Toyota hold 1-2 "no holds barred" lead
It was the no8 Toyota TS030 of Sebastien Buemi which was leading at the end of the first quarter of the race after the poll sitting no7 TS030 of Nicolas Lapierre ran wide at just past the hour to allow his teammate to nip past into the lead.
The two Audis are on the lead lap but have no answer to the pace of the Toyotas. The no2 Audi R18 of Tom Kristensen was lying 21 seconds behind the leader as he came in for his second stop as the clock hit 4 hours and 30 minutes remaining. Benoit Treluyer had already made his second stop to hand over the car to Marcel Fassler. The no1 Audi continued to be on the same pace as the sister car despite a collision with the no57 Krohn Racing Ferrari of Niclas Jonsson, earning the 2012 World Champion a black and white driving standards flag.
Rebellion Racing’s last race with the Lola-Toyota in the LMP1 Privateers class ended in spectacular fashion with an engine fire just before the clock hit 90 minutes gone, Nicolas Prost pulling off next to a fire marshal’s post to enable the flames to be extinguished quickly. But the incident forced the team into retirement.
The start in the LMP2 class was dramatic with three cars, including the pole sitting nr49 Pecom Racing Oreca Nissan of Nicolas Minassian running off the track, with the no31 Lotus Praga T128 of Vitantonio Liuzzi ending up beached in the gravel trap. Minassian recovered and this set the scene for a recovery driver which would see the French driver leapfrog the leading nr26 G-Drive Racing Oreca-Nissan at the first pitstops to take the lead, which he still held at the end of the first quarter.
It was a bad day for the Lotus-Praga team when the nr32 T128 of Dominik Kraihamer spun and collected the no92 Porsche of Richard Lietz. Lietz managed to return to the pitlane to repair the damage but Kraihamer’s race was over.
At the end of the first 90 minutes Stephane Sarrazin was holding a 3.3 second lead in the no8 Toyota with Nicolas Minassian holding a 3.7 second lead in the no49 Pecom Oreca over Mike Conway in the no26 G-Drive Oreca.
Ferrari and Aston Martin Hold Sway in LMGTE
It’s been a fast and furious start to the 6 Hours of Bahrain for the LMGTE Pro and Am classes, and there have inevitably been some winners and losers amongst the FIA WEC field.
After the first 90 minutes of racing, which began under warm sunshine and air/track temperatures of 26o/31oC, Ferrari holds the upper hand in LMGTE Pro – the No.51 AF Corse entry (Bruni-Vilander) leading the field since the first round of pit stops ahead of the No.91 Porsche of Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Pilet, and the No.97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Stefan Mücke and Darren Turner. As per regulations, the cars all start the race with the same tyres on which they qualified, and tyre degradation had an effect on positions during the first hour – particularly to the No.97 which was the first of the GTE cars to make a pit stop.
Gianmaria Bruni, who took the start, has profited from the pole-sitting No.92 Porsche AG Team Manthey’s difficult start to the race. Richard Lietz was caught up in the first-lap LMP2 melée and, not wanting to take any undue risks, dropped back a little. On lap 4 the Austrian was trying to pass a slow No.32 Lotus Praga when the LMP2 car spun and clipped the Porsche 911 RSR hard on the left rear. Lietz managed to get back to the pits but dropped back to last in class.
In LMGTE Am, Jean-Karl Vernay in the No.76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 911 GT3 RSR made an excellent start and held the class lead for the first 20 laps before being passed by Nicki Thiim in the No.95 Aston Martin Vantage. The car, which has an all-Danish driving crew, is holding a firm lead on LMGTE Am ahead of the No.81 8Star Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia of Davide Rigon, Rua Aguas and Enzo Potolicchio and the No.76 – Markus Palttala and Raymond Narac sharing driving duties with Vernay.
The No.88 Proton Competition Porsche is currently in the garage with a rear end issue, and the No.57 Krohn Racing Ferrari 458 continues to lap well despite being tipped into a spin just before the end of the first hour when the No.1 Audi over-ambitiously tried to pass him in a corner.
The sun is setting over the Bahrain International Circuit now and, if the remaining hours are anywhere near as exciting as the first 90 minutes of the 6 Hours of Bahrain, it promises to be a cracking race.