Halfway Report: 6 Hours of Shanghai

The penul­ti­mate round in the 2016 FIA World Endurance Cham­pi­onship got under­way this morn­ing with Porsche on pole posi­tion. With the cham­pi­onship still up for grabs and Audi look­ing to prove a point in their final two races in LMP1, the 6 Hours of Shang­hai was look­ing set to be a clas­sic.

shanghai-2016-startHour 1

The Porsche of Bren­don Hart­ley led the pack away but it was to be Sebas­t­ian Bue­mi who went with him and swept around the Ger­man car into turn one, snatch­ing the lead. Mike Con­way put his #6 Toy­ota in all the right places to fol­low his team mate though, how­ev­er despite going all the way around turn 1 and get­ting the inside for turn 2, Hart­ley man­aged to hold the posi­tion. This then allowed Lucas di Gras­si in the #8 Audi to take advan­tage and nip up into third.

Although Turn 1 passed con­tact free for LMP1, that was not the case for LMP2 and GTE-PRO. The #45 Manor went wide and span back in front of the pack, col­lect­ing the inno­cent #97 Aston Mar­tin of Richie Stan­away, tak­ing the LMP2 car out of the race. By the time the saftey car came out at the end of the lap to retrieve the LMP2 car, Hart­ley had tak­en his posi­tion at the front back.

Hart­ley made a much bet­ter re start, as did di Gras­si in the Audi, who got passed Bue­mi for sec­ond before turn 1. The bat­tling con­tin­ued fur­ther down the back, where the #7 Audi of Lot­ter­er ran out of boost com­ing out of the final cor­ner which allowed the cham­pi­onship bat­tling #6 Toy­ota and #2 Porsche though to fourth and fifth posi­tions.

In the mean time the lead had changed hands in LMP2. The Sig­nat­e­ch Alpine of Nico­las Lapierre took the lead from the #44 Manor British dri­ver Alex Lynn at the wheel, in the first ten min­utes. Alex Brun­dle also made progress in the #26 G-Dri­ve Ore­ca, over­tak­ing Tom Blomqvist for third in class Brun­dle con­tin­ued his blis­ter­ing pace to catch and pass the pole sit­ting #44 Manor of Lynn which moved the Russ­ian team up to sec­ond place, before pass­ing Lapierre for the lead down the back straight.

g-drive-lead-shanghai-2016There was close rac­ing in GTE as well. Sec­ond place was up for grabs in both AM and PRO. Ste­fan Mucke was look­ing for a way back past the Fer­rari 488 of Bruni, as well as Emmanuel Col­lard who was try­ing to get ahead of the KCMG Porsche being dri­ven by Wolf Hen­zler. It took the French­man a few laps of siz­ing up the Porsche to make the move, how­ev­er, the Fer­rari did make it’s way up into sec­ond place. Patrick Long also made his way past at the same place a lap lat­er to move the KCMG Porsche from sec­ond to fourth. This also made it three dif­fer­ent cars at the head of GTE-AM, with Aston Mar­tin lead­ing from Fer­rari and Porsche.

LMP1 was back at the head of the action as the #2 Porsche with Neel Jani at the wheel made his way up into third place after pass­ing Bue­mi, who was com­plain­ing about a lack of trac­tion in his TS050. There were no such prob­lems for Con­way in the sis­ter Toy­ota which also got past Bue­mi for fourth. All the time Andre Lot­ter­er was look­ing quick behind the Toy­ota duo.

The move that was look­ing on the cards in GTE-PRO between Mucke’s Ford and Bruni’s Fer­rari was the next to pull off. Mucke put his ford on the out­side of the Italian’s Fer­rari going into the final cor­ner, but had enough grip to sweep around the out­side snatch­ing the posi­tion.

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The Hunter became the hunt­ed mean­while in GTE-AM. Although Col­lard had just made his way up to sec­ond in class, Patrick Long was on a charge and putting the AF Corse pre­pared car under increas­ing pres­sure.

