The finale of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship is held at Sakhir International Circuit in Bahrain, with the drivers’ title still to be settled during Saturday’s six-hour race (19 November). The drivers’ and GT manufacturers’ FIA World Cups, along with the LM GTE Pro and Am teams’ and drivers’ FIA Endurance Trophies will also be contested.
The Bahrain venue is frequently the scene of some close, exciting racing but the teams and drivers know how important getting tyre strategy right there can be. Forecasters are predicting ideal mild, dry conditions for the last round of the 2016 FIA WEC. The thermometer is not expected to exceed 27°C, which suggests track temperatures of around 35°C for the start before they begin to fall during the late-afternoon and evening. In addition to the heat, the other challenge for competitors and tyres is the phenomenon of sand being blown onto the technically challenging 5.412km track.
Looking ahead to the race, Michelin, which will supply 1,700 tyres for 17 cars across the classes, states that conditions are likely to evolve significantly over the course of the race as the coating of sand is swept aside and rubber is laid down in its place. This could lead the teams to favour starting on the Michelin Soft Hot Weather Plus option, before swapping to the Hot Weather variant during the evening. Tyre management and strategy consequently stand to have a big influence on the outcome as the teams endeavour to have the ideal covers on their respective cars at the right time.
Like many of today’s modern racing facilities, Sakhir International Circuit was designed by German architect Hermann Tilke, in 2002. Its layout features a number of short straights and slow turns which call for repeated heavy braking and hard re-acceleration, always a tough cocktail for tyres.
In the GT Manufacturers’ showdown, there are only 10 points in it between Ferrari and Aston Martin, while Ford – although 39.5 points short of the Italian make – is still in with a shout thanks to its recent one-two finish in Shanghai.
In the LM GTE Pro Drivers’ battle, the crew of the N°95 Aston Martin V8 Vantage (Sorensen/Thiim) is 12 points clear of Rigon/Bird (N°71 Ferrari 488 GTE). Pla/Mücke (N°66 Ford GT) and Bruni/Calado (N°51 Ferrari 488 GTE) are also still in contention but are a further nine points back.
In LM GTE Am, AF Corse’s Perrodo/Collard/Aguas (N°83 Ferrari F458 Italia) are 25 points clear of Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda (N°98 Aston Martin V8 Vantage), so the former only need to reach the finish to clinch the title.
Finally, Ford Chip Ganassi UK will be challenging Aston Martin for the LM GTE Pro Team’s Endurance Trophy, while AF Corse has an enviable cushion of 25 points in the LM GTE Am championship.