The title-chasing #8 Toyota TS 040 Hybrid driven by Sébastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson topped the times during Free Practice 1 in preparation for this weekend's 6 Hours of Bahrain.
As afternoon turned to early evening and the sun began to set at the picturesque and atmospheric Bahrain International Circuit, Buemi’s time of 1:45.447 just beat the sister #7 Toyota Racing entry by a mere 0.058s.
Claiming third place with a 1:45.510 was the #20 Porsche Team 919 Hybrid driven by Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard.
Earlier on in the session the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, which at the time was driven by Lucas Di Grassi, had briefly sat at the top of the timesheets, but soon after stopped on track. The Brazilian, who is racing here in Bahrain for the first time since making his F1 debut in 2010, managed to make it back to the pits where the issue was rectified and the car continued.
The #1 Audi ultimately placed fourth on a 1:45.557, which ensured that the top four were covered by just 0.110s. Indeed, all of the LM P1-H entries were split by a mere 0.9s at the end of the session!
G-Drive Racing continued its recent good form by emerging quickest in the LM P2 class. Olivier Pla set a fastest time of 1:51.807 in the Ligier JS P2-Nissan to head the pair of SMP Racing entries, with the #37 Oreca-Nissan heading the sister #27 car.
KCMG, who still have an outside chance of challenging for the title, took a conservative approach to the session after a tremendous effort by the team to ready the ORECA-Nissan after a substantial rebuild following their Shanghai incident with the #51 AF Corse Ferrari. They placed fourth in class.
Rebellion Racing ran 1-2 in the LM P1-L class with their only challengers, the Lotus entered CLM P1/01 AER, suffering a mechanical problem which stranded them on the track after 37 minutes, causing the only red flag of the session.
Aston Martin Racing led the way in both the LM GTE Pro and Am categories, its No.97 Vantage V8 (Pro) and No.98 (Am) being the only two cars to dip under the two minute mark across the two classes. Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke set the pace in the manufacturer-led class with a fastest lap in the session of 1:59.087, and Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Christoffer Nygaard in the class for pros and gentlemen drivers with a best time of 1:59.717.
James Calado put his Bahrain track knowledge from his single-seater days to good use and placed the No.71 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia he shares with Davide Rigon second in the Pro category. The Ferrari was a mere 0.018 seconds ahead of the Shanghai class-winners, Frédéric Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet in No.92 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR. The second factory Porsche was fourth in class, a tenth ahead of the No.99 Aston Martin Vantage which this weekend will feature in its driver line up the three-time Porsche GT3 Cup champion Abdulaziz Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia. The newly re-built No.51 Ferrari brought up the rear of the LM GTE Pro class.
In the Am class it was an Aston Martin 1-2 as the No.95 of the championship leaders David Heinemeier Hansson and Kristian Poulsen – joined once again this weekend by Nicki Thiim – were three tenths of a second behind their team mates in the No.98. Emirati driver, Khaled Al Qubaisi used his considerable local knowledge to put the No.88 Proton Competition 911 RSR he will be driving with Christian Ried and Porsche Junior driver Klaus Bachler into third place in the category.
The second 90-minute practice session will take place between 19h30 and 21h00 local time, during which time the drivers will experience the full power and illumination of the circuits lighting system.