Bahrain to host the FIA World Endurance Championship

Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), the home of motorsport in the Middle East, has become the first circuit in the region to host the FIA World Endurance Championship on September 28 and 29 at the world-renowned desert track.

“Initially, Bahrain has signed up an agreement with the FIA for hosting the event for three years which is extendable,” the BIC Chief Shaikh Salman said.

The Six Hours of Bahrain is part of the all-new FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), adding a new dimension to the Kingdom’s motor racing calendar.

Following BIC’s official announcement recently that it will be staging the Six Hours of Bahrain, details of the two-day spectacle were revealed at a Press conference on Monday at the circuit premises in Sakhir. In attendance were BIC Chief Executive Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, FIA WEC Chief Executive Officer Gerard Neveu and popular Audi Sport Team Joest driver Allan McNish.

The Six Hours of Bahrain will be the sixth of eight rounds in the 2012 championship. The season calendar also includes races in the US, Belgium, France, the UK, Brazil, Japan and China.

Bahrain is the only Arab country to feature in this year’s WEC campaign, despite several other regional circuits interested in hosting.

“The Six Hours of Bahrain will mark another first for the Kingdom and for BIC,” BIC Chief Executive Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa told the media.

“We are known around the world to be regional pioneers in the sport. We were the first international circuit of the highest standards to be built in the Middle East, and we were the first to bring major global championships to the Middle East,” he said.

“Now, we are proud to once again be the first in bringing such a prestigious series here. This category of motorsport has a very rich history; it is very essence has been derived from the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France, which is also a part of the WEC,” he said.

“We can look forward to the Six Hours of Bahrain with great excitement, and we hope to enjoy another amazing event.”

“Bahrain International Circuit is one of the most impressive facilities in the world and the perfect place to showcase the new FIA World Endurance Championship in the Middle East,” FIA WEC CEO Neveu said.

Neveu told the 24X7 News that the Circuit, associated facilities and trained workforce were the factors which helped FIA selecting BIC as the venue for this thrilling event in the Middle East.

“The on-track entertainment will be provided by the teams and drivers competing for the first Endurance World Championship title and the race here in Bahrain will feature cars from manufacturers such as Audi, Toyota, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Corvette, Porsche, Lotus, Nissan, Honda, Morgan and Oreca.

“The 24 hours of Le Mans is the greatest race in the world and the FIA WEC is about bringing the spirit of Le Mans to the tracks we visit and spectators will be able to have access to the paddock and get close to the cars and drivers, as well as have some great off-track entertainment,” he said.

“We hope that the people of Bahrain come and enjoy the FIA WEC and help make the Six Hours of Bahrain a success. I would like to thank Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa and the staff at BIC for all their hard work and for inviting the FIA WEC to race in Bahrain in September.”

The Six Hours of Bahrain will be only the third international endurance event ever to take place at BIC. It follows the 24 Hours Race of Bahrain in 2006, and a six-hour international race for superbikes in 2009. Both were one-off, stand-alone events, but neither was as big and as significant as the upcoming Six Hours of Bahrain.

The Six Hours of Bahrain will feature a massive grid of no less than 32 of the world’s fastest and most prestigious sports cars. They will be run by top international teams from around the world.

Each team consists of more than one driver who will be taking turns behind the wheel during the course of the race. Some of the competitors entered in the WEC’s inaugural season include several familiar faces, such as ex-Formula One talents like McNish, Nick Heidfeld, Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima, to name a few.

There will be four different car categories: the Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1), LMP2, LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am. Le Mans Prototype cars are not your typical road cars. They are a special breed created specifically for this category of racing.

Le Mans Prototype cars are the fastest closed-wheel racing cars in circuit racing today and can reach maximum speeds even higher than Formula One cars. LMGTE cars are grand tourer race cars.

“The FIA WEC is about great racing but also about providing a platform for manufacturers to test and develop new technology,” Neveu added. “This will be seen here in Bahrain in the form of the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro and the Toyota TS030 Hybrid cars, and from 2014 the new regulations will encourage more development in renewable energies, such as the Green GT Fuel Cell car that will be seen at Silverstone.”

Racing will take place on BIC’s 5.412-kilometre Grand Prix track. Action will get underway behind closed doors on September 27 with practices.

The first open day to the public will be on September 28, which is when qualifying for the next day’s race will be held. The Six Hours of Bahrain is then scheduled to flag off on September 29 in the late afternoon at 4pm. It will end at 10pm at night.

Winners will be crowned in each of the four race categories.

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