Grand finale for AF Corse in LMGTE Am, podium for car #71
WEC

Grand finale for AF Corse in LMGTE Am, podium for car #71

Bahrain | 14 November 2020

The final four hours provoked mixed feelings in the AF Corse garage. The team nevertheless gets to celebrate the drivers’ and team Endurance Trophy in LMGTE Am class.

Fifth hour. Early in Serra’s stint, whilst lapping backmarkers, the driver came into contact with the Porsche of Perfetti, resulting in an immediate puncture to the left rear tyre, caused by a broken wheel rim. The Brazilian nearly managed to keep the car intact until the return into the pits, but pulled up when the tyre completely disintegrated a few metres short of the pit lane, scattering debris from many parts of the diffuser and bodywork onto the track, forcing out the Safety Car. While the AF Corse pit work proceeded feverishly, the cars lined up behind the Safety Car, allowing the #83 to recoup the lap lost in the opening half of the race. The #51 488 GTE came back out on track three laps behind the leader, while racing resumed twenty minutes after the stroke of four hours. In LMGTE Am class, Fisichella took the lead, while the Ferraris of Noble and Collard occupied fifth and ninth positions. The remaining forty minutes did not produce any major twists, apart from a 10-second sanction for Serra, deemed responsible for the accident involving Perfetti’s Porsche. While the Brazilian stood two laps behind in the Pro standings, Molina was proving to be the fastest on track, taking advantage of the battle between Bruni and Westbrook to whittle down the gap from the podium positions to less than seven seconds.

Sixth hour. With Molina lying in fourth position, some 36 seconds off the race leaders in LMGTE Pro class, the Spaniard pulled out all the stops in a bid to snatch third place as we once again witnessed the face-off between Ferrari and Aston Martin. The battle between Molina and Westbrook was intense and not without contact – all within the regulatory limits however. In the toing and froing of positions that has characterized LMGTE Am class, Castellacci lay in third position ahead of Cozzolino, fourth, and Nicklas Nielsen, seventh. The Dane was among the fastest on track, attempting to close down the hefty gap that separated him from TF Sport’s Aston Martin, currently holding third. At the stroke of the sixth hour of racing Nielsen climbed the order to sixth place.

Seventh hour. The penultimate hour opened with Nielsen hounding Holzer’s Porsche and a sixth position which would eventually turn into second place helped by the pit-stops that followed. The Ferrari factory driver was 12 seconds behind the current leader Picariello, with Flohr fifth and Cozzolino ninth. This phase of the race elapsed without any noteworthy episodes, with protagonists now poised to tackle the final, decisive hour of racing.

Eighth hour. At the start of the final hour, TF Sport’s Aston Martin was forced into the pits to replace their brakes, remarkably reopening the fight for the championship in LMGTE Am class and moving the AF Corse Ferrari into the lead. After the final pit-stop, with Nielsen at the wheel once again, the 488 GTE emerged in third place, with their rivals in eighth, one point behind in the standings. With the Aston Martins in Pro class likewise forced into the pits to replace brakes, the #71 car with Rigon at the controls moved into third position, albeit some distance from the two leading Porsches. The protagonists of LMGTE Am class continued to be the focus of attention with Castellacci fifth and Cozzolino ninth, sanctioned with an additional five seconds due to contact with the #56 Porsche, judged by race stewards to have been excessive. Nielsen, meanwhile, continued to churn out fast laps and moved into second spot, with the title rivals holding eighth position, soon to become ninth with just minutes left to run. Nielsen coped to perfection with the tension of the final laps, crossing the line in second place, taking the FIA WEC Endurance Trophy – alongside Perrodo, Collard and AF Corse – in LMGTE Am class. The result was rounded out by a fourth place for the #54 and a podium for Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina in LMGTE Pro.