Saturday, 18 November 2017

FIA WEC - 6 Hours of Bahrain: GTE Finale – Desert Dash Decider

This year has seen a transition of the Balance of Performance (BoP) in the GTE categories from a manual to automated process.  The result is a beautifully poised battle in both Pro and Am, and the Technical Team led by Vincent Beaumesnil should be commended for what they have achieved. You will always hear complaints and whingeing, but once again in conjunction with our new partners @ TheBPillar we hope to shed some light here on the battles in GTE and the prospects for top step in each category.

GTE-Pro is the primary example, we have a category top-three in Bahrain of Ferrari #71, Aston Martin #97 and Ford GT #67, but only the third of these cars is in the running for the championship, although it could be contended that the #71 Ferrari of Bird & Rigon could continue to play a pivotal role in securing a world championship victory for its sister car #51 of Calado & Pier Guidi. 

That is correct, today we could crown Ferrari FIA World Champions in a road relevant category for both Drivers and Manufacturer, any wonder they are questioning spending and rattling the Formula 1 quitting cages…

As a slight aside here, spare a thought for Gianmaria Bruni who chose to take the Porsche contract, presumably hopeful of progression to an LMP1 919 Hybrid drive, was contractually blocked from 2017 WEC participation and now sees his former team inching onto the top step of a GT World Championship. Decisions, Decisions…

Turning to the B-Pillar Data Analysis (click it to enlarge), and in the knowledge that the cars are very balanced it is possible to see that driver performance and consistency as a team is in our opinion a key factor to success. 

Analysis Kindly Prepared by Matt Griffin @thebpillar

The lower variances on faster averages all seem to reflect the top contenders this year. The one anomally that stands out is the pole sitting #71 of Bird/Rigon, which has not reached the heights of its win at Spa, but has served its sister car well by taking significant points from competitors.  

The championship deciders are predominantly across two awards. The GT Pro FIA World Endurance Teams Trophy, led by #51 (146pts) Ferrari of Calado/Pier Guidi, from the #91 (133pts) Porsche of (Makoweicki/Lietz) and third currently the #67 (131pts) Ford GT of Priaulx/Tincknell. The same contenders are in the running for the Drivers Championship, but the tally of points is calculated in such a way as to make that even closer – 

#51 Calado/Pier Guidi  135pts
#91 Mako / Lietz         133pts
#67 Priaulx / Tincknell 127.5pts

Not since the 1984 F1 World Championship could half of one point prove so vital…  With 25points for the win everything is still to play for in this Desert Decider! 

By no means least we come to the GTE-Am category which is set to expand in 2018.

We have followed for some time now the progress of the #98 Aston Martin enjoying victories previously with Paul/Pedro/Mathias at Spa and experiencing the commiserations of getting so close at Le Mans. Things have really clicked this year, and much of that has been down to Paul Dalla Lana and his pace as the Gent (we can’t refer to him as Am) in the car. It is not normally our way to pick out one driver, they are a team, as above at Spa they win together, and at Le Mans they all felt the pain together.  But the graphic analysis below from The B-Pillar shows why Paul Dalla Lana and the #98 crew are in the dominant leading position in this category. 

Analysis Kindly Prepared by Matt Griffin @thebpillar

Paul Dalla Lana is THE King of Bronze’s he tops the pack consistently and we hope he does not mind us pointing out (and I am the last to point fingers) he is no jockey like driver! 🙂

The standings in GTE-Am are as follows – 

                                                Drivers    Team
#98  Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda      167pts     173pts  Aston Martin Racing
#77  Deinst/Reid/Cairoli             156pts     162pts  Dempsey Proton Racing (Porsche)
#61  Sawa/Griffin/Mok               147pts     161pts  Clearwater Racing (Ferrari)

The #98 took the category Pole, with the #61 Clearwater jumping the #77 Porsche for second on the -Am grid.

One little gem (to see who stuck with this to the end!) – We understand from our new colleagues (@thebpillar) that Christian Ried holds a quite unique record… He has completed a racing lap in EVERY Round of the WEC (apart from the heavily curtailed, did that even happen, race at Fuji in 2013)!  Not a lot of people know that 🙂 

So that is the set-up, the preview of the finale at Bahrain, a fabulous circuit well worth a visit. It drops from the 2018-19 ‘Super’ Season but its understood to be a firm favourite to return to the future winter calendar.  Certainly looking out on a chilly, grey British scene brightened only by the colours of autumn, we look forward to its return, and are starting the fund-raising for a trip now!  Lets hope Bahrain delivers the championship finale that across the categories this World Championship deserves. 

Enjoy the coverage on TV, Radio, Twitter or by write-up.  See you at the track. 

This article has originally been contributed by Nick Holland for Sportscarglobal.
Give him a follow on his twitter account @Nick Holland for more news and insights about the world of endurance racing !

