Today’s post-season FIA WEC Rookie Test at the Bahrain International Circuit featured plenty of interest, multiple teams and drivers taking to the track for the first time in LMP and GTE machinery.
The biggest story was of course, Fernando Alonso’s run, the two-time Formula 1 world champion trying out a Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 HYBRID and prototype machinery in general for the first time. This, ahead of his planned appearance in the 2018 Rolex 24 At Daytona with United Autosports in an LMP2 Ligier JS P217.
In the session, Alonso was joined by full-time Toyota driver Sebastien Buemi, who set benchmark laps in the No. 8 TS050 before he climbed aboard.
In total, Alonso completed 113 laps of the circuit, clocking up 380 miles of running in the car, his best time a 1m43.013s, putting him second of the three LMP1 rookies who turned laps in the day’s two sessions. Notably, he was just under a second off Buemi’s best time.
“It was a great day,” he said in a statement after the test, the Spaniard choosing to side-step time with the media to focus on the driving. “Testing an LMP1 car is always a nice thing for any racing driver because these cars are amazing to drive. They are very consistent throughout a stint which is a positive thing.
“I have wanted to test a car like this for a long time now and today I could achieve that, so I am happy.”
Elsewhere in the LMP1 class, Pietro Fittipaldi, winner of the final World Series Formula V8 3.5 title this year, turned laps in the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid. The Brazillian, who earned the chance to test by winning the single-seater series title, set a best time of 1m42.275s, making him the fastest of the rookies present in LMP1, and one of the last drivers to drive a Porsche 919 Hybrid in the process.
The third and final rookie driving a factory hybrid was Frenchman Thomas Laurent, who won the Le Mans 24 Hours’ LMP2 class this year with Jackie Chan DC Racing and finished runner up in the title race.
“I really enjoyed it today,” he said. “It was my first time in an LMP1 car and it is the best car I have driven in my career. The downforce, the hybrid boost, the braking; it was all very impressive. I would love to drive a car like this again. Big thanks to Toyota Gazoo Racing. The team welcomed me really well. All the mechanics, engineers and management were very friendly, which I really appreciate.”
In the GTE ranks, Porsche GT Team and AF Corse used the track time for tire testing with Michelin, the former also putting LMP1 factory drivers Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber in one of its 911 RSRs to gain them further experience in the car ahead of their expected return to full-time GTE racing in 2018.