The first round of stops start­ed at the 53 minute mark and it was Audi who were first to blink, bring­ing the di Gras­si in from sec­ond place. The were fol­lowed a lap lat­er by the cham­pi­onship lead­ing Porsche #2, Audi #7 and the #5 Toy­ota, which saw Antho­ny David­son take over. Last to pit were the #1 Porsche from the lead and the #6 Toy­ota

At the end of the first hour Hart­ley con­tin­ued to lead in the #1 Porsche ahead of di Gras­si in the #8 Audi. Neel Jani how­ev­er was fol­low­ing the Audi close­ly in third, search­ing for a Porsche 1–2. Fourth and fifth belonged to the #6 and #5 Toy­otas respic­tiv­ley. Andre Lot­ter­er was last of the Hybrid cars for Audi. Rebel­lion Rac­ing led the Pri­va­teer class ahead of the trou­bled ByKolles.

The LMP2 lead was that of Alex Brundle’s in LMP2. The G-Dri­ve team were ahead of the cham­pi­onship lead­ing Sig­nat­e­ch Alpine. Anto­nio Giov­inazzi made up the top three. The pole sit­ting #44 Manor had slipped to fourth. The top five was round­ed out by the RGR Sport car, which had spent most of the first hour stuck behind the SMP Rac­ing BR-01 of Mikhail Aleshin.

Ford main­tained their GTE-PRO posi­tions from the start. Har­ry Tinck­nell still led after lead­ing the pack away from pole in the #67 GT, Olivi­er Pla held sec­ond in the sis­ter car. James Cal­a­do was best of the rest on the AF Corse Fer­rari 488.

Aston Martin’s Paul Dal­la Lana head­ed the GTE-AM stand­ings at the 1 hour mark. Abu Dhabi Pro­ton Rac­ing were sec­ond in class thanks to Pat Long’s fan­tas­tic open­ing stint. Fran­cois Per­ro­do round­ed out the top three in his Af Corse Fer­rari 458 Italia.

audi-second-place-lmp1-shanghai-2016Hour 2

The sec­ond hour saw the race begin to set­tle into it’s rhythm, how­ev­er it was bad news for Audi. News fil­let­ed though that a fuel rig prob­lem for the sec­ond place #8 car. This meant that is did not have a full tank after the first round of stops, and had to come in half an hour lat­er to re-fuel, with the team still unsure if the prob­lem had been fixed.

Audi’s extra stop saw #8 car, now with Loic Duval at the wheel, drop to sixth and last out of the LMP1 Hybrid run­ners, as well as Porsche get their 1–2, with Hart­ley con­tin­u­ing to lead Neel Jani. Stephane Sar­razin was pro­mot­ed to third in the #6 Toy­ota.

The next round of stops soon came around and there was need for a nose change on the lead­ing Porsche. A large chunk of rub­ber debris from one of the tyres hit the front of the 919 Hybrid caus­ing dam­age to the nose, which need­ed to be changed at the stop, how­ev­er it only cost the team 12 sec­onds, and they man­aged to send Timo Bern­hard out in the lead of the race.

2-porsche-shanghai-2016Porsche had their 1–2 with the #1 car lead­ing the #2 car at the end of the sec­ond hour. An out of sequence Audi being dri­ven by Loic Duval held third ahead of the #6 and #5 Toy­otas in fourth and fifth posi­tion. The #7 Audi R18 e-tron quat­tro, now with Benoit Tre­luy­er at the wheel, con­tin­ued to strug­gle in sixth. An issue for the #13 Rebel­lion meant the lead changed hands in the pri­va­teer LMP1 class in favor of the ByKolles team.

In LMP2 a short­er pit stop by the #30 Extreme Speed Motor­sports team saw the lead change hands, drop­ping the G-Dri­ve Ore­ca down to sec­ond place, and the gap at 10 sec­onds. Sig­nat­e­ch Alpine’s #36 cham­pi­onship lead­ing car had Gus­ta­vo Menezes in con­trol hold­ing third.

GTE-PRO still saw the #67 Ford lead the #66 Ford. Mar­co Sorensen was in third place for Aston Mar­tin nar­row­ley ahead of the #51 Fer­rari of Bruni. Aston Mar­tin con­tin­ued to lead GTE-AM ahead of the #88 Pro­ton Porsche in sec­ond, and the #78 KCMG third in class.

