Ryo Hirakawa commanded the race lead in the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid after four hours of racing at the FIA World Endurance Championship’s 8 Hours of Bahrain season finale.

The opening hours of the race housed a thrilling combination of action and drama, as the sun began to set at the halfway point.

Amidst a flurry of Hypercar pit stops, Kamui Kobayashi took over after Mike Conway’s impressive opening stint in the #7 Toyota GR010, whereby he climbed back up the the field after being caught up in a Lap 1-Turn 1 incident which spun him around.

Toyota Team Principal, Kobayashi, closed the gap to second-placed James Calado in the #51 Ferrari, who also began turning his first race laps after he took over from Miguel Molina.

Kobayashi was able to continue the charge, eventually taking third off Calado to situate the recently-crowned WEC Manufacturers’ Champions in 1-2 formation, as the #8 remained a lap ahead of the sister Hypercar.

Much later after another pit stop cycle, an encouraging jostle for fourth in the category commenced between Yifei Ye and Antonio Fuoco, the latter driver taking over from Molina.

Meanwhile Vanwall’s Ryan Briscoe stopped just before the pitlane entry, but after the first safety car line. There was no further drama as the Australian-American driver continued in what has been a difficult race for the team so far residing towards the back of the LMP2 field.

Speaking of which, the #34 Inter Europol Competition Oreca 07 appeared to experience reliability issues, seemingly based on electronics and the drivetrain.

Albert Costa was behind the wheel chasing down Daniil Kvyat’s #63 Prema, before the #34 came to a brief stop as the car seemingly locked up the rear wheels on its own.

This marked the second time during the race in which the #34 stopped, and eventually Fabio Scherer took over the wheel in a pit stop with four new tyres.

At the three-hour mark, several pit stops took place across the whole Hypercar field except the Vanwall who were further down the field, off-strategy for fuel compared to the other Hypercars.

Kevin Estre’s #6 Porsche Penske 963 stood in the pit box and highlighted the immense pressure which the brakes endure at Bahrain as the front-left brake was temporarily on fire.

Sakhir International Circuit hosts characteristically heavy braking zones into T1, T4, T11 and T14, as the race passed the 100 lap-count.

The LMP2 lead fight was between Sean Gelael in the #31 WRT Oreca 07, and Josh Pierson in the #23 United Autosports Oreca closely behind.

Both drivers remained close to one another, as their encounters with traffic did not separate the pair.

Harry Tincknell continued the run of the #99 Proton Competition Porsche Hypercar, as he overtook Dane Cameron’s #7 Porsche Penske for seventh place.

The LMP2 class provoked an exciting battle for position between Ryan Cullen in the #10 Vector Sport Oreca 07 and Ben Viscaal in the #9 Prema Oreca, as the latter driver closed down on the Vector Sport, eventually securing eighth with a move at Turn 8.

JOTA’s Hypercar ran the most confident out of all the Porsches, as they were still fighting with the #51 Ferrari for third place.

At the sharper end of the LMP2 field, Prema Racing’s other #63 entrant pursued a chase on Pietro Fittipaldi in the #28 JOTA.

The pair kept within close proximity to one another, although Mirko Bortolotti eased the pressure on his rival in front for fourth place.

Fittipaldi had a notable front lock-up into Turn 1, which did not hamper his racing line and so demonstrated the challenges of the minute yet crucial bumps into the opening corner.

Soon enough, Bortolotti made a move passed at Turn 4, although the pair still remained close.

In GTE-Am, the #85 Iron Dames pole-sitter was showcasing good pace as little race-incident dramas had impacted on their efforts at the front of the field with the sibling #60 Iron Lynx Porsche 911 RSR.

Before the end of the halfway point, Sarah Bovy pitted the #85 to hand over the wheel to Rahel Frey.

At the front, Toyota commanded the lead with a 1-2, from the #8 of Ryo Hirokawa who jumped into the car for his first laps today, followed by Jose Maria Lopez in the #7 GR010 Hybrid.

The highly competed third position was held by the #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Nicklas Nielsen.

In LMP2, Bent Viscaal led the field in the #9 Prema, followed by the #31 WRT of Robin Frijns and the #63 Prema of Bortolotti.

GTE-Am was led by Alessio Picariello in the #60 Iron Lynx, followed by the Iron Dames, and the #25 ORT by TF Aston Martin Vantage with Michael Dinan behind the wheel.

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