Two quick hitters from the FIA World Endurance Championship heading into this weekend’s Six Hours of Bahrain:
The first is that Porsche Team has confirmed all six of its works drivers for 2015, the same six as competed this season: Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard.
Additional drivers will be needed only if Porsche opts to run a third car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. While Formula One star Jenson Button has been rumored, the more likely scenario is Porsche would pull from within as many of its GTE drivers in both Europe and North America have tested the team’s Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 car.
At Toyota, reserve driver Mike Conway will have his second start of the season after all in Bahrain this weekend. The Englishman will again deputize for Kazuki Nakajima alongside Alex Wurz and Stephane Sarrazin in the team’s No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid, as he did in Austin. Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi look for a three-peat in the sister No. 8 after wins in Fuji and Shanghai the last two races.
“I am really pleased to be competing with TOYOTA Racing again and I’m looking forward to joining Alex and Stéphane in the #7 again. It’s good for me to get more time behind the wheel of the TS040 HYBRID; it’s an impressive car to drive and obviously very competitive. I will be pushing hard to contribute to the team’s World Championship challenge this weekend. I know the Bahrain track pretty well from my LMP2 days, when I won the class and also the championship in 2013. So I know what to expect and I can’t wait to get started.”
Porsche will skip Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race with its two GTLM cars at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after three positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
That resulted in Porsche choosing to pull out of the Nurburgring 24 Hour endurance race in Germany, electing to avoid sending any team members as a precautionary measure.
Porsche Motorsport announced Tuesday that its COVID-19 decision also would apply at Mid-Ohio to its No. 911 and No. 12 teams.
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Three of Porsche’s four IMSA GTLM drivers — Laurens Vanthoor, Frederic Makowiecki and Nick Tandy — also were racing in Le Mans. The trio has remained isolated in Europe and won’t be allowed to travel.
“Based on yesterday’s decision that no employee or racing driver of our Le Mans team will participate in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, we have today decided that this ruling will also apply to the upcoming IWSC race in Mid-Ohio,” Fritz Enzinger, vice president for Porsche Motorsport, said in a release. “This means that Laurens, Nick and Fred will not be traveling to the USA.
“This is very regrettable, but we would like to emphasize that in this case as well the health of all those concerned is the prime focus of the decisions we have taken.”
The decision also affects Earl Bamber, who teamed with Vanthoor to win the GTLM championship last year in the No. 912.
Porsche said its GTLM Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries will return for the Oct. 10 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
That will reduce the GTLM class to four cars — two Corvettes and two BMWs — this weekend at Mid-Ohio, in what could be somewhat of a 2021 preview. Porsche Motorsport announced earlier this year that it will leave IMSA after the 2020 season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.