Neel Jani and the no. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid crew continued to set the pace in practice for the final FIA World Endurance Championship round of the season in Bahrain on Thursday night.
Alongside teammates Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas, Jani heads into the final race of the year needing just a sixth-place finish to secure a maiden drivers’ championship.
Jani set the fastest lap in FP1 earlier in the day before doubling up in second practice, turning in a quickest lap of 1:39.817 to head up a Porsche one-two.
“During the first session I had a small issue with the door, but other than that everything went well. This time here the track is quite clean, and that’s why lap times were immediately pretty good,” Jani said.
“We did the qualifying simulation in the second session, because the fight for pole tomorrow will also be after sunset. I had an OK lap, but there certainly is room for improvement.
“Afterwards we built the car back up to race spec. We want to keep a high performance level over the race distance.”
Jani’s lap was 0.455 seconds quicker than that of no. 1 Porsche driver Brendon Hartley in second place as Audi trailed in third place, a further one-tenth of a second behind.
Toyota’s championship-chasing no. 6 crew slotted into fourth place in the TS050, getting a lap in early before focusing on its race simulations.
In LMP2, the returning Rene Rast immediately impressed behind the wheel of the no. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca Nissan by setting the fastest time in class, finishing three-tenths of a second faster than the championship-winning no. 36 Signatech Alpine entry. Manor’s no. 44 Oreca Nissan ended the day third-fastest.
Aston Martin Racing continued its dominance at the top of GTE Pro by romping to another one-two finish, this time reversing the positions from FP1. Championship leaders Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen edged out Jonny Adam and Darren Turner by just 0.007 seconds – an apt time delta for the WEC’s Bond brand – with Ford finishing a further 1.9 seconds adrift in P3.
Aston Martin also managed to take top spot in GTE Am with the no. 98 Vantage V8 shared by Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda finishing over a second clear of the field. The champions elect no. 83 AF Corse crew finished third-fastest, knowing that pole on Friday will be enough to wrap up the championship a day early.
For the fifth time in 10 rounds of the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross season, the three riders at the top of the championship standings shared a podium and while those points tell one story, the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit tell a slightly different tale.
Chase Sexton has been all but perfect during the past 45 days with podium finishes in each of his heats and Triple Crown features. His only stumble during this period was a 10th-place finish in the Indianapolis Main. Last week, Sexton was perfect with wins in both his heat and the feature, although he needed a little help from an Aaron Plessinger mistake to take the top spot on the podium at the end of the night.
Cooper Webb finished fifth at Houston and was beginning to worry ever so slightly about his position in the points. Prior to the race in Tampa, he told NBC Sports that it was time to win and like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield fence, Webb went out and captured it. Following that race, Webb has swept the podium and earned the red plate two weeks ago in Indianapolis. At Detroit, he added two more points on Eli Tomac as the season begins to wind down.
Tomac struggled with a stiff neck at Indianapolis and after a modest third-place showing in Detroit, he revealed he was still suffering a little. Webb and Sexton have been able to close the gap on Tomac in the past 45 days, but one of the main reasons he is so close in the points was a pair of wins that started the year. Seattle is going to be important for the defending champion because Tomac cannot afford to lose any more momentum with seven rounds remaining.
It appeared Jason Anderson was turning things around. He earned his fifth heat win at Detroit, which was also his sixth consecutive race (including features) in which he scored a top-five. A fall in the Detroit Main dropped him a lap off the pace and sent him home with a season-worst finish of ninth, causing a ripple effect in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings.
Justin Barcia was a huge part of the show last week in Detroit. He swapped positions with both Webb and Tomac in the middle stage of the race, which allowed Sexton to close the gap. Barcia finished fourth in that race to earn his third consecutive top-five. He’s been outside the top 10 only once in the first 10 rounds.
Adam Cianciarulo had a great start to the Main. He led a couple of laps before losing a lap and slipping back to eighth in the final rundown. That run was strong enough to elevate him three positions in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit.
The NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings look at the past 90 days in the 250 class in order to have a balanced comparison between the East and West divisions and Hunter Lawrence has been all but perfect this year. At Detroit, he earned his fifth win of the season and kept alive a streak of podium finishes in six rounds. He tied his brother Jett Lawrence with 10 250 wins one week before the West riders take to the track for back-to-back races at Seattle, Washington and Glendale, Arizona.
The Lawrence brothers are dominating the points in each of their respective divisions, which means the remainder of the field is battling to be best in class.
In the East, that rider is Nate Thrasher, who beat Hunter in a head-to-head matchup in their heat only to finish second in the main when the majority of points were awarded. Thrasher seems to have accepted his position in the championship standings, but that doesn’t mean he won’t keep trying for wins.
Haiden Deegan showed a lot of aggression in his heat last week. He threw a couple of block passes at his teammate Jordon Smith and set up a series of events that kept Smith from making the big show while Deegan settled into second in the preliminary. Deegan was unconcerned about how he raced his teammate and would not let a little controversy keep him from celebrating his second career podium in Detroit.
Jeremy Martin just keeps clicking off solid results. He won his heat last week by making a pass on Deegan and Smith while they were in the heat of their battle. Martin finished fourth in the Main, which means he continues to have only one finish worse than sixth in any of the features or mains.
Smith fell one position in the points standings, but the damage was even worse in SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit. Crash damage in his heat contributed to a last-place finish in that race, for which he earned minimal points. He was not able to advance from the Last Chance Qualifier after stalling his bike in heavy traffic.
Hunter Lawrence – E
[5 Main, 5 Heat wins]
Jett Lawrence – W
[3 Main, 3 Heat wins]
Nate Thrasher – E
[1 Main, 3 Heat wins]
Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat win]
Haiden Deegan – E
[1 Heat win]
Jeremy Martin – E
[2 Heat wins]
Jordon Smith – E
[3 Heat Wins]
Levi Kitchen – W
Mitchell Oldenburg – W
RJ Hampshire – W
[4 Heat wins]
Max Anstie – E
Tom Vialle – E
Max Vohland – W
Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat win]
Chris Blose – E
Chance Hymas – E
Enzo Lopes – W
Michael Mosiman – E
Pierce Brown – W
Phil Nicoletti – W
* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days for the 450 class and last 90 days for 250s (because of the split nature of their season).