Alonso leads Red Bulls in final practice

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Fernando Alonso has finished the final practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix quickest ahead of qualifying later today.

The Ferrari driver posted a fastest lap of 1:33.247 to edge out the Red Bull pairing of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Alonso, like most of the field, set his fastest time on the medium compound tire, although Felipe Massa could not improve on the options and ended up P11.

Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton followed the Red Bulls, although a tire failure caused severe damage to the Briton’s Mercedes W04 after the checkered flag had fallen. Romain Grosjean showed signs of improvement by finishing 6th, with Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta finishing 7th and 8th for Force India, continuing their good form. Compatriots Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten for Mercedes and Sauber respectively.

McLaren continued to stuggle in Bahrain, with Jenson Button and Sergio Perez only capable of finishing 12th and 13th. The Mexican driver is in need of a good result following the worst start by a McLaren rookie in over twenty years.

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Many drivers were caught out as they tried to push their cars to the limit in Bahrain, with Alonso even finding the gravel at one stage. Vettel had a run in with Charles Pic late on in the session as the Caterham driver attempted to reclaim track position, but it was even worse for Marussia. Max Chilton suffered a KERS failure, whilst a fire on Jules Bianchi’s car temporarily halted his running. Neither driver could beat Pic, who was easily the quickest backmarker.

The battle for pole position looks set to be a close one with four teams all in with a chance of starting at the front for tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix. However, it appears that three-time winner in Bahrain Fernando Alonso is best placed to claim his first pole position of the season following a strong performance in FP3.

MORE: Watch qualifying and the Bahrain Grand Prix online or on your phone or tablet

The Callaway Corvette GT3 is coming to America, in PWC

Photo: Callaway Competition USA
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Pirelli World Challenge has been in need of some good news from a car count standpoint early into this offseason, and receives it Monday with confirmation Callaway Competition will bring its GT3-spec homologated Corvette C7 GT3-R Stateside next season.

The withdrawal of the factory Cadillac Racing program after PWC’s season finale in Sonoma in September has opened the door for the factory-blessed Corvette C7 GT3-R to run in North America, because Cadillac’s ATS-V.R has been the lone GT3-spec car under the General Motors awning for the last three seasons, while the Callaway Corvette has raced only internationally.

Reeves Callaway has been on site at the tail end of the PWC season to survey the opportunity and now a deal has been struck for a factory effort to run next year, before the Callaway Corvette program becomes a customer effort in 2019. This follows the same timeline as Acura did with its new NSX GT3 this year to run it as a factory program in 2017 before shifting to customer efforts in 2018.

“Joining the Pirelli World Challenge has been a long term objective for Callaway Competition,” Callaway said in a release. “Now the field is a roll-call of the most capable sports cars from every country. To do well here, you must beat the best in the world. What better way to showcase our iconic American car?

“For 2018, we will run a Callaway factory team to give us the best chance of continuing the championship record the Corvette has achieved in international competition. For 2019, we will not race against our customers, but provide high-quality support to them in the tradition of other manufacturer customer racing support programs.”

“For several years fans have asked when they would see the Callaway Corvette GT3 run in the Pirelli World Challenge,” added Greg Gill, President and CEO of Pirelli World Challenge. “The wait is over and we are very pleased to announce the arrival of the Callaway Corvette GT3 for the 2018 season.”

The Callaway Competition USA Corvette C7 GT3-R will be unveiled and both full season drivers announced at the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis on December 7 at the Pirelli World Challenge booth. Following the unveiling event, the car will be on display for the remainder of the trade show. Details of the presentation will be announced in the coming weeks.

Callaway’s confirmation comes amidst the likely drawdown of potentially nine or 10 cars that raced in PWC’s GT and GTA ranks either all season or most of it in 2017, among at least five manufacturers. That’s not to say those losses can’t be recouped elsewhere on the grid, over the next several months before the St. Petersburg season opener in March.

PWC will hold its annual state of the series and competitor meeting to finalize the next year’s plans at the PRI show as well.