP2, Aston Martin Racing #97 as the new leaders in GTE Pro, and Team Project 1 Porsche #57 in GTE Am.
The AF Corse Ferrari #51 mechanics made somewhat of a mistake during their fifth pitstop of the day, since they lowered the car, before they had put on the left front tire. That cost them a few extra seconds, before the car was jacked up again, wheel tightened and the car lowered once again.
Team LNT Ginetta #5 stopped on track, with just shy of three and a half hours left. That was dealt with under a local yellow flag, so we avoided further disruptions.
About three hours prior to the chequered flag, the GTE Pro lead battle would re-emerge. Marco Sørensen in AMR #95 was under hard pressure from Miguel Molina in AF Corse Ferrari #71.
Molina managed to take the lead, before handing the car over to Rigon. Sørensen handed the #95 over to Thiim at the same time, so both teams got for fresh tire, so the battle could continue on the track.
Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 got a Drive-through penalty, because Christian Ried had left the pits with spinning wheels.
After United Autosports #22 had been so far ahead in LMP2, JOTA #38 and Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 started to claw back the gap. After having had an almost one minute lead, it was reduced to less than 20 seconds.
With two hours left, Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 was leading LMP1, United Autosports #22 in LMP2, Aston Martin Racing #97 in GTE Pro, and Team Project 1 Porsche #57 in GTE Am.
AMR #95 managed to get past AF Corse Ferrari #71, at their respective 6th and 5th pitstops, so Thiim once again had to defend from Molina.
After several laps of defensive driving from Thiim, Molina managed to find a way past, by getting better acceleration out of Turn 10, pulling alongside, and then braking a bit later into Turn 11.
The GTE Am troubles started to appear with just over 90 minutes left on the clock. Gulf Racing Porsche #86 had a detour, and when they rejoined, they almost crashed into the MR Racing Ferrari #70, so #86 ended up spinning in avoidance.
TF Sport Aston Martin #90 had to be pushed into the garage, when they got an issue with the fuel system. The mechanics started repairing, but there was it was highly dramatic for the championship-leading GTE Am car.
High Class Racing #33 had fallen back to 7th in LMP2, after they ran in top-3 early in the race. Even though Mark Patterson was doing well, it was hard for the Bronze rated driver to keep up with the teams, who had Silver ranked drivers as their lowest rank in their car.
Team LNT Ginetta #6 had problems with the gearbox, that the mechanics tried to solve in the garage. They weren’t able to do so, so they were not classified in the race.
Gulf Racing Porsche #86 got a Drive-through, for the unsafe rejoining.
Cetilar Racing #47 punctured on the left rear, and had to do almost a full lap, being able to pit for a new tire.
AF Corse Ferrari #51 and AMR #97 were touching in Turn 1. Lynn in #97 had the pace down the straight, while Pier Guidi in #51 was better on the brakes. Lynn tried to squeeze ahead, but was denied with a bit of red carbon fibre against lime green.
The final planned pitstop for the GTE Pro cars meant that AMR #95 came out ahead of AF Corse Ferrari #71, while AMR #97 got out ahead of AF Corse Ferrari #51. With all cars fuelled to the end, the individual speed of the drivers, and not least the state of the tires, would decide the podium.
Full Course Yellow was deployed with 45 minutes left, when a bollard from one of the corners had ended up in the middle of the start-finish straight. It was hit by the Jackie Chan DC Racing #37, that broke it into even more pieces, so race control didn’t have any other option than to clean the track.
That took about 5 minutes, and then the battles were able to resume. AF Corse #51 and AMR #97 was rubbing fenders going into Turn 10, with Calado in the Ferrari just staying on the throttle through the run-off area, grabbing the position from Martin.
TF Sport Aston Martin #90 had finally repaired the car, after more than an hour in the pits, so they could do the final 40 minutes of racing.
A very important message showed up with 30 minutes to go – AF Corse Ferrari #71 got a Stop & Go Penalty for wheel spin at their final pitstop. That was their shot at the win lost, but still reappeared in second in GTE Pro.
AF Corse Ferrari #51 was judged to hand the position back to AMR #97, which was for the final podium spot. Calado swiftly did so, so he would be able to have another go in the final 20 minutes of the race.
TF Sport Aston Martin Racing #90 had a retire with just a few minutes left of the race, so no point for them in the race.
G-Drive Racing #26 had to pit right before going onto the very final lap, since they were about to run out of fuel. They were fourth before they had to pit.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi won the race, ahead of their #8 teammates with Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, while Rebellion Racing #1 with Bruno Senna, Norman Nato and Gustavo Menezes finished third.
United Autosports #22 with Phil Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Paul Di Resta won the LMP2 category, ahead of JOTA #38 with Antonio Felix da Costa, Anthony Davidson and Roberto Gonzalez, and Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 with Ho-Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry and Will Stevens on P3.
Frits van Eerd in Racing Team Nederland #29 was once again best Bronze driver in the race.
Aston Martin Racing #95 with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen won GTE Pro, ahead of AF Corse Ferrari #71 with Miguel Molina and Davide Rigon, while AMR #97 with Maxime Martin and Alexander Lynn finished third.
Team Project 1 Porsche #57 with Larry ten Voorde, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating finished P1 in GTE Am, after a dominating throughout most of the race. Aston Martin Racing #98 with Ross Gunn, Darren Turner and Paul Dalla Lana finished second, while Gulf Racing Porsche #86 with Mike Wainwright, Ben Barker and Andrew Watson finished third.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 leads the LMP1 championship standings, ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 and Rebellion Racing #1.
Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 has gone into the LMP2 lead, head of United Autosports #22 and Racing Team Nederland #29.
Marco Sørensen and Nicki Thiim in Aston Martin Racing #95 are the new championship leaders in GTE Pro, ahead of Porsche #92 with Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen, while Porsche #91 with Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz are third.
Team Project 1 Porsche #57 has jumped into the lead in GTE Am, but equal on points with Nicklas Nielsen, Francois Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard in AF Corse Ferrari #83. Aston Martin Racing #98 are third in the championship, while TF Sport Aston Martin #90 dropped all the way down to fourth.
The teams have just over two months break now, before the fifth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship 2019/20 will be run at Circuit Of The Americas on 23 February 2020.