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Testing report
WEC Bahrain

Jota Porsche tops first Bahrain rookie test session as Rossi makes debut

Jota led the way in the morning session for the FIA World Endurance Championship rookie test in Bahrain, as former MotoGP star Valentino Rossi made his LMP2 debut for WRT.

#38 Hertz Team JOTA Porsche 963: Antonio Felix Da Costa, Will Stevens, Yifei Ye

After coming close to scoring a maiden Hypercar podium in Saturday’s finale, Jota led the opening two hours of running at the Bahrain International Circuit on Sunday, with Will Stevens setting the quickest time in the team’s solo #38 Porsche 963 customer LMDh car.

The 1m48.625s flier that Stevens set at the beginning of the session put Jota eight tenths clear of the remainder of the field, even though his lap was two seconds slower than the time with which Brendon Hartley claimed pole in the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid.

Stevens completed only a five-lap run early in the morning before handing over the car to Formula E ace Norman Nato, who posted a best time of 1m50.870s in his first outing in an LMDh car.

The second spot in the timesheets went to Cadillac courtesy of Alex Lynn’s time of 1m49.444s. Like Jota, Cadillac let its full-timer Lynn to set an initial baseline in the car before handing over the driving duties to rookie and this year’s GTE Am champion Nicolas Varrone.

Varrone, who was Corvette’s silver-rated driver in WEC this year, completed 28 laps behind the wheel of the team’s sole V-Series.R and gradually improved his time to 1m50.048s.

Ferrari ran a total of three drivers this morning in the #51 499P, with Alessandro Pier Guidi’s time of 1m49.560s putting the Italian manufacturer third in the table.

Former Formula 2 driver Robert Shwartzman’s best time in the Ferrari was 1m51.479s, while Lilou Wadoux was further off the pace (1m56.056s) after completing only 11 laps in the car.

Proton’s customer Porsche finished fifth in the hands of Rene Binder thanks to his early effort of 1m49.704s, while a 12-lap stint from Julien Andlauer yielded a best time of 1m52.339s.

Peugeot finished seventh courtesy of test driver Malthe Jakobsen, who then handed over the reins of the #93 9X8 to Stoffel Vandoorne, who is due to move to a full-time seat next year to replace Gustavo Menezes.

The factory Porsche ended up seventh in the timesheets after Laurens Vanthoor lapped the circuit in 1m50.464s.

Vanthoor completed two stints in the #5 963 before handing over the car to newly-crowned DTM champion Thomas Preining, who posted a reasonable time of 1m51.615s in his first outing behind the wheel of the Porsche LMDh.

Three drivers tested the title-winning Toyota GR010 Hybrid in the morning, with Lexus’ Ben Barnicoat the quickest of the trio as he put the team eighth with a time of 1m51.728s.

In LMP2, Clement Novalak led the times in the Le Mans 24 Hours-winning Inter Europol Oreca 07, a 1m54.283s flier putting him 0.685s clear of BMW factory driver Charles Weerts in the #41 WRT.

#31 Team WRT Oreca 07 - Gibson: Valentino Rossi

Photo by: Shameem Fahath

#31 Team WRT Oreca 07 - Gibson: Valentino Rossi

Rossi took the wheel of WRT’s second ORECA in the morning session and delivered a three-second improvement between his first and last runs, ending up 0.760s behind Weerts with a best time of 1m55.728s.

United Autosports team finished fourth following an early run by Oliver Jarvis, with Daniel Schneider then taking over the driving duties from the 2022 IMSA champion.

Mikkel Pedersen completed the five-car LMP2 field in the Prema Oreca.

In GTE Am, Lorenzo Patrese set the pace in the Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE, his late effort of 1m59.024s eclipsing Corvette driver Nicky Catsburg’s time by 0.429s.

AF Corse’s two self-entered cars finished third and fourth in a slim GTE field, with Nicola Marinangeli finishing ahead of Christopher Ulrich by over a second.

The post-season rookie test continues in Bahrain this afternoon, with three hours of running scheduled between 1-4pm.

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