Welcome to the first SportscarPlus/Minus, a look at the winners and losers from the latest exploits in the world of sportscar racing, this week – who enjoyed the return of the 8 Hours of Bahrain and who would rather just forget the fourth round of the World Endurance Championship.
PLUS: Toyota makes it three from four…
Sometimes victories don’t have to be pretty, they don’t even need to be particularly spectacular, and Toyota proved once again that whatever gets thrown at it just bounces right back off again. Hampered by an Equivalence of Technology that has it looking sluggish on the straights (more on that below) the team put its head down and did its job.
Off the pace in qualifying, the two TS050s seemed set for a slog to make a dent on the top two with one of the Ginettas and the sole Rebellion lining up ahead. What luck, then, that Mike Conway suddenly had his path opened up as the two tangled and allowed the #7 to lead all 257 laps. It won’t get much easier than that for the reigning champions…
— WEC 🇧🇭🐫 (@FIAWEC) December 14, 2019
MINUS: But EoT didn’t make it easy
Another power-sensitive track, and another headache for Toyota. With a mammoth handicap of over 2.5sec slapped on both cars, speed was at a premium around the Sakhir circuit and nowhere was that more evident that in the speed trap figures.
The fastest of the Toyotas was 13th – the #7 of Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi – and ahead of it were all the privateer LMP1s and LMP2s, the #8 Toyota was 17th as its largest handicap relegated it behind both the GTE Pro Aston Martins and one of the Ferraris.
There’s an argument that EoT isn’t the ideal system, it does seem to be causing a bit more variety in the podium contenders – it could have been a three-way battle for the win if not for the opening lap mishap – but when even the GTE classes are starting to overtake what is supposed to be the fastest cars on track, perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
PLUS: GTE Pro brings the heat yet again
Cast your minds back to the first three rounds of the season, and the rounds of the 2018/19 season for that matter, and try and remember one thing – when was the GTE Pro class boring? This desert duel was no exception as Ferrari and Aston Martin scrapped it out in two battles – Vantage v 488 and Vantage v 488.
The two fights were never separated by more than a second as ever so slightly different tyre management plans had the gap shrinking and growing lap after lap.
Admittedly, it was on off-weekend for Porsche, the German manufacturer usually adds to a fascinating three-marque fight but punctures and a damper failure but a black mark on their formerly pristine copy book.
MINUS: Ferrari still searching for a breakthrough win
Ending the superseason with a sterling win at the Le Mans 24 Hours was supposed to set the AF Corse-run Ferrari 488 GTE Evo team in contention for a second WEC crown to go with the one earned by James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi in 2017.
Instead, an overly-robust twitch of a foot by Miguel Molina coming out of the pits had the #71 slapped with a stop/go penalty and Calado’s run-off assisted overtake of Maxime Martin led to the race director to command the Brit to hand the place back.
While second for Molina and Davide Rigon is the best result for them this season, the Italian manufacturer is staring at the second half of the season with no wins on the board and a deficit of 38 points to Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim in the drivers’ championship.
There’s just over three months until the return of the Lone Star Le Mans at the Circuit of the Americas, and AF Corse will be hoping to lift the funk settled over the team.
PLUS: LMP2 is gloriously open
GTE Pro is tightly contested, but it can’t hold a candle to LMP2. Four different winners – Cool Racing, Racing Team Nederland, Jota Sport and United Autosports – means the championship fight is covered by just 16 points from first down to fifth. The last spot is occupied by Signatech Alpine, despite just one podium all season.
With all the teams running Oreca 07s, except for Cetilar Racing which is struggling to get a handle on its Dallara, and with talent stacked throughout the field there’s no clear title favourite at the halfway mark of the season with the championship set to go to almost any of the grid.
Consider the fact that the aforementioned Signatech, reigning champions, and Jackie Chan DC Racing – which finished second in the superseason – are yet to stand on the top step of the podium suggests the LMP2 fight is going to go all the way down to the wire and a Le Mans decider.
AND FINALLY: Spring-loaded marshals leap to the aid of battered bollards
Watching the action unfold and suddenly leaping into action, one of the busiest teams at the action-packed 8 Hours of Bahrain was the team of marshals who pulled off a feat of remarkable agility to pick up debris and rescue bollards that took one hell of a beating. Don’t take our word for it though, see for yourself below…
— WEC 🇧🇭🐫 (@FIAWEC) December 14, 2019