The stage is set for a very special weekend at Bahrain International Circuit, with the first-ever Bahrain Motorsport Festival taking centre stage in Sakhir.
Racing gets underway Thursday, flagging off three exciting days of intense competition at “The Home of Motorsport in the Middle East”.
The festival is of huge significance to the international motor racing community. Three of the eight World championships under the International Automobile Federation (FIA) are being decided in the kingdom. They are the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), the CIK-FIA World Championship and the CIK-FIA World Junior Championship, all of which are headlining the festival’s events.
The festival is a massive logistical undertaking, with over 268 drivers from all over the world competing in their various categories and another 1,046 team members playing their parts during the weekend.
Air freight weighing more than 500 tonnes, similar to that of three 747 aircrafts, has been shipped to the kingdom ahead of the event.
The WEC will be staging the final round of its 2016 season with the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain. The karting worlds mark the only CIK-FIA event of the year being held outside of Europe, and it also the most significant at the sport’s grassroots level.
The festival also features a pair of supporting championships in the Bahrain-bred Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East and the India-based MRF Challenge.
On-the-track action begins at 11am on Thursday with the first practice of the MRF, while the Porsche GT3 Cup will begin its proceedings at 11.45am with their first practice session. The world’s best karters will be battling it out at Bahrain International Karting Circuit (BIKC) from 1.25pm with practices.
The WEC field is scheduled to first get out on track at 3pm for their first hour-and-a-half practice session, to be held in daylight. They will return to action for a second practice from 7.30pm under floodlights.
BIC welcomes all race fans to enjoy the action on all three days of the festival. Doors will be open for the public from 11am to 11pm on both Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, the day of the highly anticipated six-hour WEC season-finale, gates will be open from 9.30am to 12midnight.
Tickets cost BD20 apiece for the entire weekend, while those aged 12 years old and below can get in for free. All ticket holders will be able to access both BIC and BIKC and get the maximum experience out of the festival.
WEC drivers’ title up for the taking at the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain
Heading into the FIA WEC Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain, all eyes will be focused on the tightly contested race between the Hybrids of Porsche and Toyota Gazoo Racing for the FIA World Endurance Drivers’ Championship.
Porsche has won six of the eight rounds so far and have already clinched the FIA World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship. Their no. 2 919 Hybrid line-up of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb continue to lead on points despite having not finished on the podium since a win at Le Mans.
“The race in Bahrain is going to be a big day like Le Mans, because there is so much at stake. We need to be 100 per cent focused and cannot afford any mistakes. We have to get this world championship now.”
Teammate Jani said
“The season ending is always special and this year it is even more so. For us it is all about the championship. After having secured the manufacturers’ title, it would be the greatest joy to now seal the drivers’ title as well.”
“A finale with an open title decision is extremely exciting for everyone, and I’m really looking forward to it. Coming fifth in the race would be enough to win the championship.”
Toyota’s resurgence in recent races put the no. 6 TS050 Hybrid of Stephane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi to within 17 points from their Porsche rivals. The Japanese team will be determined to follow up on their recent good form, which included a victory in Japan and a double podium finish in China.
“Bahrain is a circuit I really like as I already had some good results there in the past; I won my first WEC race there and it was the only podium for our car last year. I’m looking forward to the last race of the season as we are still in the fight for the World Championship.”
“We are really excited to go to Bahrain; it’s the last race of the season, which is always a nice event with a special atmosphere. We’re still in the game for the drivers’ title, so we will fight to the end.”
“The most important point for us is that we go to Bahrain still with a chance of the World Championship; that’s going to be our target even if it will not be easy. For me the season has already been fantastic. I know the Bahrain track very well from the past and I enjoy driving there, so I’m feeling pretty confident. I think our car will suit the track so let’s go and fight for the win.”
A further 13.5 points behind in third place are Audi Sport Team Joest’s Loic Duval, Lucas di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis.
Karting world and junior championship featuring 35 countries
Close to 150 drivers from 35 countries are competing in the CIK-FIA World Championship and CIK-FIA World Junior Championship, being held as part of the Bahrain Motorsport Festival.
In the world championship, some of the top names to look out for are CIK-FIA European Champion Pedro Hiltbrand (CRG), his two main rivals Tom Joyner (Zanardi) and outgoing champion Karol Basz (Kosmic). Experienced drivers such as Ben Hanley (Croc Promotions), Felice Tiene (CRG) and Jordon Lennox-Lamb (Birel ART) are others who will surely showcase their skills at the top level.
In the junior worlds, amongst those to look out for are Finlay Kenneally (FA Kart), Noah Watt (Tony Kart), Victor Martins (Kosmic) David Vidales Arenjo (Tony Kart), Sami Taoufik (FA Kart), Caio Jetta Collet (Birel ART), Isac Blomqvist (Tony Kart), or Callum Bradshaw (Tony Kart).
Bahrainis Hussain Hassan and Talal Beshara are also taking part.