When the gates opened at Shanghai International Circuit, the crowds flocked in for the Six Hours of Shanghai, with the main pit-straight grandstand drawing a highly impressive crowd for the start of the race. A race that eventually would lead to a 1-2 finish by the Toyota Racing team, with the championship challenging #8 (Anthony Davidson/ Sebastien Buemi) leading the team home.
The race got under-way, with Porsche heading out into the lead. Sadly the start of the race was not without incident. When the KCMG entered Oreca 03R LMP2 driven by Imperatori ground to a halt due to a fuel pump issue. With the car sitting unsighted sadly the AF Corse #51 entrant driven by Gianmaria Bruni made somewhat heavy contact into the rear of the Oreca leading to a safety car response. Both drivers however are fine.
The safety car response led to Toyota pulling an interesting strategy, bringing both cars in so early in the race, to reduce the need for a fuel stop late in the race, placing them deep in the field for the restart.
They wouldn’t stay back towards the rear however, The #7 would lead the early charge through the field, before the #8 took over the charge and moved through the grid, by the time all but one of the leading LMP1 cars pitted, Toyota was positioned back in 2nd place. An Incredible drive by Buemi through the field.
The #20 Porsche would hit issues, with a rear left puncture causing the whole tyre to be removed from the car, and a slow trip back to the pitlane, putting the car behind the Audi’s and Porsche’s by the time the issue was solved. Whist Rebellion Racing came home 7th and 8th in class, and the best of the LMP1-L entrants.
In LMP2, it would be a completely dominant performance by the G-Drive Racing Ligier JS-P2, the next generation LMP2 prototype wiped the floor with it’s competition, finishing three laps ahead of its nearest competitor. ( Romain Rusinov / Olivier Pla / Julien Canal) However the battle between Extreme Speed Motorsports and SMP Racing, gave us plenty of interest in LMP2. The American ESM team eventually won the battle coming home second in class, with the #30 entrant. (Scott Sharp / Ryan Dalziel / Rodolfo Gonzalez)
The Morgan-Judd Oak entered LMP2 meanwhile had a collision with Kalid Al Qubaisi in the Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR GTE Am entry, which severely hampered both teams results.
IN GTE PRO, after finally experiencing a strong weekend for the #97 Aston Martin entry, qualifying on pole and leading the race from Porsche AG Team Manthey, sadly expired with One Hour and thirty minutes to go, with plooms of smoke coming from the side of the car, leaving Porsche to take GTE PRO honours with the #92 entrant. (Patrick Pilet/ Fred Makowieki) Whilst in GTE AM Aston Martin Racing’s #98 entrant (Pedro Lamy/ Paul Dalla Lana / Christoffer Nygaard) took class honours.
Overall the race was relatively interesting, not an incredible race, but certainly more interesting to watch than the previous round in Fuji, Toyota where dominant here as expected, and are the class of the field when it comes to the three LMP1 manufacturers.
Audi where surprisingly closer to Porsche than expected, the straight line speed was certainly a large hindrance to them, but not a complete disaster for Audi, certainly having more pace than Porsche later in the stints. What will be interesting is how Audi cope at Bahrain; the nature of the circuit is somewhat different to Shanghai, with the technical sections playing to the team’s advantages.
Porsche had a strong weekend, coming home in third for the #14 entry, The car started on pole, and ran well, Porsche are still in a development curve, and at the moment, a dominant Toyota beat them, however the potential for Porsche is certainly available for the future.