The 6 Hours of Shanghai got underway with a slightly retained first lap. Romain Dumas got away from pole position well to retain the lead but racing wasn’t to get underway proper for 21 minutes, after the safety car came in. An incident at turn 10 saw Alexzander Imperatori loose drive out of the corner. An un-sited Gianmaria Bruni was the unlucky customer that had no where to go and made heavy contact with the LMP2 car.
The early safety car gave Toyota the chance to try something a bit different with an early stop for both of their cars. The number 8 car had an issue with refueling though and had to make a second visit to pit lane, meaning that Buemi was 26 seconds off the lead at the end of the safety car stint.
The race would have to wait until lap 22 until the first overall lead change. Brendon Hartley found a way past his team mate on track but did not pull away anymore than 2 seconds. All of this dicing for position between Porsche’s allowed Audi’s Andre Lotterer to close the gap down to second place.
Audi were the first of the LMP1-H cars to get to the end of their stint on lap 31 which dropped them back down the order to 5th and 6th place for the number 2 and number 1 cars respectively. Porsche then pitted their 2 cars 3 laps later. Porsche ended their first stint 3 laps later than Audi as the charging number 8 Toyota took the overall lead with Sebastian Buemi at the wheal. The G-drive Racing Ligier lead in LMP2 by one lap after a great first stint by Olivier Pla. 49.326.
Toyota did not have to pit until lap 35 after it’s earlier stops and came out of the pits 1st and second on the road. Anthony Davidson jumped into the car at the pit stop and continued where Buemi left off, setting a new fastest lap of the race on fresh rubber on lap 57. Davidson’s pace relitive to his Austrian team mate, Wurz, meant that the gap between 1st and 2nd went out to 25 seconds at the 2 hour mark.
In the mean time Porsche number 20 hit trouble. Hartley got a puncture going down the long back straight which cost him almost a minute and an unscheduled trip to pit lane. This dropped the car to last in class and one lap down. On lap 68 Toyota made their next pit stop to re fuel, again retaining their lead but Sarrazin climbed aboard the number 7 car replacing Wurz. The gap further went out too half a minutes. Loic Duval replaced Lucas Di Grassi in the number 1 Audi at the 2nd stop for the Frenchman and managed to pass his team mate, Benoit Treluyer not long after. The next challenge will be to see if Duval can close the 50 second gap to Porsche’s Marc Leib in third.
LMP2 See’s Canal continue to lead the G-Drive Ligier 1 lap ahead of his nearest rivals. SMP Racing’s 2 Oreca Nissans are the two cars in third. 21 seconds is the gap covering the top 3 in GTE-PRO. Stefan Mucke leads Makowiecki’s Porsche and Calado’s Ferrari in his Aston Martin.
In GTE-AM The 98 Aston Martin of Christopher Nygaard leads the sister 95 car of David Heinemeier-Hansson with Cressoni’s 8 Star Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia a distant third.
Photo Credit – FIA WEC Press #1 #2