The morning after the 8 Hours of Bahrain, the FIA World Endurance Championship teams were back at work in the official series Rookie Test on the Bahrain International Circuit, where a number of new talents to the series and a prominent returning veteran got a chance to show their stuff.
For a number of years, the WEC Rookie Test has provided young and talented drivers the opportunity to get a taste of the performance of the factory LMP1 Hybrids at the end of the season. Current Toyota development driver Thomas Laurent got a chance in 2017, the last time the Bahrain race meeting formed the season finale, while the sister car that year gave Fernando Alonso his first public test in the car that he would go on to win at Le Mans with twice, and take a world championship title the following season.
With the transition to a calendar spanning the winter months, the test is no longer at the end of the season’s racing, although it does complete the calendar year’s WEC meetings — and in this case, the decade’s too!
For this year’s test, the WEC nominated a driver apiece for each class:
- 2019 F2 champion, soon to be Mercedes Formula E driver and Fuji WEC LMP2 race winner Dutchman Nyck de Vries got the nod in the No. 8 Toyota,
- Denmark’s Mikkel Jensen, ex-BMW Junior driver and current European Le Mans Series LMP3 champion, was nominated for a test in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine LMP2.
- Standout emerging LMP2 talent and 2018 ELMS LMP3 champion Job van Uitert got his first taste of a GTE car with a run in the No. 92 factory Porsche 911 RSR GTE Pro car.
- Ex-Bentley factory driver and now GT3 driver for Mercedes AMG team AKKA ASP, Vincent Abril, was nominated in the No. 57 Team Project 1 GTE Am 911 RSR — although in this case it was a car he knew well, having raced an identical car in the WEC twice this year.
- Ex-Corvette Racing factory driver Jan Magnussen was out and testing an LMP2 car for the first time, the Dane eyeing the ELMS and Le Mans 24 Hours, potentially for a future effort alongside his son, F1 driver Kevin Magnussen. For the elder Magnussen, it was his first drive in an LMP car since 2005 when he raced at Spa in the Lister Storm LMP, although he raced in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in later years in Daytona Prototypes.
Magnussen tested with Danish WEC and ELMS LMP2 team High Class Racing and was second fastest in the class, running in a rain-affected two hour morning session.
“I was really pleased,” he told RACER. “This was all I needed to confirm that I want to do a Le Mans program with High Class next year. The team is incredibly professional. But even after 30 laps I couldn’t just jump in and race the car tomorrow.
“I might as well have never driven a prototype — the difference between the ORECA and the previous LMP cars I’ve driven is huge! I’ve looked at the data, though, and I know what I need to do to iron out all the errors I made trying to drive it like a GT car.”
At the top of the test times were the pair of factory Toyota Hybrids and, of the guest drivers, 2019 Japanese Super GT champion Kenta Yamashita was quickest in the No. 7 Toyota TS050 with a 1m44.075s. It should be noted, though, that the car was running without the Success Handicap weight and boost restrictions it carries at present in the WEC.
F2 champion de Vries, meanwhile, posted a best of 1m44.561s, a fine effort in a car fundamentally unlike anything he has driven before.