All five Drivers’ Championships remain up for grabs as the WEC makes its annual visit to the Middle East, which retains its now traditional date on the calendar for the season finale. And in the Hypercar World Endurance Drivers’ Championship, things couldn’t be closer as the top two crews from the competing brands arrive in Bahrain tied on points.
The Signatech-powered Alpine A480 started the season in the best possible way with a win at Sebring, with Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Matthieu Vaxiviere earning another top score at Monza to extend their lead en route to Japan. But at the first running of the Fuji 6 Hours since 2019, Alpine were no match for the Toyota GR010 HYBRIDs as a one-two led the Le Mans 24 Hours winning trio of the number 8 Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa Winner Takes All Title Decider.
The form book certainly favors Toyota for the In-the-Night race, only the second eight-hour race on the calendar after Sebring. It has won in the desert seven times since the WEC began in 2012, with Buemi taking the spoils on three of those occasions, while Alpine finished third in both last year’s six- and eight-hour editions. But any reliability weakness, like the one that caused the #8 crew to retire at Spa, will certainly be attacked by the ultra-consistent Alpine, who have never finished lower than fourth this season.
The #7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose María Lopez remains mathematically contested, although the 2019-20 and 2021 champions are 26 points behind and need a non-finish for their rivals to secure a third title on Spin .
Bahrain is the third race for Peugeot’s pair of 9X8 Le Mans hypercars and the first opportunity to see Nico Muller in action with the French marque. The longtime Audi racer will make an early debut at Peugeot to replace James Rossiter, who has retired from driving to prepare for his new role as team principal of Maserati’s Formula E efforts, another Stellantis brand focus. Joining forces with Gustavo Menezes and Loic Duval, a winner in Bahrain at Audi’s 2016 WEC farewell, Muller will be keen to make a good first impression as Peugeot look to claim a first podium on their prototype racing return.
In the manufacturers’ championship battle, which is calculated on the basis of each manufacturer’s best finisher, Toyota has a 26-point lead over Alpine.
#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Paul Di Resta, Mikkel Jensen, Jean-Eric Vergne
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
The class struggles
The GTE Pro competition will be no less fiercely contested as the class bid farewell with one final battle between the Ferrari and Porsche factory teams before they enter the hypercar arena next year.
Reigning champions Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado in the #51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo have an 11-point lead over Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen’s #92 Porsche 911 RSR-19, while Porsche’s second car is also in the running. Ex-Ferrari man Gianmaria Bruni in the number 91 machine is a further three points adrift and could become the first driver to win the title solo since Richard Lietz in 2015 after the Austrian – Bruni’s regular co-driver – retired from Monza on a positive Missed COVID -19 exam.
The momentum between the two rival manufacturers has ebbed and flowed throughout the season, with each winning two of the five rounds played to date. Only at Fuji did Pier Guidi and Calado become the year’s first double winners, while the #52 sister Ferrari of Miguel Molina and Antonio Fuoco edged out 2018-19 champions Estre and Christensen to third place by deftly assisting their teammates .
It remains too close to decide, especially with the lone Corvette Racing C8.R of Monza winners Nick Tandy and Tommy Milner trying to get into the mix. They will be equally determined to end the year – and the GTE Pro era – on a high note before the American marque climbs the ranks of the GTE Am next year and could play a crucial role in the bottom line.
The point for pole is also highly valued. If the #51 Ferrari takes the top spot, it can afford to finish second and still clinch the title.
Ferrari is just a point ahead of Porsche in the manufacturers’ standings as the Italian marque aims for a seventh GT manufacturers’ crown in the WEC era. Porsche has won it twice, most recently in the 2018-19 season.
Aston Martin may no longer feature in GTE Pro, but the British marque will claim GTE Am title wins for the first time since 2017, with TF Sport and Prodrive-powered NorthWest AMR teams battling for the honor.
The dramatic fall of Henrique Chaves at Monza was the only major hiccup so far for TF points leaders Ben Keating and Marco Sorensen, who topped their Le Mans win with Fuji and failed to finish second this season an excellent season. They have a 20-point lead over Sebring winners Paul dalla Lana, Nicki Thiim and David Pittard and can secure the title with fourth place – with 38 points available for victory over the eight-hour distance.
#51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO GTE-PRO: Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado
Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images
Only a major mishap will prevent the #38 Jota ORECA crew of Antonio Felix da Costa, Will Stevens and Roberto Gonzalez from securing the LMP2 title. The trio have a 28-point lead after finishing second at Fuji last time out – missing out on victory with a splash-and-dash just four minutes from the end – and can secure the crown with sixth place.
Still, the #23 United Autosports ORECA pursuer, who will be shared by Oliver Jarvis and Josh Pierson with Alex Lynn, has plenty to do as the Anglo-American team look not only to break open Jota’s armour, but also to defend the challenge of their second place finish. Realteam by WRT – featuring Ferdinand Habsburg, Norman Nato and Rui Andrade – are just six points adrift, while victory at Fuji put WRT drivers Robin Frijns and Sean Gelael in fourth place, another two points back.
The LMP2 Pro/Am sub-class also remains undecided, with reigning GTE-Am champions Francois Perrodo, Nicklas Nielsen and Alessio Rovera currently leading the standings. To secure a fourth WEC title for Perrodo, the #83 AF Corse crew will need to defend an eight-point lead over Algarve Pro Racing trio Steven Thomas, James Allen and Rene Binder after three previous GTE Am triumphs.
Complete session times for the Bahrain 8 Hours in 2022
Thursday, November 10, 2022
Free Practice 1: 09:15 – 10:45 GMT (12:15 – 13:45 local time)
Free Practice 2: 14:30-16:00 GMT (17:30-19:00 local time)
Friday 11 November 2022
Free Practice 3: 08:00 – 09:00 GMT (11:00 – 12:00 local time)
Qualifier 1: 13:50-14:00 GMT (16:50-17:00 local time)
Qualifier 2: 14:10 – 14:20 GMT (17:10 – 17:20 local time)
Saturday 12 November 2022
Race: 11:00 – 19:00 GMT (14:00 – 22:00 local time)
#56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR – 19 LMGTE Am: Egidio Perfetti, Matteo Cairoli, Riccardo Pera
Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images
How can I watch the Bahrain 8 Hours?
The 8 Hours of Bahrain can be viewed via the Motorsport.tv streaming service, which offers fans a weekly schedule of live racing and on-demand content. A monthly subscription, which includes live WEC coverage, access to the Duke Motorsport archive and the exclusive full 24 hour Le Mans archive, costs £4.79 or £39.99 on an annual basis.
Fans can download the official WEC app, which gives fans English-language commentary on all sessions, as well as access to live timing and highlights. Within the app, a full season pack costs £23.99, allowing users across five devices to watch the live feed and access exclusive onboard camera footage. For further information, click here.
The race can also be viewed via the Discovery+ streaming service, which costs £6.99 a month or £59.99 annually.
Reports will follow after each session on Motorsport.com and a full race analysis will be available to read on Monday.
Weather forecast for the 8 hours from Bahrain
The weather will be hot and sunny for the 8 hours of Bahrain before night falls with a very low chance of rain and maximum temperatures of 32 degrees Celsius.