A look back at the 6Hrs of Bahrain WEC

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Both GTE categories were decided at the weekend in a race that certainly had the 'wow' factor and one that the series and competitors could and should be proud of.

With only the Sao Paulo race remaining after this in the 2014 calendar opposite sides of the Aston Martin Racing garages were needing similar results but for differing reasons.

On one side both the #97 and #99 Pro cars both needed good results to restore pride if nothing else with the #97 especially, after it suffered the engine failure so close to a class win in Shanghai, a win that mould have rekindled championship possibilities. The Craft Bamboo car just needed some luck having demonstrated what they were capable of in Austin, Texas.

On the Am side of the garage either the #95 Young Driver or the #98 Northwest cars could win the Tourist Trophy and Am Championship. But which one? - the #98 needed a win but the Dane Train only needed a handful of points to claim the honours.

With a 3pm local start time by the end of the 6 hours the race would be finishing under floodlight around the entire 5.4km circuit turning it effectively back into a 'day' race.

Having already had another very successful qualifying AMR would see their cars on pole in both GTE Pro and  Am again. As the cars were formed on the grid starting drivers were confirmed as Darren Turner in the #97, Alex McDowell in the #99, Nikki Thiim in the #95 and Pedro Lamy in the #98.

Come the start Turner in the #97 would lead the GTE field going into Turn 1 but his speed would be great enough to catch the LMP2 field, get baulked by them part way round the corner and then loose the lead to the #51 AF Corse car coming out of Turn. Not before too long the three of the Astons were line astern with the #95 car pushing (and after not too much further) passing the #99 for track position. It would only be half an hour of racing before the #95 Am car took the Pro #97 for P2 on track and pushing for the overall lead.

Having had to start on at least three of the tyres on which the cars qualified the tyre degradation was going to be a massive problem for all particularly with the quantities of sand getting whipped about the already abrasive asphalt. This was particularly so for McDowell in the #99 in the earliest stages of the race who was visibly struggling with understeer loosing time hand over fist to his competitors.

Unlike Shanghai and Fuji were the AMR cars were stinting for about an hour between full service stops the issues of tyre degradation was forcing them to pit earlier (after only about 45 mins) and this was sometimes as much as 7 laps less than the lead #51 AF Corse.

After nearly an hour and with the #97, #95 and #98 having already pitted for their first full service and driver change the #99 Craft Bamboo came in for its first stop. All passed without incident until Fernando Rees tried to restart the car and pull away. Noises in keeping with an old tractor were heard together with plumes of smoke and flame coming from the exhausts. With the car being pushed back in the garage a failed engine ECU was diagnosed and replaced - an issue that cost the car at least six minutes and a deficit from which they would never recover.

The further into the race the cars progressed the more evident the disparity in fuel economies between the Astons and the lead Ferrari's it became - short fill stops were called for together with fuel saving mileage to help negate the need for an additional stop if the team was to have any chance of beating the #51.

Approaching half way into the race the gap between the P1 #51 AF Corse and the #97 AMR was as little as 0.4 seconds with lap after lap of televised racing showing neither driver putting a wheel wrong whilst still driving up to the limit.

Christoffer Nygaard in the #98 Northwest Am car pitted having just been caught by understeer and traffic, loosing track position in the process - tyre degradation was later confirmed the issue again.

GTE places were being exchanged continuously across the board with the #95 especially not adhering to category status, mixing it with the #51 and #97 for the overall GTE lead - you wouldn't have thought that they were racing for a championship! Again the #98 car with Pedro Lamy at the wheel was suffering from tyre deg loosing at least a couple of positions in one corner - cumulative effect of which was to destroy any chance of that car stopping the #95 from claiming the spoils.

Kristian Poulsen had a real scare just before the 4hour mark when the #90 Ferrari cut in front of his #95  car forcing it onto the inside kerb of the corner and the Ferrari into a graceful spin. Later, Race Control intervention would alot a drive through penalty on the Ferrari for an avoidable collision.

Completing the final hour of the race Darren Turner would find himself back in the #97 chasing down the #51 Ferrari (again) gaining seconds per lap as the Ferrari's tyres went off beneath him. A timing error by the team meant that David Heinemeier Hansson had to get back into the #95 to accrue his drivers minimum time but come the chequered flag the results would be:-

GTE Pro 

P2 #97 Darren Turner / Stefan Mucke
P6 #99 Alex McDowell / Ferando Rees / Abdulaziz Al Faisal


P1 #95 Nikki Thiim / David Heinemeier Hansson / Kristian Poulsen
P3 #98 Pedro Lamy / Cristoffer Nygaard / Paul Dalla Lana

The above results were confirm that the #95 Young Driver car would be win the Tourist Trophy and be proclaimed GTE Am Driver and team champions for 2014 ahead of their #98 team mates.

The richly deserved podium for the #97 puts them in a position of being able to race the two Manthey Porsches for Championship standing from their existing 4th position in Brazil in two weeks time. Had the race in Bahrain been another lap or so longer the #97 would have claimed the race win such was their speed on track in comparison.


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