It will be quite a different starting grid for the FIA World Endurance Championship season finale in Bahrain this weekend.
The long season, decided championships, mixed up with the COVID-19 situation, have resulted in just 24 cars on the entry list.
Toyota Gazoo Racing is the only remaining team in the LMP1 category, which will shut down following this race. The pair of cars will battle for the title amongst them, with #8 currently leading #7. With just 7 points between them, the best-placed car will take the championship. Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima currently lead Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez.
The LMP2 category consists of 6 cars. We have lost High Class Racing #33 and Cool Racing #42 from the regular 8. #33 didn’t have much chance of advancement in the standings, and #42 has chosen decided due to the COVID-19 situation.
Newly crowned champions United Autosports #22 with Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson is present, while JOTA #38, Racing Team Nederland #29, Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 and Signatech Alpine Elf #36 will fight for the remaining medals. Cetilar Racing #47 are sure of finishing 7th in the standings, unless all the other cars retire from the race, and they win the race.
Aston Martin Racing #95 with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen arrives in Bahrain as championship leaders, with a 15 points gap to the teammates in #97. There has however been a change in that lineup, so only Maxime Martin has the chance of becoming champion. Alexander Lynn has been tested positive for COVID-19, so he will have to skip the race. That has resulted in a chain reaction of movements at AMR. Richard Westbrook was slated to race in #98, but has been moved into #97 next to Martin. He will be replaced in the GTE AM car #98 by Pedro Lamy, who already know Paul Dalla Lana very well, plus Ross Gunn, who has raced alongside Dalla Lana all season long.
There has been a change to the third-placed car in the standings too, AF Corse Ferrari #51. James Calado will pair up with Daniel Serra, who is the regular endurance driver in 51. Alessandro Pier Guidi will instead focus on the GT World Challenge race at Paul Ricard in France.
Defending Champions Porsche #92 with Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre is the best-placed Porsche, with without a chance of winning the title. Porsche #91 is fifth in the standings, ahead of AF Corse Ferrari #71.
The GTE Am category has lost MR Racing Ferrari #70, but there is still 10 cars left to race.
TF Sport Aston Martin #90 with Charlie Eastwood, Jonny Adam and Salih Yoluc leads the championship. They grabbed the lead from AF Corse Ferrari #83 with Nicklas Nielsen, Emmanuel Collard and Francois Perrodo by winning Le Mans. They are the only two cars left to fight for the GTE Am title. With just 8 points between those two cars, it’s the best placed of those two, who will take the title – as long as they battle for the front positions in the classification, since the points gaps get smaller and smaller at the latter positions.
There have been changes at the defending champions Team Project 1 Porsche #56, where Larry ten Voorde almost has superglued himself to the seat alongside Egidio Perfetti. The change is at the third driver, who usually is Matteo Cairoli. Cairoli will also race at Paul Ricard, so Jörg Bergmeister will be back in the race suit again. he was part of the championship-winning line up last year.
There are changes to their sister car #57, where Dylan Pereira replaces Felipe Fraga. Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen continue together like always.
Bonamy Grimes is the only returnee at Red River Sport Ferrari #62 from their Le Mans line up. Kei Cozzolino moves over from the MR Racing car, being joined by Colin Noble, who will have his GTE Am and FIA WEC race debut, after having raced LMP3 cars for Nielsen Racing over the past few seasons.
Christian Ried and Riccardo Pera will be joined by Dennis Olsen in the Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77, since Matt Campbell is busy at Paul Ricard. The sister car #88 will have local racer Khalid Al Qubaisi behind the wheel. He won the race in 2016, but will be joined by two brand new teammates in the shape of Jaxon Evans and Marco Holzer. Both drivers are Porsche experts, so they are likely to be very rapid in the car from the get-go.
And there is a change at Gulf Racing Porsche #86 too, with regulars Ben Barker and Michael Wainwright being joined by the newly crowned ELMS Champion Alessio Picariello. He replaces Andrew Watson, who will race at Paul Ricard.
The FIA World Endurance Championship race in Bahrain will run this Saturday, with the green flag being shown at 12.00 CET.