Manama, Dec. 12 (BNA): The spirt of Le Mans was alive once again at Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) in Sakhir today as the first-ever FIA WEC Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain got off to a flying start.
The endurance racing spectacle is part of the BIC National Day Festival, which is set to begin welcoming the public at “The Home of Motorsport in the Middle East” from Friday.
Gates are scheduled to be open from 12noon to 10pm on Day One and all are welcome to attend. Tickets are available at the circuit and they cost BD1 per person.
Team LNT stole the show early on after setting the pace in the first 90-minute Free Practice of the Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain, which marks the midway point of the World Endurance Championship’s (WEC) 2019/2020 season as the fourth of eight rounds.
Team LNT’s no. 5 AER-powered Ginetta G60-LT-P1 car driven by Charles Robertson, Ben Hanley and Jordan King clocked a best lap of one minute 44.791 seconds to set the overall pace in daylight around the 5.412-kilometre track at “The Home of Motorsport in the Middle East”.
Also excelling on the first day were David Schumacher, Bent Viscaal and Leon Koehler in their respective championships supporting the WEC this weekend. Schumacher and Viscaal shared the spoils in India-based single-seater series the MRF Challenge, while Koehler grabbed pole position for the weekend’s first race in the Porsche Sprint Challenge Middle East.
Racing continues Friday (Editor’s note: December 13), with BIC offering plenty of exciting thrills for all those attending the National Day celebrations at the Sakhir circuit.
Team LNT kick off weekend’s events as pace-setters in WEC Free Practice 1
Team LNT enjoyed a fine start to their campaign in Bahrain. They clocked a best lap time 2.185 seconds quicker than the no. 1 Gibson-powered Rebellion R13 driven by Bruno Senna, Gustavo Menezes and Norman Nato.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s pair of TS050 Hybrids followed in third and fourth. The no. 8 car of Kazuki Nakijima, Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley was 2.665s off the pace; while the no. 7 challenger of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez was 2.817s back.
Team LNT’s other car, the no. 6 of Chris Dyson, Guy Smith and Michael Simpson, completed the top five 3.214s behind their sister team. They also rounded out the participants in the top-tier LMP1 category.
Leading the LMP2 class was the no. 22 Gibson-powered Oreca 07 of United Autosports team, driven by Paul Di Resta, Philip Hanson and Felipe Albuquerque. They had a best lap of 1:48.273.
The LMGTE Pro runners were led by the 1:57.388 lap of Porsche GT tandem Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni in their no. 91 Porsche 911 RSR-19 car.
The LMGTE Am class was topped by TF Sport’s Salih Yoluc, Charles Eastwood and Jonathan Adam, driving the no. 90 Aston Martin Vantage AMR. They had a best lap of 1:58.803.
The WEC challengers return to action in the evening for the second free practice of the round, beginning at 6.30pm under floodlights.
Schumacher and Viscaal lead practice sessions in MRF Challenge
David Schumacher and Bent Viscaal took turns topping the times in the pair of Free Practice sessions today in the MRF Challenge at BIC.
Schumacher, who is the son of former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher and nephew of seven-time F1 World champion Michael Schumacher, was the top man in the second session with a best lap of 2:00.540. He completed 12 laps in the car.
Schumacher was 0.430 seconds quicker than Viscaal from the Netherlands while he was also 0.500s faster than Michelangelo Amendola of Belgium, who was third.
Viscaal set the early pace in the first session held in the morning. He clocked a best lap of 2:01.191 while going for 13 laps of work in the 30-minute session, which kicked off the racing action for the day.
Schumacher was second quickest. The German was just 0.065 seconds off the pace. Valdemar Eriksen of Denmark was third 0.710s behind Viscaal.
A total of 11 drivers are competing in the MRF Challenge. The MRF Challenge gets back out on track Friday at 10.30am for Qualifying.
Koehler makes fine start to season-opening round in Porsche Sprint Challenge ME
Leon Koehler enjoyed a fine start to the opening round of the 2019/2020 Porsche Sprint Challenge Middle East after grabbing pole position today for the season’s first race, happening in support of the FIA WEC Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain.
After topping the practice times earlier in the day, Koehler took first place once again in the first 30-minute qualifying session with a best lap of two minutes 02.271 seconds.
He was 0.845 seconds ahead of fellow-German Julian Hanses, while Berkay Besler of Turley came third 0.878s back. Al three were competing in the Pro class.
Leading the ProAm was Dutchman Jesse Van Kuijk with a fastest lap of 2:03.827, while Bahrain’s Shaikh Jaber Al Khalifa was the leading Am class driver with a lap of 2:06.123.
The Porsche competitors get back on track Friday with the second qualifying at 1.15pm. The first of three races this weekend will be held the same day starting at 3.50pm
During practice, Koehler was quickest with a best lap time of 2:03.289 in 10 laps of work. Saul Hack of South Africa followed 0.327 seconds back, while Besler came third 0.438s adrift.
BIC National Day Festival brings plenty of off-track entertainment to fans
There will be plenty for the whole family to enjoy from Friday at BIC’s vending area, located behind the Main Grandstand, with the start of celebrations in the BIC National Day Festival.
The attractions will be available all through while the circuit is open is open from 12noon to 10pm.
Kids’ entertainment will be a major part of what’s on offer. Other attractions include cultural shows, a BDF fly-pass, a National Guard parachute display, roaming performers, music from the Ministry of Interior Police Band, and so much more.
The weekend’s first of four nightly concerts also takes place Friday, featuring Emirati superstar Balqees. Her show is scheduled for an 8.30pm start.
The BIC National Day Festival is being held with the support of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister.
Open Paddock experience to be enjoyed by all race goers
BIC is treating all ticket-holders to an Open Paddock experience for both days of the Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain on Friday and Saturday (Editor’s note: December 13 and 14).
The Open Paddock experience is unique to the WEC, and it is a fan-friendly initiative enjoyed by all.
Aside from getting to watch all the high-octane action from the Main and Batelco Grandstands, race goers will have the unique chance to see up close and personal what goes on behind-the-scenes in the WEC Paddock.
This is where the participating teams’ buildings are located to accommodate all team members while at the circuit. The Paddock is also where the teams have the entrances to their garages, so it will not be a surprise if fans get a chance to meet the WEC’s star drivers as they stroll around the vicinity.
Furthermore, fans will get to walk by the Race Control Tower, scrutineering garages, and the state-of-the-art Media and Medical Centres, all of which are crucial to the success of the race weekend.
For further information on the FIA WEC Bapco 8 Hours of Bahrain and the BIC National Day Festival, visit BIC’s official website www.bahraingp.com or call the BIC Hotline on +973-17-450000. Also, follow BIC’s official social media accounts on Facebook (facebook.com/OfficialBahrainInternationalCircuit), Twitter (@BAH_Int_Circuit), Instagram (instagram.com/bah_int_circuit) and YouTube (youtube.com/bahrainbic) for regular updates.
Friday’s Racing Schedule
Time Series Session
10.30am MRF Challenge Qualifying
11.15am FIA WEC Free Practice 3
1.15pm Porsche Sprint Qualifying 2
2.15 MRF Challenge Race 1
3.50pm Porsche Sprint Race 1
4.40pm FIA WEC Qualifying LMGTE Pro/LMGTE Am
5.10pm FIA WEC Qualifying LMP1/LMP2
6pm MRF Challenge Race 2