2 Seas Motorsport rebounded from losing its long-held advantage during an unscheduled pit stop to lead the Gulf 12 Hours at the end of the opening six-hour segment.
Ben Barnicoat, Isa Bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa and Martin Kodric dominated the opening phase of the race at Bahrain International Circuit in their pole-sitting No. 33 McLaren 720S GT3, and went a lap clear of the field at the end of hour three.
However, Barnicoat’s reports of a gearshift issue prompted 2 Seas to bring its car in for an off-sequence pit stop, which dropped the McLaren to fourth with 40 minutes to go.
That episode came under the context of 2 Seas Motorsport’s other car retiring due to a turbo issue, but Barnicoat managed to regain his pace when he returned to the track.
The Brit got past Callum MacLeod, the spinning Roberto Pampanini and Team Parker Racing Bentley driver Andy Meyrick in the final 20 minutes of part one to return to the lead heading into the two-hour interval, which precedes another six hours of racing.
Barnicoat’s overtake for the lead involved out-braking Meyrick’s Bentley Continental GT3 into the Turn 14 right-hander leading onto the start-finish straight.
Meyrick then came into the pits for a splash of fuel five minutes before the preliminary checkered flag, which put Ram Racing’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo into second.
After six hours, Barnicoat and his co-drivers led the Ram Racing trio of Callum MacLeod, Ian Loggie and Chris Froggatt by half a minute.
Four cars will start the second six-hour segment on the lead lap.
Pampanini was third and 55 seconds off the lead in the Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R, which briefly led when Barnicoat came in for his unplanned stop.
Pampanini, who is sharing the wheel with Mauro Calamia and Stefano Monaco, then lost the lead to Meyrick at Turn 1 before spinning to enable MacLeod to get past.
Meyrick crossed the line in fourth, just three seconds behind Pampanini, and maintained his place on the lead lap despite making a late splash.
Valentino Rossi, Luca Marini and Alessio Salucci were fifth after six hours, with their Monster VR46 Kessel Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 running one lap down.
MotoGP legend Rossi started the car and returned to the wheel for a second stint, while his fellow motorcycle racer Marini brought the car to the first checkered flag.
Kessel Racing’s No. 27 Ferrari, which started from third on the grid, will resume the race in sixth and on the same lap as the Swiss team’s VR46 car.
In GT4, Optimum Motorsport led at halfway after Warren Hughes hunted down and dispatched Piero Randazzo at the end of the fifth hour.
Scuderia Villorba Corse had commanded the first few hours, but the Italian team’s Mercedes-AMG GT4 was forced to serve a 25-second stop and hold penalty for overstepping the white line at pit exit.
A Villorba Corse pit stop immediately after the out lap from that penalty then brought Hughes to within 10 seconds of the AMG’s tail, before the 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner made a pass for the lead on Randazzo into T14.
Despite leading the GT4 category, Optimum Motorsport endured a tough opening stanza with its GT3-class McLaren which lost 16 laps in the garage due to a brake issue.
The second half of the Gulf 12 Hours’ first Bahrain edition is due to start at 5:30 p.m. local time (9:30 a.m. ET, 2:30 p.m. GMT).