The 2023 FIA World Endurance Champions will be crowned at Bahrain International Circuit this weekend, following the season-concluding 8 Hours of Bahrain. It will also be a poignant race as it marks a swansong for the LMP2 and the LMGTE Am classes in the series
Thirty-six cars will tackle the 5.412-kilometre Bahrain International Circuit which has been a round of the FIA WEC since its inception back in 2012. The circuit contains long straights, tight corners, elevation changes and ample overtaking opportunities. It is also well-known for its high tyre degradation where nearly 48% of the lap is travelled with a fully-open throttle.
Three titles will be decided in the Middle East including the Hypercar Drivers’ as well as LMP2 Teams’ and Drivers’ championships. With just 15 points separating the leading #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing crew and the sister #7 GR010 Hybrid and a total of 39 points available, the quest for 2023 WEC Hypercar drivers’ glory is all to play for.
Ferrari AF Corse’s James Calado, Antonio Giovinazzi and Alessandro Pier Guidi, driving the #51 Ferrari 499P, are also still in the running for the drivers’ title. Although they are 31 points behind the #8 Toyota, they maintain their chances should Toyota falter. Currently at 97 points, even the crew of the sister #50 Ferrari still has a mathematical chance of taking the title. Among manufacturers, Toyota secured its fifth consecutive top class title last time out at Fuji, during the penultimate round held on its home soil.
The Japanese manufacturer holds an excellent track record in Bahrain, having won the previous six editions. However, a total of five different brands have secured podiums this season, including the likes of Ferrari, Porsche, Cadillac and Peugeot so the competition should be as strong as ever.
Porsche Penske equalled its best performance of the season during the last race at Fuji when Kévin Estre, André Lotterer and Laurens Vanthoor gave Toyota some tough opposition at their home race, leading almost two-thirds of the race and eventually finishing third. Porsche will be battling with Cadillac in Bahrain for third place in the manufacturers’ standings, as the two marques are separated by just five points going into the season finale.
Peugeot TotalEnergies will return to Bahrain for the second time with its pair 9X8s. Nico Müeller, who missed the last race in Fuji due to an injury, returns to the team’s line-up for the final race of the year as the French manufacturer sits fifth in the standings, just 18 points behind Cadillac.
Bahrain will mark the final race for the LMP2 and LMGTE Am categories, which have both been a mainstay in the WEC since its inception back in 2012.
In LMP2, Team WRT are in touching distance of the 2023 Teams’ and Drivers’ Championship trophies after the Belgian team has amassed a healthy lead of 33 points over second-placed Inter Europol Competition. The vice-champion position, however, is wide open with just one point separating second and third-placed Inter Europol Competition and United Autosports.
Meanwhile in LMGTE Am, Corvette Racing’s Ben Keating, Nicholas Varrone and Nicky Catsburg secured the title back in July at Monza, but a win in Bahrain would see the trio set a new points record in GTE Am, beating Aston Martin’s existing record of 198 points. The #33 Corvette currently sits on 164 points, so only a win would break the record.
Behind the 2023 champions, there are six crews with cars from four different manufacturers (Corvette, Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin) battling it out for the vice-champion position. Currently second in the classification with, 79 points, is the Iron Dames crew of Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting, while only 20 points cover third place from P7, with the #54 AF Corse crew followed by the #77 Dempsey-Proton, #25 ORT by TF, the #86 GR Racing and the #83 Richard Mille AF Corse crew.
The on-track action is set to kick off on Thursday, with Qualifying taking place on Friday afternoon. The flag for the 8-hour race will be waved at 14:00 on Saturday, while Sunday will be reserved for the traditional end-of-season WEC Rookie Test.
2023 FIA WEC 8 Hours of Bahrain schedule
Thursday 2 November
FP1: 12:15 – 13:45
FP2: 17:30 – 19:00
Friday 3 November
FP3: 12:00 – 13:00
Qualifying: 16:15 – 17:20
Saturday 4 November
Race: 14:00 – 22:00