With the No.18 Porsche finishing in second place, 26-seconds behind the No.17 car, Porsche clinched the 2015 FIA World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship, sending the Stuttgart mark into ecstasy. Now holding a 70-point lead in the Manufacturers’ standings over Audi, Porsche cannot be beaten no matter what happens at the final race at Bahrain.
Like Fuji last month, Shanghai produced another sensational WEC event today. In changeable weather and track conditions, each of the Porsche and Audi entries led the race at stages, thrilling the crowd and TV viewers alike.
Brendon Hartley led for the opening phase of the race but, right from the start, there was excitement as the No.18 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Marc Lieb had contact with André Lotterer’s No.7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro and spun onto a kerb. The incident ensured that Lieb had to then begin an awe-inspiring drive back through the field.
The opening three hours was punctuated by extremely challenging conditions for the drivers. An early safety car was followed by several Full Course Yellows to retrieve cars stranded in gravel traps.
With Audi seeming to have a slightly faster package on a fully wet track, a battle royal was played out after the first driver-change pit stops.
At one stage in the third hour, all four cars were covered by just 3.8 seconds as they fought a classic encounter around the Shanghai International Circuit.
After Neel Jani took over the No.18 Porsche 919 Hybrid, the rapid Swiss claimed the lead just after the halfway mark when he overtook both Audi R18 e-tron quattros.
As the race wore on, so the track slowly dried, handing an advantage to Porsche who were able to extract more laps in a stint from their wet-weather Michelin tyres than Audi. However, in a fascinating game of strategy and risk, Audi switched to full slick tyres earlier than Porsche, bringing them back into contention late in the race.
There was also last hour drama as the recovering No.18 fell back behind the Audis after Romain Dumas spun at turn two. The Frenchman redeemed himself though and posted some remarkable laps to emerge from a final ‘fuel-splash’ pit-stop in second position. Dumas also soaked up late race pressure to ward off a hard-charging Lotterer, who started and finished the race in the No.7 Audi.
The No.8 Audi of Loic Duval, Oliver Jarvis and Lucas Di Grassi came home in fourth place once again after some tenacious fights throughout the race.
Toyota Racing took fifth and sixth places after several problems throughout the event. The No.2 car of Mike Conway, Alex Wurz and Stephane Sarrazin headed the No.1 Toyota TS 040 after Kazuki Nakajima lost time with a gravelly spin at turn 16, triggering the third Full Course Yellow period.
The No.12 Rebellion R-One-AER took privateer LMP1 honours in the hands of Nicolas Prost and Mathias Beche despite an accident just 15-minutes from the end of the race. Beche hit the wall at turn 10 but was able to get back to the pits where the team performed miracles to return to the track before the chequered flag fell.
Signatech take maiden LMP2 WEC win
Taking a fine, first LMP2 win in the WEC at Shanghai was the Signatech Alpine squad of Nelson Panciatici, Paul-Loup Chatin and championship newcomer Tom Dillmann.
Driving the Alpine A450b-Nissan, the French trio came good in the second half of the race after Chatin drove an excellent middle portion to set up a useful gap to the chasing G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan entries.
Signatech had a lap advantage over the No.26 G-Drive Racing trio of Sam Bird, Julien Canal and Roman Rusinov which led the race in the opening hour. The second place for the No.26 G-Drive crew in Shanghai further extends their points lead over KCMG to 16 points, with 26 to play for in Bahrain.
The sister G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan seemed to be heading for another podium position after fine early work from Pipo Derani and Gustavo Yacaman. However, a late race trip into the gravel by Ricardo Gonzalez saw the car unclassified for the first time this season.
KCMG’s race in Shanghai was compromised early on in the very wet conditions when Nick Tandy suffered a spin causing the Safety Car to be deployed on the first green flag lap of the race. A subsequent gamble onto full wet tyres initially worked for the Hong Kong team in the first hour, but when the rain abated they had to switch to intermediates. Strong stints from Matt Howson, Richard Bradley and again from Nick Tandy saw them come through to finish third.
Team SARD Morand continued their strong run of results with fourth place in class. Oliver Webb, Pierre Ragues and Chris Cumming had a trouble-free race to collect more points in the Morgan Evo-SARD.
The LMP2 class saw an entertaining cameo performance from the Pegasus Racing Morgan-Nissan in the first four hours of the race. A sensational triple stint from LMP returnee Alex Brundle saw the Michelin-shod Morgan make the most of the conditions to lead the chasing pack. However, in the last two hours of the race, with the circuit drying, the turquoise Morgan fell back and would eventually earn Brundle and his Chinese teammates Ho-Pin Tung and David Cheng a creditable fifth place finish.