Hour 3

Audi stopped ear­ly in the third hour with their trou­bled #8 car, which had been suf­fer­ing from a re-fuel­ing issue. The Prob­lem was far from fixed as Duval’s stop was 30 sec­onds longer than it should have been. This issue real­ly putting pay to Audi’s cham­pi­onship efforts, with the #2 Porsche hav­ing a strong run.

There was dra­ma at the back of the cir­cuit on the long straight as the rac­ing line began to thin due to tyre debris at the side of the cir­cuit. This caused con­tact between one of the SMP cars and the Lar­bre Cope­ti­tion Corvette, as the Russ­ian car was try­ing to spend as lit­tle time as pos­si­ble on the dirty side of the track.

Gian­maria Bruni man­aged to re-claim his third place after a fan­tas­tic move around the out­side of turn 1, which earned the Ital­ian the inside line on Sorensen into turn 2.

In the mean time Toy­ota turned up the pres­sure on Porsche’s lead cars, with the #6 car get­ting right up behind the #2 to form a bat­tle for sec­ond place. All the time the #5 Toy­ota Kazu­ki Naka­ji­ma clos­ing on the pair of them.

6-toyota-shanghai-2016Kobayashi went for the move in a late lunge into the final cor­ner, and pulled it off in dra­mat­ic style, how­ev­er then ran out of hybrid ener­gy going onto the straight, which allowed Marc Lieb to re-pass the Toy­ota. As they made their way down to the hair­pin at turn four the  Japan­ese dri­ver launched back up the inside to re take the posi­tion. Both Lieb and Kobayashi went either side of an SMP LMP2 car on the exit how­ev­er the Toy­ota held the line and the posi­tion.

The bat­tle how­ev­er was not over. Lieb then once again took advan­tage of the Toyota’s over hybrid usage to take the place back down the pit straight once more. This time, Kobayashi was more patient and wait­ed until the hair­pin at the end of the back straight to make the move, which final­ly stuck. The Toy­ota had enough boost left to car­ry it over the line which left Lieb with no answer for the all Japan­ese effort.

All at the same time Gus­ta­vo Menezes went for a spin thanks to turn 1 con­tact with Bruno Sen­na. The move was not for posi­tion and there­fore picked up a dri­ve though penal­ty for the com­ing togeth­er.

Ford’s per­fect day came to an end for the #66 sec­ond place car went off at turn 1 with a slow punc­ture. This forced the Amer­i­can team to take an out of sequence stop, drop­ping that car to fourth in the GTE-PRO class.

At the half way stage Timo Bern­hard led the race with the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid. Sec­ond place was half a minute back in the shape of the #6 Toy­ota TS050 Hybrid. The #6 was the meat in the Porsche sand­wich as the #2 car held third posi­tion. Six sec­onds back from the #2 Porsche was a charg­ing Sebas­t­ian Bue­mi in fourth. Audi sit­ting in fifth with the #7 car of Lot­ter­er, Tre­luy­er and Fassler, and sixth with the stug­gling #8 R-18 e-tron quat­tro. ByKolles con­tin­ued to lead in the pri­va­teer class due to Rebellion’s ear­li­er issues.

In LMP2 G-Dri­ve Rac­ing led the way ahead of the #30 KFC spon­sored ESM Ligi­er. Third place belonged to the #36 Sig­nat­e­ch Alpine, despite it’s ear­li­er spin.

GTE-PRO still had the #67 Ford of Andy pri­aulx and Har­ry Tinck­nell in the lead how­ev­er sec­ond place was now that of the #51 AF Corse Fer­rari. Aston Mar­tin held third posi­tion in the #95 V8 Van­tage, which con­tin­ued tohave Mar­co Sorensen behind the wheel.

GTE-AM con­tin­ued to have Aston Mar­tin lead. Math­ias Lau­da had the con­trols of the lead­ing #98 car. Joel Camath­ias was sec­ond in class for KCMG in their Porsche. Rui Aguas held third for AF Corse Fer­rari in the #83 car.

Images — FIAWEC.com