Pipo Derani, Gustavo Menezes and Robert Kubica were among the headline runners in Sunday’s FIA World Endurance Championship rookie test, sampling LMP1 machinery around the Bahrain International Circuit.
The WEC rookie test is designed to give up-and-coming sportscar racers a chance to showcase their talents, with the series promoter selecting three drivers for LMP1 tests.
2016 WEC LMP2 champion Menezes got behind the wheel of the Porsche 919 Hybrid in Bahrain, while Derani tested for Toyota following a mighty year that featured victories at Daytona and Sebring.
“It was a great opportunity to test with Toyota Gazoo Racing. I am a lucky guy to get this chance because not many drivers are able to test an LMP1 car nowadays,” Derani said.
“It was great for me to see how an LMP1 team goes about its work and to understand how the hybrid system works.
“At the end of the day, an LMP1 car is not massively different to the LMP2 cars that I am used to; the big difference is the amazing hybrid boost coming out of the corners.
“It was a nice experience to push the throttle coming out of turn one! You certainly feel the 1,000hp.”
Antonio Giovinazzi had been slated to test for Audi, only to pull out of the test in order to prepare for the GP2 finale in Abu Dhabi next weekend, giving Paul-Loup Chatin the chance to step up.
A front drivetrain issue on the Audi R18 prevented the manufacturer from completing running in the afternoon, leaving Chatin with the honor of being the final person to drive the car.
Another man testing out an LMP1 car was ex-Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica, who completed running for ByKolles in Bahrain ahead of a planned return to circuit racing in 2017.
Neel Jani posted the fastest time of the day for Porsche ahead of Brendon Hartley, with both carrying out tire testing for Michelin.
Of the rookies, Menezes set the fastest time, finishing 1.4 seconds off Jani. Chatin finished a further three-tenths of a second behind, with Derani another 0.4 seconds behind that.
Kubica’s lap was the quickest of the trio testing for ByKolles, one of whom was recent IndyCar racer Francesco Dracone, who finished five seconds off the Pole’s pace.