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10 issues we realized from the 2023 WEC 8 Hours of Bahrain

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The Bahrain 8 Hours noticed Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa get pleasure from a straightforward run from pole place to win the 2023 Hypercar title within the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid. The sister #7 automobile shared by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez, which got here to the weekend with 4 wins out of the primary six races, was by no means within the battle for victory after Cadillac driver Earl Bamber spun Conway at first.

Within the LMP2 class’s remaining WEC look outdoors of Le Mans 24 Hours, WRT underlined its credentials as soon as once more with Robert Kubica, Rui Andrade and Louis Deletraz profitable the race from tenth on the grid within the #41 ORECA 07. In the meantime GTE vehicles acquired a correct send-off, because the Iron Dames trio of Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy and Rahel Frey took a historic GTE Am victory of their Porsche 911 RSR-19.

Listed here are 10 issues we realized from WEC 8 Hours of Bahrain.

1. The Ferrari 499P may be straightforward on its tyres (Gary Watkins)

Photograph by: Shameem Fahath

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Ferrari now must stability its tyre put on beneficial properties and efficiency

Ferrari reckoned it had the most consistent car over a double stint at Bahrain. That’s a little bit of a turnaround on condition that the 499P has lagged behind Toyota, Cadillac and, not too long ago, Porsche in coping with tyre degradation within the WEC this 12 months.

Ferrari and the manufacturing unit AF Corse workforce didn’t have a quick automobile across the Bahrain Worldwide Circuit. That’s why it went all out to optimise tyre life on the hard-compound Michelin tyre: in contrast to Toyota and Porsche, it didn’t use the medium within the race.

We’ve seen this trade-off earlier than. Bear in mind Antonio Fuoco’s blinding pole lap on the Sebring season-opener after which the struggles with the tyres that adopted within the race? Subsequent day trip in Portimao, Ferrari had a extra constant automobile however misplaced one thing in outright efficiency.

The duty that lies forward of Ferrari this winter is to get on phrases with Toyota et al on tyre deg whereas retaining the 499P’s outright efficiency.

2. Porsche there, however not fairly, in Hypercar (Rachit Thukral)

Porsche's Hypercar debut season saw it pick up just two podiums

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Porsche’s Hypercar debut season noticed it choose up simply two podiums

The Porsche 963 was moderately aggressive across the Bahrain Worldwide Circuit on Saturday, even when not one of the 4 vehicles completed on the final remaining spot on the rostrum behind the mighty Toyotas. The manufacturing unit #6 963 misplaced an excessive amount of floor at first after Laurens Vanthoor needed to take evasive motion when the Cadillac and the #7 Toyota got here to blows underneath braking for Flip 1.

A fifth-place consequence in the long run for Vanthoor, Andre Lotterer and Kevin Estre wasn’t the sort of consequence Porsche Penske had been in search of however was roughly in step with the #6 crew’s common ending place within the season.

The Jota squad was capable of get extra efficiency out of the 963 and may have achieved a maiden Hypercar podium had Antonio Felix da Costa not run vast at Flip 1 and picked up a drive-through penalty for rejoining the observe in an unsafe method. A formidable restoration drive from the Portuguese driver and an equally outstanding double stint from Will Stevens introduced the #38 crew inside 0.9s of the #51 Ferrari on the chequered flag.

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In a manner, the consequence encapsulated Jota’s first (half) season within the prime class, because the workforce had proven repeatedly that it might battle close to the entrance, solely to by no means truly convert that pace right into a prime consequence.

3. A heavily-revised Peugeot 9X8 can’t come quickly sufficient (GW)

Serious changes are coming for the wingless wonder Peugeot

Photograph by: Shameem Fahath

Critical modifications are coming for the wingless marvel Peugeot

Peugeot lastly admitted over the Bahrain weekend that it is undertaking a significant upgrade of its 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar for subsequent season. One other disappointing efficiency for the automobile on a circuit wholly unsuited to the avant-garde contender prompt it’s lengthy overdue.

The Steadiness of Efficiency merely can’t work its magic on the 9X8 throughout the vary of circuits visited by the WEC. The automobile was within the combine on the Le Mans 24 Hours in June and took a primary podium at Monza in July, however at Fuji after which at Bahrain it has, fairly frankly, been nowhere.

The traction-limited automobile struggled within the sluggish corners that proliferate on the final two circuits on the 2023 WEC path. A transfer to wider a rear tyre because it abandons the equal measurement rims all spherical is a part of the overhaul of the Peugeot. That may entail shifting the burden distribution and the centre of aerodynamic stress rearwards, so anticipate to see some sort of rear wing on the automobile as nicely.

