Good afternoon and a warm welcome to the Bahrain International Circuit where the first 90-minute free practice session has now taken place. Under sunny skies and an air temperature of 25oC (30oC track temperature), the 28 cars taking part in the 6 Hours of Bahrain – the final round of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship – took to the track for the first time to re-familiarise themselves with the track and to work on the technical set up of their cars. There were several spins during the session, and one or two unscheduled visits to the pits, but no major incidents to report.
Alex Wurz in the No.7 Toyota TS030 Hybrid set the pace at the front of the field, his time of 1:43.192 being over half a second ahead of André Lotterer’s No.1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro in second place, and 1.89 seconds ahead of the No.2 Audi (Tom Kristensen with a lap of 1:45.091). The gap between the car of the World Champions elect and the No.8 Toyota was only 0.06 seconds and the battle between the two automotive giants promises to be scintillating, just as it was in China.
The No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola Toyota of Mathias Beche filled the fifth spot overall, with a best lap of 1:48.741. Their undisputed LMP1 Privateer title having been settled already, the Swiss team is very much looking towards 2014 and using these final races of the 2013 championship as part of its preparation.
In LMP2, the fight for supremacy in the class remains too close to call with the No.24 OAK Racing Morgan Nissan of Alex Brundle (1:52.389) edging out John Martin’s No.26 G-Drive Racing ORECA 03 Nissan by 0.5seconds. Third was the championship-points-leading No.35 OAK Racing Morgan Nissan (1:53.124), Martin Plowman setting the pace in this car, followed by the No.49 Pecom Racing entry.
Aston Martin has started the weekend in a positive way, finishing the first free practice session with a quickest lap of 1:59.565, recorded by the No.97 Aston Martin Vantage of Darren Turner – the only LMGTE Pro car to break under the two minute mark. The British car is being chased hard by both Ferrari and Porsche with the Toni Vilander in the No.51 AF Corse F458 Italia recording a time of 2:00.509…just one hundredth of a second ahead of the No.92 Porsche AG Team Manthey 911 RSR of Marc Lieb.
In LMGTE Am, it was also an Aston Martin Vantage at the head of the field – the No.95 of Danish driver Nicki Thiim setting a fast lap of 2:00.851. This put him ahead of two Porsches: Paolo Ruberti in the No.88 Proton Competition – 2:01.287 and Jean-Karl Vernay’s No.76 IMSA Performance Matmut – 2:01.334) with the No.81 8Star Motorsports Ferrari rounding out the top four in class.
A second free practice session will take place from 19:30 to 21:00 hours – all within the hours of darkness – to allow drivers to set their night sights, and to all complete their mandatory night practice laps.