Peugeot leads opening Bahrain WEC practice

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Peugeot leads opening Bahrain WEC practice

Le Mans/WEC

Peugeot leads opening Bahrain WEC practice

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The FIA WEC’s final race meeting of 2022 is underway, and it was Peugeot that got off to the best of starts with its 9X8s topping the time in Free Practice 1. The 90-minute session — held amid displays from the Bahrain International Airshow being held in the area surrounding a local airport filling the skies above — was led by Jean-Eric Vergne, who steered the No. 93 to a best lap of 1m50.536s.

Peugeot newcomer Nico Mueller, opened his account with a 1m51.413s in the sister No. 94 Peugeot, good enough for second fastest in the session as the Toyotas and Alpine ran a steady session as they continue to prepare for the title fight on Saturday.

Toyota’s No. 7 GR010 HYBRID came closest to the Peugeots and finished the session third in the hands of Kamui Kobayashi, 0.262s back from the second placed Peugeot with the battling Alpine a tenth further back, fourth fastest with Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre reeling off a 1m51.796s

Joint points leaders with Alpine, the No. 8 Toyota crew of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, ended the session fifth with Buemi setting the fastest time for the car, a 1m51.917s.

In LMP2, Nicklas Nielsen topped the times for AF Corse, the Dane posting a best lap of 1m52.144s, just under two tenths up on Charles Milesi’s best by in the No. 1 Richard Mille Racing 07 Gibson.

An early session time of 1m52.389s for Will Stevens enabled the title-leading No. 38 Jota ORECA that Stevens shares with Antonio Felix da Costa and Roberto Gonzalez to complete the top three in the class running order.

GTE Pro saw Porsche factory man Michael Christensen emerge fastest in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 with a 1m58.025s. It was an encouraging start to the weekend for the Dane and his teammate Kevin Estre, who are looking to overcome an 11-point deficit in the title race on Saturday to AF Corse’s James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi and claim the LMGTE Pro world championship.

The aforementioned title-leading No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari ended up third fastest, Pier Guidi a tenth off the best of the sister No. 52 Ferrari 488 GTE in the hands of Antonio Fuoco who set an early session best of 1m58.261s. Fourth was the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR-19, ahead of the single Corvette C8.R which finished up fifth.

In Am, Ben Barnicoat took the No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR to the top of the class times in the opening session with a best of 1m59.636s.

Next up was Toni Vilander in the No. 21 AF Corse run Ferrari, 0.238s off Barnicoat’s and under a tenth quicker than Ben Barker, who put the No. 86 GR Racing Porsche third fastest.

It was a relatively clean session to start the weekend overall, with just two FCY periods for bollards falling onto the circuit.

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