Porsche Takes LMGTE Title Challenge a Step Closer in China
The 2015 edition of the 6 Hours of Shanghai produced one of the most dramatic races of the year thanks to the very wet conditions dominated the proceedings in Shanghai. Two great battles in the LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am classes resulted in victory for Porsche in the Pro class and the first win of the year for the no83 AF Corse Ferrari in the Am class.
The race got underway behind the Safety Car and while the race went green after 13 minutes of running, the conditions caught several drivers out and one safety car and four Full Course Yellows were declared during the six hour race to recover stranded cars and clear gravel from the track. The tricky conditions also made tyre choice critical and the timing of the move from full wets to wets and then slicks at the end of the race crucial to the eventual outcome of the 7th round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The two Team Manthey run Porsche 911s had to fight hard with the two AF Corse Ferraris with Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen in the no91 911 taking control when it mattered, moving well ahead of the no51 Ferrari of Toni Vilander and Gimmi Bruni and taking the chequered flag with a 45-second margin. The no92 Porsche of Fred Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet were challenging for the top spot on the podium but a run wide into the gravel in the first hour dented the French duo’s challenge. However they were able to get back on terms with the leaders and also hold off a determined challenge from the no71 Ferrari of Davide Rigon and James Calado to take the final podium place and deny the Ferrari duo much needed championship points in the race for the driver’s title.
The no99 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 of Alex MacDowall, Fernando Rees and Richie Stanaway were always near the front of the action but as the race progressed their challenge faded and they finished 2 laps behind the lead Porsche and 22 second aheads of their Aston Martin teammates Darren Turner and Jonathan Adam in the no97 Vantage.
The third win of the 2015 season for Richard Lietz sees the Austrian extend his lead in the race for the FIA World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers. With a total of 135 points, Lietz is 18 points ahead of his teammate Michael Christensen, who in reality has no opportunity to overtake his partner. His nearest rivals are the Ferrari duo of Davide Rigon and James Calado who are now on 115 points, 20 behind Lietz with 26 still available in Bahrain. With 112.5 points Gimmi Bruni and Toni Vilander have an outside chance of defending their 2014 title but will need a lot of things to go their way in the Middle East.
The race for the FIA World Endurance Cup for GT Manufacturers is a lot closer, with Ferrari currently leading Porsche by just 4 points and a maximum of 44 points still to be won in the final race of the season.
AF Corse Ferrari Scores Debut 2015 Victory in China
The road to victory in the LMGTE Am class was a hard one to predict right up to the final hour of the race. The early pace was made by the no98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Paul Dalla Lana but the Canadian was passed by the no50 Larbre Competition Corvette of Paolo Ruberti. Pat Long in the Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche came from the back of the grid following a spin behind the safety car to sweep past the Corvette to take the lead after 30 minutes into the race.
As the race progressed the two Aston Martin Racing Vantages got back up to the front of field with Mathias Lauda (no98) and Francesco Castellacci (no96) fighting for the lead of the category, with Lauda holding the upperhand as the half way point of the race was reached.
The championship leading no72 SMP Racing Ferrari finished the first half of the race in 5th after a stop-go penalty for pitting during the first three laps of the second safety car period and a couple of spins in the treacherous conditions but the Russian team fought their way back up the field, with Italian Andrea Bertolini, despite a spin as the rain fell again, pushing the 458 towards a podium finish. A trip into the gravel for the no96 Aston Martin of Liam Griffin promoted the SMP Racing Ferrari into 3rd place with just 50 minutes of the race remaining.
But it was the no83 AF Corse Ferrari of Emmanuel Collard, Rui Aguas and Francois Perrodo who made the most progress in the race, reading the conditions well and making the right call at the right time with regards to tyre choice. Aguas moved past the Aston Martins to challenge for the lead at the right time. Even a drive through penalty for a pitstop infringement failed to dent the Franco-Portuguese challenge for their first class honours of the year and keep their title aspirations alive.
The AF Corse Ferrari took the chequered flag 41 seconds ahead of the no98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda and 1 lap ahead of the no72 SMP Racing Ferrari of Victor Shaytar, Alexsey Basov and Andrea Bertolini.
This leaves the SMP Racing Ferrari with a slightly reduced points advantage of 19 points over the AF Corse trio with 26 points available at the 6 Hours of Bahrain on November 21. The destination of the 2015 LMGTE Am titles will be decided between these two teams, the only certainty is the winners will be driving a Ferrari 458.