“It was a stressful two weeks and so much went on prior to the races,” says Calado. “Before the Bahrain 6 Hours we took a massive hit in Balance of Performance, which was totally unexpected. We expected more power going into that race, but they took away power. That was tough and it meant a lot of the attention from the guys in the team went away. They were always in the stewards’ office talking to the FIA. We were slow because of that for the 6 Hours and Porsche was just way faster on the straights, with more power.”
Kevin Estre and Neel Jani claimed a comfortable win in their Manthey-run #92 911 RSR-19, with the sister car of Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz completing an easy 1-2. Calado and Pier Guidi’s GTE 488 Evo could only trail home a distant third, 35 seconds behind – and they’d lost their points lead too ahead of the Bahrain 8 Hours that followed a week later. In the middle of the two races, more BoP changes churned up further angst and fury.
“We got half of the power back before the second race, which Ferrari protested because still on paper it wasn’t enough to win,” explains Calado. “We lost that protest and went into the race actually thinking we couldn’t really win and we’d just do the best we could. But after the first hour I was in the lead. I was surprised, the car was really good and we had the pace of the Porsche. They still had more power and it was a hard fight for the whole eight hours. It was super-close and any one of us could have won it. Thankfully we came out on top.”
Not without further controversy though. It wasn’t so much the collision between Pier Guidi and Michael Christensen that was the problem – it’s generally been accepted the Italian didn’t mean to hit the Porsche. It was the lack of a penalty following the collision – or more accurately the lack of a penalty served. The incident was a mess, all thanks to a lack of communication from the opaque officials, who also never really explained the BoP changes they had pushed through, beyond what is supposed to be an automatic system based on hard data. The FIA has insisted the changes were driven by numbers, as they should be – but it was poorly handled and doesn’t exactly bode well for the future LMH/LMDh era when BoP will be central to parity between manufacturers and two entirely different set of car regulations.
“To beat Porsche was all we wanted to do” James Calado
Was Calado worried the title had slipped away after the collision? “Yes, of course,” he says. “Alessandro did nothing wrong because the Porsche closed on the [LMP2] prototype [ahead of him]. The Porsche naturally braked early to try and get a better exit because he knew he’d lose in the corner, and Alessandro couldn’t stop and just hit him in the wrong angle [which spun Christensen around]. We got a penalty for it, that’s the thing, to let #92 back past. Alessandro slowed right down, 10 to 12 seconds, but at that point the Porsche decided to go in the pits, so we couldn’t do anything in that respect. Then the penalty from the race director and the stewards was over-ruled and we received the information, which went straight to Ale on the radio, so we decided to carry on and win the race. That’s purely how it was. We did everything we were told to do and that’s it.”