4. By no means bump begin your automobile in first gear (GW)

Toyota needed to bump start its #8 car during the Bahrain race

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Toyota wanted to bump begin its #8 automobile throughout the Bahrain race

These versed within the methods of bangernomics who’re used to flat batteries will already know too nicely that it’s simpler to bump begin your automobile in second or third relatively than first gear. Toyota’s actions when it encountered a clutch situation on the race-winning GR010 HYBRID in Bahrain may have supplied an important bit of data for these whose every day drivers are that little bit extra fashionable to file someplace of their recollections.

Toyota’s downside meant it couldn’t deliver the twin-turbo V6 to life within the pits on the starter motor, so it needed to bump the automobile utilizing the front-axle hybrid system. So not a lot a push begin as a pull begin!

PLUS: The “intense” issues Toyota navigated for WEC title glory in Bahrain

Chilly tyres — no tyre heaters now within the WEC, bear in mind — and a slippery pitlane floor meant the entrance wheels had been spinning and the rears simply dragging alongside and failing to crank the engine. The answer was for the Toyota drivers to have interaction the next ratio — they opted for second — for the getaway to begin the rear wheels turning.

It’s not the primary time we’ve seen some intelligent lateral considering within the Toyota storage.

5. Kubica is Jota-bound for 2023 (GW)

Kubica will step up to the Hypercar class next year

Photograph by: Shameem Fahath

Kubica will step as much as the Hypercar class subsequent 12 months

Jota hasn’t made any secret of the truth that Robert Kubica is likely one of the ex-System 1 megastars it’s speaking to about becoming a member of its expanded two-car squad of Porsche 963 LMDhs for subsequent 12 months. However it now appears sure that the Polish driver will transfer as much as the highest class of the WEC after three seasons in LMP2.

Formally “negotiations are shifting in the direction of a conclusion”, in line with Jota workforce principal Sam Hignett, however the ‘will he received’t he’ saga of Kubica’s participation within the official WEC rookie check the day after the Bahrain 8 Hours suggests it’s just about a carried out deal.

Each workforce and driver had been saying an early outing aboard the Hertz-sponsored 963 in Bahrain was potential however nonetheless undecided on race day, however in the long run, the veteran of 99 grand prix begins was nowhere to be seen on Sunday. He did, in spite of everything, have a championship victory to celebrate after taking the P2 title with WRT team-mates Louis Deletraz and Rui Andrade.

6. Race mechanics are nonetheless able to transcend the decision of obligation (GW)

The #31 car crew chief took one for the team to rescue a result

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

The #31 automobile crew chief took one for the workforce to rescue a consequence

The #31 WRT ORECA misplaced the LMP2 victory at Bahrain courtesy of an issue with the wheel nut on the left entrance wheel on the final spherical of pitstops. It was heart-breaking for Robin Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg and Sean Gelael after a drive that ought to have been rewarded with a primary victory of the season, however at the least they completed second because of the efforts of one of many workforce’s mechanics.

When the wheel gun wouldn’t go on the nut, the workforce introduced the opposite wheel gun into play, which additionally wouldn’t seat appropriately. The answer was old-fashioned: a decided mechanic, Matthieu Bermand, crew chief on #31, used his hand as a hammer and easily bludgeoned the factor on.

Frijns was on his manner after dropping simply over 20s and simply took second behind the sister automobile. That was the excellent news. The dangerous information was the ache our courageous mechanic discovered himself in.

Fortunately a visit to the circuit medical centre revealed nothing was damaged.

7. Prime-grade GT drivers can shortly transition to prototype equipment (RT)

Rossi was the star name in the WEC rookie test but plenty others stood out

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Rossi was the star identify within the WEC rookie check however lots others stood out

Valentino Rossi generated loads of headlines when he became a last-minute addition to WEC’s now-traditional Bahrain rookie test. And whereas the seven-time MotoGP champion did an inexpensive job when he received to drive an LMP2 automobile for the primary time on Sunday, there have been a number of different drivers whose performances went largely underneath the radar.

GTE Am champion Nicolas Varrone, particularly, was spectacular straight out of the gates within the morning session, as he put the Cadillac V-Sequence.R second within the timesheets behind the Jota Porsche pushed by full-timer Will Stevens. Whereas missing a full-fledged contract like Nicky Catsburg, or the model identify that Ben Keating has constructed as a gentleman driver through the years, Varrone performed an important position in Corvette’s GTE Am success in 2023 as its designated silver driver.

