And into the desert of Bahrain looking for more GTE success

Saturday, December 07, 2019

The conclusion of next weekends fourth round of the 2019-20 World Endurance Championship from Bahrain will mark the final race of 2019 and the halfway point of the Championships first full winter season of running as all four Aston Martin Racing runners look to consolidate their championship position as they head into their short winter New Year break.

Ahead of that of course is the small matter of an incredible eight hours of racing around the 3.4 mile Hermann Tilke designed circuit for the 31 car provisional entry for this event. So far the Championship has just faced four hours of racing at Silverstone, six hours at Fuji before another four hours in Shanghai so obviously, Bahrain marks a larger demand on both man and machine so what has been required so far this season.

Last time out in Shanghai gave us a near 'full house' of podium finishes for the two GTE Pro and GTE Am cars of Aston Martin Racing and TF Sport - unfortunately a puncture for the #95 Pro car of Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim swallowed up their then convincing race lead and then some to rob them of a probable class win. The sister #97 Pro car of Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn benefitted from a post race exclusion from the class winning Ferrari to ultimately claim the third step in that class whilst in GTE Am, that class was dominated by the #90 TF Sport V8 Vantage GTE of Salih Yoluc, Charlie Eastwood and Jonny Adam.

Starting from fourth on the grid, one of his best ever opening double stints from Yoluc (earning himself great acclaim in the process) as well as a faultless run in to the flag from both Eastwood and Adam and despite a last gasp splash and dash just before the end was enough for the #90 crew to claim their second, consecutive win of the season to come away from China with the GTE Am Championship lead.

Their performance in China was only marginally better than that of the #98 Paul Dalla Lana, Darren Turner and Ross Gunn car which was quickly consigned to the distant rear of the pack on the opening lap when Dalla Lana was spun around at turn 1 on lap 1 by a errant competitor. A progressive battle to first catch the pack and then pass their class rivals to finish P3 by the end of the four hours of racing was nothing short of miraculous and their resulting podium very well deserved.

After the results of their opening three rounds, we have the #90 TF Sport car leading GTE Am with the #98 AMR prepared car 24.5 points behind in P4 whilst in GTE Pro the two AMR cars presently rest in P3 (#95) and P4 (#97) but just 17 points behind the class leading Porsche crew.

All of that is obviously history as eight hours around a desert race track and into the night is a totally different perspective from what has been faced so far, not least because of the further technical restriction placed on both the GTE Pro cars and the continued success penalties being applied to the #90 car.

Published just last week, the FIA Endurance Committee has confirmed a minor fuel reduction for both Pro cars (taking their maximum fuel capacity down from 98 litres to 97 litres) whilst a similar reduction has also been applied to both Am class cars taking their maximum capacity down from 95 litres to 94 litres. In addition to that, the #90 car has been levied with the maximum 'success' ballast permissible under the new rule set which will now see that car run with a minimum weight of 1292kg (45kg heavier than its season start homologated weight), 40kg heavier than the #98 AMR entry and also as the heaviest car in the class.

Speaking with team boss Tom Ferrier as he helped one of his British GT customers test at Snetterton last week, he confirmed that tyre degradation and management would again be the key to the race as like Shanghai, the track surface and moving sand across it would soon penalise any over exuberance with the throttle pedal. Then there is of course the increase in drive time for all drivers with only two drivers in Pro, each will effectively be racing their own Silverstone or Shanghai race.

Looking at the weather for Bahrain over the next week, light rain is actually being forecasted until midweek before 'normal' conditions resume as track activity begins on Thursday. The start of the 8Hrs of Bahrain will begin at 15:00Hrs local (GMT + 3hrs).

After this event the FIA WEC will be again conducting their annual "Rookie Driver Test" - none of the AMR cars have so far been listed as conducting any such test but that may change over time?

After Bahrain, we can then start to look forward to the second half of the season with races at CoTA, Sebring, Spa and of course Le Mans!!!

Photo credits - AMR / TF Sport / Adrenal Media

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