Derani, Menezes, Kubica among headline runners in Bahrain WEC rookie test

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media

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.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E

Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.