Another open GT Class race on the cards from Bahrain

Friday, December 13, 2019

Eight hours of true endurance racing lay before the thirty one car entry that makes up the fourth round of the 2019-20 World Endurance Championship in Bahrain tomorrow and a battle royale is required from all four Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GTE's in both GTE Pro and GTE Am.

Throughout the three previous Free Practice sessions, all four cars have been yo-yoing between the extreme ends of the timing screen in both classes as the six Pro class and eleven Am class GTE runners get to grips with the dusty desert circuit and from transitioning between sunshine into floodlight track conditions.

Fond memories are at this circuit for Canadian businessman Paul Dalla Lana having secured his last Class Championship title here in 2017 with his former co-drivers Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda. This weekend however hasn't got off to the best of starts for his #98 crew of Ross Gunn and Darren Turner after Gunn fell ill the night before track sessions got underway on Thursday morning. Being granted dispensation by the series by not completing his mandatory five night laps during FP2 yesterday, Gunn returned to the car today to post the eight fastest lap of the day in the declared wet session this morning.

Turner commented that "whilst the circuit was great fun to drive, it was especially difficult to master!"

In GTE Pro, both the #97 car of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen and the #97 car of Maxime Martin and Alex Lynn each rebounded from a P5 and P6 position after FP1 (up to nearly two seconds slower) to P1 and P2 in FP2 (two seconds quicker). That equaled itself out in FP3 with finishing times just three tenths off in P2 and P4.

IN GTE Am, it was a similar case with the #90 TF Sport car of Salih Yoluc, Charlie Eastwood and Jonny Adam holding the pace with P1 in both FP1 and FP2 whilst it was a case of Turner dialling in Dalla Lana by himself with the #98 car for them to finish Thursday with P4 and P9 finishes. Gunn really came back with a bang setting his cars stint up with a P3 finish in the damp conditions this morning whilst the success weight penalties finally started taking their toll aboard the #90 with a lowly P7 finish in FP3.

During Qualifying this evening, neither GTE Pro car seemed on the pace compared with the two leading Porsches as they locked out the front row with the #95 having to unhappily settle with P5 whilst Martin had his two flying laps deleted in Qualifying for track limits, effectively discounting all his entered times and consigned the #97 to the rear of the Pro grid regardless.

Having read that Gunn was being told that he must also Qualify the #98 car having missed both FP1 and FP2 it appears that Turner joined Dalla Lana in the frame for that honour whilst Adam this time paired up with Yoluc for Qualifying in the #90 TF Sport car. Their respective times positioned them just ahead of one another in P4 and P5 respectively for tomorrows start.

Adam would later tell us that although their pace was somewhat lacking in Qualifying (all down to their success ballast being carried) he still believed that they could again overcome those in front then and aboard the car for them to run a very competitive race tomorrow.

That being said, Qualifying for an eight hour race kind of proves nothing really as (like Dalla Lana nearly found out last time out in Shanghai) that your race could be ended at the opening corner! Then there is strategy, management of both driver time, fuel efficiency and tyre degradation to name just a few. On top of that there is driver welfare in a cockpit that will be getting warm in the afternoon sun at the start, the probably double stinting of drivers and as well as starting off (for Gunn at least) from a position still slightly under the weather than where he would have liked to be at!

Then of course there is always the weather - even for a desert circuit. It had been wet at the circuit on Wednesday and again this morning, the forecast is not for anymore rain until Sunday but we all know how untimely forecasts can be.

Anything can happen in eight hours!!

Photo credits - AMR / TF Sport

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