FIA WEC - 6 Hours of Bahrain: LMP Finale – All or Nothing in the Desert

The World Endurance Championship (WEC) reaches its final stop of the 2017 season, Bahrain. And once more the venue bids a farewell to another top flight manufacturer, Porsche. Audi had been broadly dominant in the face of Peugeot and then Toyota opposition, Audi rose to those opponents and sharpened its game from one season to the next. Porsche’s arrival proved different, and the petard that did for both of them in the end proved to be the diesel mill-stone that Audi soldiered on with against the technological might of the multi-hybrid Porsche clock-like V4.

Porsche arrive in Bahrain having sealed firstly the Manufacturers, and last time out the Drivers championship. Hence this round is something of a Cup Final in LMP1 and it is set-up beautifully. Toyota have been resurgent at the last two rounds, and Porsche has languished, securing the Championship wins, but somehow playing out the game checking their collective watch for the final whistle.

Yet two things matter very greatly in LMP1. Porsche will want to say ‘a bientot’ to top flight Endurance Prototypes, as they have a few times before, from the top step. What better way to set the seal on their current period of dominance?  Toyota will of course have a very different perspective.

We expect Toyota are returning in the 2018/19 ‘Super’ season, they have the last two wins, and will want to go into this winter with a hat-trick, bragging rites etc.. To finish like that will give Toyota Motorsport Group the confidence that against top manufacturers they held their own, indeed they were in the accendancy. In the boardroom you might consider the high morale standards of Japanese business culture will have won out against some dubious practices off-track, in the industry, that have culled the Volkswagen brands from this level of competition.

If you are still with us, we are getting to the good stuff and a bit of race relevance and data analysis. Indeed SportscarGlobal have brokered a new partnership with the team at B-Pillar to hopefully provide a deeper and timely insight into races. First up, LMP1 Bahrain –

Analysis Kindly Prepared by Matt Griffin @thebpillar

The above graphic (click to enlarge) should give you some insight into how close we expect the LMP1 battle could be. The data comes from Free Practice 2 as the closest session in terms of time of day to race conditions. It focuses on the Top-30 laps by each car arriving at an average, a variance from that average, with different colour dots in each swim-lane representing different drivers. Note the #8 Toyota has the best average (farthest to the left), but also the highest variance around that average.

With the #7 Toyota having the best average and tightest variance, closely followed by the #2 Porsche and the #1 Porsche having taken pole, the potential tomorrow for a door handle banging race is in our opinion high!  Certainly there is zero reason for the 919 Hybrids to leave anything in the locker, or for one to look out for the other. Every man for themselves!

For the LMP2 runners the story could not be more different.  The championship is closely balanced between three contenders across three distinct teams. On pole in the category is the championship third placed car #36 of Signatech Alpine Matmut, 22 points adrift in the standings, but with 25-points for the win mathematically still in with a shout. The line-up of Lapierre, Menezes and Negrao are working well together and the pole completed a class hattrick for the car at Bahrain.

Second on both the grid and in the championship is Jackie Chan DC Racing #Mighty38 of Tung, Jarvis and Laurent, who trail the championship leader by just 4-points after trouble in Shanghai last time out. Third on the LMP2 grid are championship leaders with 161-points the #31 Valliante Rebellion Oreca of Canal, Prost and Senna.

Looking to the analysis provided by The B-Pillar below, it is all much of a much-ness. If it comes to the Silver driver in each car, there is little to pick between Negrao(#36), Laurent(#38) and Canal(#31)… Laurent edges it but Negrao has been improving latterly.

Analysis Kindly Prepared by Matt Griffin @thebpillar

Most likely LMP2 will come down to a battle between the #31 Rebellion and #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing by Jota Orecas, but with all the other cars so close expect fireworks! A cool, calm approach will likely win out.

That concludes our assessment of the Prototype battles. It is a sociable (1300uk start) afternoon race from the UK, but into the lit-darkness in Bahrain. Check your local listing for TV coverage, sign in to the FIAWEC app or if you have to be out and about headphones and the Tunein app with Radio LeMans on it will be a wise choice.

Make sure to follow our friends of @SportscarGlobal and @TheBPillar where you can expect plenty of twitter comment, info, interaction and insight. 

Enjoy the Race, see you trackside!

This article has originally been contributed by Nick Holland for Sportscarglobal
Give him a follow on his twitter account @Nick Holland for more news and insights about the world of endurance racing ! 

FIA WEC: Dragonspeed to run customer BR1 next season

Dragonspeed to run a customer BR1 next season

During the launch of the BR1 at Bahrain yesterday evening, Dragonspeed has been announced as the team's first customer to run a second BR1 in the 2018/2019 FIA WEC superseason.

