Pre-race notebook for the Six Hours of Bahrain
***Neel Jani says Porsche will adopt a safety-first approach to today’s Six Hours of Bahrain. With a 17-point lead, the No. 2 Porsche needs only to finish fifth to take the title, regardless of what the No. 6 Toyota does. If the Toyota doesn’t win, the Porsche can afford to finish 10th overall and still win the title on count backb of wins. “We don’t have to do anything exceptional to achieve something exceptional,” Jani said.
***While LMP2 was wrapped up by Signatech-Alpine in Shanghai, runner-up is still available for Roman Rusinov, who is 11 points behind the RGR Sport trio of Ricardo Gonzalez, Bruno Senna and Filipe Albuquerque. If Rusinov, Alex Brundle and Rene Rast win, with RGR finishing fourth or lower, Rusinov will take second. The Mexican squad will take second with any podium finish.
***GTE-Pro remains the tightest of the three classes still up for grabs, with just 10 points separating Ferrari from Aston Martin in the GT Manufacturers Cup, and four cars from three manufacturers still in contention for the GT Drivers title. Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen can win the title with a third place finish, regardless of what AF Corse’s Sam Bird and Davide Rigon do.
***Class victory for Bird and Rigon with Thiim and Sorensen fourth or lower would give them the title. The No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE of Gianmaria Bruni and James Calado, and the No. 66 Ford GT of Olivier Pla and Stefan Muecke have an outside chance, each 21 points behind.
***With a 25-point lead over Aston Martin Racing, Emmanuel Collard, Francois Perrodo and Rui Aguas will need to only complete 70 percent of the race distance to be crowned GTE-Am class champions. The trio nearly locked up the title on Friday, having narrowly missed out on pole, which awards one bonus point.
***Toyota’s Pascal Vasselon is upbeat about their chances today, despite a non-representative qualifying effort due to both TS050 Hybrids losing their fastest times for exceeding track limits. “It’s another race where we should be in a configuration similar to Fuji,” he told Sportscar365.
***Marcel Fassler believes emotions will be flowing within the Audi garage in the closing stages of this evening’s race, the final for the German manufacturer in LMP1 competition. “Maybe [then] you start to realize when you hand over the car that might be the last ride in this car. That is for sure a very special moment,” he told Sportscar365.
***Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish are among the retired Audi LMP1 drivers in attendance today to witness the manufacturer’s final race. The nine-time Le Mans winner arrived this morning for the sendoff.
***Volkswagen announced on Friday that it will cut 30,000 jobs globally in order to save a reported $3.9 Billion. The 5 percent reduction in workforce will be in place through 2025, per labor contracts. The cuts come in the wake of Audi’s withdrawal from WEC, as well as VW’s pullout from the World Rally Championship.
***Roman Rusinov is unlikely to return to Jota Sport next year, with the Russian, who has been provisionally upgraded to Gold rating, having been linked with another LMP2 team. It would mark the fourth different team in the last five years with the G-Drive backing. However, Jota Sport team principal Sam Hignett denied reports of Rusinov’s departure and told Sportscar365 that all indications are that he would return to his team, as long as his driver rating remains Silver.
***Jota is believed to be finalizing plans for a two-car Oreca 07 Gibson effort next year, with one car each in the WEC and ELMS, and two at the Six Hours of Spa and 24 Hours of Le Mans, pending entries.
***The final entry list for the Rookie Test will be released on Sunday morning. A total of 15 cars are expected, with late entries for ex-Formula One driver Robert Kubica already confirmed.
***Aston Martin Racing will test six drivers across two of its Vantage GTE cars. TF Sport drivers Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey will be joined by Oman Racing’s Ahmad Al Harthy, 2015 Evolution Acacdemy winner Ross Gunn and fellow Brits Alex Lynn and Matthew Perry.
***The No. 31 Tequila Patron ESM Ligier JS P2 Nissan is sporting “Simply Perfect” graphics this weekend, in lieu of Tequila Patron, due to alcohol laws. The Florida-based team makes its final WEC race appearance, as the Scott Sharp and Ed Brown-led operation returns to full-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition next year.
***United Autosports co-owner Richard Dean is among the handful of team principals in the paddock this weekend to work on 2017 program. Dean, however, said the Anglo-American team is not planning a WEC effort, with his current focus on building up his new ELMS LMP2 effort. “The new project to set up the P2 team is why I’m here,” he told Sportscar365. “It’s going to be busy but it’s only one more car.”
***Manor Sporting Director Graeme Lowdon revealed the livery of its Oreca 05 Nissan was inspired from a concept designed by his daughter. He told Sportscar365 there was an emphasis on making the car appear wider “like an early 90s Group C car.”
***Watch the start of the Six Hours of Bahrain, live on FOX Sports 1, beginning at 8 a.m. ET, before moving over to FOX Sports GO for the remainder of the race one hour later.
James Newbold contributed to this report