The 8 Hours of Bahrain this weekend will mark the halfway point of the 2019-2020 FIA World Endurance Championship season.
For its return to Sakhir, the Signatech Alpine Elf team targets a podium finish to remain right in the race for the title.
Currently third in the LMP2 general classification, Thomas Laurent, André Negrão and Pierre Ragues wish to finish 2019 in style.
After receiving on Monday one of the few and prestigious Volant d’Or at the FFSA awards ceremony as reward for its accomplishments, the team will accept on Sunday evening the FIA LMP2 Trophy for its 2018-2019 Super-Season title.
The FIA World Endurance Championship kicked off in September at Silverstone and is now about to reach the mid-season mark as it completes its Asian swing this week at Sakhir.
After a year’s absence, the Bahrain International Circuit, and its unique challenges, is back on the calendar. The 5.412km layout offers a little bit of everything with its 15 corners and more importantly a track surface where the grip level is put to the test by the desert sand surrounding the track.
The Signatech Alpine Elf team has enjoyed success in the Arabian Gulf, where it claimed its first pole position in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2015. In the fight for the podium, Les Bleus had to settle for fourth place after contact with an LMP1 car.
Arriving a year later having already clinched its first LMP2 world title, the n°36 Alpine took another pole before concluding a victorious campaign with a seventh podium in nine races.
Charged to defend the crown in 2017, the Alpine A470 showed its speed in dominating qualifying to take the third successive pole for the team on this circuit before the trio of drivers went on to finish fourth.
This week, however, things will be different as the defending LMP2 champions will be shod with Michelin tyres for the first time in Bahrain while the race format will be extended from six to eight hours to offer more strategy options as well as more points.
Despite the changes, the Philippe Sinault led team will try their best in what is an extremely competitive championship, which has already seen three different crews win in the first three rounds of the season. In fact, it is so tight in the general classification, any one of the eight teams entered for the full season could leave Sakhir with the lead!
Third thanks to their solid consistency in the opening rounds, Thomas Laurent, André Negrão and Pierre Ragues have just one goal: return to the podium to keep the pressure on their rivals before the winter break
Held ahead of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s National Day, the race weekend will begin Thursday with two free-practice sessions, including one at night. After the third free-practice session, the field will qualify Friday afternoon. The 8 Hours of Bahrain will start Saturday at 15h00 local time (GMT+2) before the sun gradually sets in the land of a thousand and one nights.
The action continues Sunday with the rookie tests, when ELMS LMP3 champion Mikkel Jensen from Denmark will be behind the wheel of the Alpine A470. Meanwhile, Thomas Laurent will be busy in LMP1 with Toyota Gazoo Racing.
The 2018-2019 Super Season awards ceremony will follow Sunday evening. Signatech Alpine will receive their trophy, crowning a campaign that saw the Alpine A470 stamp its authority on the World Endurance Championship LMP2 category with eight podiums from eight races, including two victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, echoing the prestigious Volant d’Or awarded by the FFSA this Monday at the Théâtre du Châtelet.
Philippe Sinault, Team principal Signatech Alpine Elf
“After the frustration at Fuji where an incident took us out of contention for the win, we finished where we should have in Shanghai. Fourth place, however, was not satisfactory and we are pushing hard to regain our status. Despite a start to the season not as strong as in previous years, we are nonetheless third in the championship. This shows once again that consistency will be crucial when it comes time to add up the points. With the Bahrain round comes an important variable: that of an eight-hour race. Other than the fact that there will be more points on offer, it offers a profile of driving time and strategies that open up more opportunities. One of the characteristics will also be that most of the race will be run at night. Traction and driveability will also be major issues as the sand on the track literally cuts the rear tyres. It will be important to take special care with the left-rear. The target is clear for this final race of the calendar year: we want to return to the podium to finish on a high note and enjoy the holidays!”
Timetable (CET times)
THURSDAY 12 DECEMBER
12h00-13h30: free-practice 1
16h30-18h00: free-practice 2
FRIDAY 13 DECEMBER
9h15-10h15: free-practice 3
15h10-15h30: qualifying LMP1 / LMP2
SATURDAY 14 DECEMBER
13h00-21h00: 8 Hours of Bahrain