PLUS: The other Dutch racing ace enjoying a standout 2023

How he was capable of shortly adapt to the automobile was additional proof that top-line GT drivers can transition to modern prototype equipment, whether or not LMDh or LMH. Whereas the LMP2 class can play an vital position in honing the abilities of a driver aiming to compete within the prime division, anticipate producers to proceed to choose drivers from the GT ranks for his or her Hypercar or IMSA’s GTP programmes.

8. GTE vehicles shall be missed (RT)

History was made in more ways than one as WEC said goodbye to GTE

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Historical past was made in additional methods than one as WEC mentioned goodbye to GTE

WEC bid goodbye to much-loved GTE vehicles following Saturday’s remaining spherical of the season in Bahrain. Whereas solely fractionally faster than the GT3 equipment they are going to be changed by in 2024, GTE vehicles had a lot much less in frequent with the manufacturing vehicles they had been based mostly on and felt extra like thoroughbred racers. It’s maybe no shock that they had been beloved by each skilled and gents drivers, a few of whom are dissuaded from persevering with within the championship subsequent 12 months due to the transfer to much less subtle and ABS-equipped GT3 vehicles.

The 2 GTE lessons had been extraordinarily widespread amongst followers too, particularly within the late 2010s when a number of producers flooded the all-Professional division. Whereas the GTE Professional division had been on a steady decline after 2019 and was phased out completely final 12 months, GTE Am continued to draw robust entries and remained an vital fixture of the championship.

PLUS: When GTE Pro stole the show at Le Mans

It was maybe becoming that the last-ever GTE Am race featured an thrilling battle that went to the ultimate hour, in distinction to the Hypercar battle that was successfully determined at Flip 1. And the ultimate consequence created historical past for extra causes than one, as Iron Dames’ Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting and Rahel Frey became the first all-female crew to win in the WEC.

9. LMP2 demise will change the character of WEC (RT)

WEC also waved farewell to LMP2 - which will only be run at Le Mans 24 Hours from next season

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

WEC additionally waved farewell to LMP2 – which is able to solely be run at Le Mans 24 Hours from subsequent season

For the reason that rebirth of WEC in 2012, the championship has at all times been house to a few completely different vehicles and, till the start of this 12 months, 4 separate classes. However the face of WEC will considerably change in 2024 when it’s going to drop down to simply two lessons, one for prototype equipment and the opposite for GT3 vehicles, with LMP2 diminished to taking part solely in IMSA, the European Le Mans Sequence and Asian Le Mans Sequence.

Whereas LMP2 was a powerful class in its personal proper and featured some very credible groups and drivers, a few of whom will transfer as much as the Hypercar division subsequent 12 months, its departure may have a far-reaching affect on the very nature of racing in WEC.

Opinion: The inevitable Le Mans change that will still be lamented

Whereas site visitors administration will proceed to play a job because of the brand new LMGT3 division, there shall be no LMP2 vehicles to carry up Hypercar drivers as they make their manner by means of the observe whereas preserving their direct rivals behind.

The opening lap crash between the Vanwall LMH and two United Autosports LMP2 vehicles in Bahrain? There shall be none of that subsequent 12 months. The sheer tempo distinction between LMDh/LMH and GT3 vehicles means there’s prone to be little or no crossover between the 2 classes from 2024.

10. Thrilling title showdowns in WEC nonetheless one other 12 months away (RT)

Le Mans 24 Hours aside, Toyota dominated the 2023 WEC season

Photograph by: Shameem Fahath

Le Mans 24 Hours apart, Toyota dominated the 2023 WEC season

When you had anticipated an exciting, down-to-the-wire title battle in WEC this 12 months following the return of Porsche, Ferrari and Cadillac to the highest echelon of sportscar racing, the occasions of Saturday’s Bahrain 8 Hours would have left you sorely disenchanted.

Even earlier than the weekend started, the title battle was virtually down to simply the 2 Toyotas, with the #50 Ferrari having not more than a mathematical probability of profitable the championship. Pole place in qualifying for the #8 Toyota crew additional dampened hopes of an thrilling showdown, because it meant that Buemi, Hartley and Hirakawa would be capable to win the championship even with a third-place end.

Ultimately, there was no battle between the 2 Toyotas crews for positions or the championship, with Conway’s #7 machine despatched spinning down the pack at first of the race after contact with Bamber’s out-of-control Cadillac.

The #8 Toyota might cruise out entrance from there on, bringing what was in any other case a largely thrilling season to an anti-climactic finish.

The 2024 WEC season starts with the prologue in Qatar on 24-25 February

Photograph by: Shameem Fahath

The 2024 WEC season begins with the prologue in Qatar on 24-25 February

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