After securing the 2017 ELMS title in Portimao last month, Dragonspeed announced their intent to race in LMP1 next season. Initially they kept all options open towards chassis and engine manufacturer, but were looking into a collaboration with Oreca. Since Oreca couldn't give any assurance about a possible LMP1 project, contact were laid with Dallara and SMP Racing, resulting in the decision to opt for the BR1/Dallara chassis and a brand new Gibson LMP1 engine.

Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman have already been confirmed as drivers for next season, the third driver is yet to be selected and announced. Nico Lapierre, who is now racing with Dragonspeed in the ELMS and Signatech Alpine in the FIA WEC might be one of the main contenders for the third seat given his experience in LMP1 with Toyota.

It's also confirmed that the American based team will continue to compete in the European Le Mans Series with one of their Oreca 07's, for which they are looking to find a customer.

Dragonspeed will use the all new Gibson GL458 engine in their BR1. The new LMP1 engine supplied by Gibson will be based upon their successful LMP2 engine. Design, development and production of the new GL458 are taking place at Gibson’s Repton facility, with the first engine being scheduled for delivery to DragonSpeed in late February. All LMP2 WEC, ELMS and Le Mans 24 Hour teams are currently powered by Gibson engines, with over 500,000kms covered so far with the GK428 engines. The new LMP1 contract with DragonSpeed is a natural progression for Gibson’s highly motivated engineers to prove their reliability and success at the top level of endurance racing.

“I am delighted to forge this alliance with Gibson Technology” said Elton Julian, DragonSpeed team owner. “Having personally raced with their engines in the past and now winning our first LMP championship as a team owner with their power plant, I can’t think of a better partner for DragonSpeed’s next challenge. Reliability, support and the common desire to succeed make this the obvious choice for our programme”.
“Everyone at Gibson is thrilled that one of our most successful LMP2 engine customers has opted to remain with us to continue with this excellent partnership and we look forward to tackling the challenge of LMP1 together” said John Manchester, Gibson Technology’s Operations Director. “Work has been underway for a while on the new LMP1 power unit and we will aim to ensure that we can deliver the required combination of power, fuel efficiency and good reliability from the moment the DragonSpeed Dallara Gibson goes on track.”

Kristof Vermeulen. 

FIA WEC: BR1/Dallara LMP1 presented in Bahrain yesterday

Exactly one year after BR Engineering announced its plans to build a new LMP1 racecar in conjunction with Dallara, its BR1 has been presented in the Bahrain paddock yesterday. The BR1 is the first of the new LMP1 prototypes that officially breaks cover ahead of the 2018/2019 FIA WEC super season. 

Boris Rotenberg, president of BR Engineering unveiled the car together with test drivers Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin.  Rotenberg praised the hard work that has been done in the past 365 days by chassis builders Dallara in conjunction with Russian engineers and students of techincal universities who participated in the deveopment of the prototype:  “The significant fact is that we’d announced the agreement between BR Engineering and Dallara to start working on the BR1 prototype exactly a year ago on November the 17, during the FIA WEC 2016 final round. Today we are honoured and pleased to present you the result of these 365 days of hard work. Having the best racing car production experience and the achievements of one of the best companies – Dallara. As well as Russian experts and SMP Racing drivers Vitaly Petrov, Sergey Sirotkin, Mikhail Aleshin, Victor Shaitar, Kirill Ladygin took part at different stages of the car’s development. The drivers worked on the simulator and their task was to make their professional suggestions into key aspects of the prototype development - from ergonomics to the car’s behavior on the track." 

© BR Engineering

The car arrived in Bahrain straight from its initial test in Aragon, Spain earlier this week.  During its 2 day rollout Petrov & co managed to run over 1000 km already which is pretty impressive for a first real test of new car.  Petrov said the car felt really good from the beginning and they just wanted to keep on running, despite the engineers calling them to ease up a bit. 

BR Engineering has an impressive line-up of test drivers who will continue to work on the development of the car. Mikhail Aleshin stepped out of his Indycar program to develop the BR1 and is joined by former F1 driver Vitaly Petrov, Sergey Sirotkin and LMP stalwarts Victor Shaytar & Kirill Ladigin.  It's expected that the BR1 which will run under the SMP Racing flag, with support of ART Grand Prix will feature an all Russian driver line-up.  Testing will resume as soon as possible when the car gets back in Europe. 

The BR1 has a weight of approximately 930 kg and will be powered by a twin turbo AER V6 engine with a power output of 720 hp.  It's also possible to fit other engines like the Mechachrome (which well feature in some of the Ginetta LMP1's), the new Gibson engine or other manufacturers.

The AER engine has also been introduced yesterday, in the wake of the BR1 presentation. The engine is the successor to the successful P60 LMP1-L engine, and features substantial technical upgrades. Like its predecessor, the new P60B is a very compact, lightweight twin-turbocharged GDI V6 and specifically designed for peak fuel optimization and the FIA WEC in the LMP1-L class.

“AER’s LMP1 engine has been in a state of constant development since its inception in 2013,” said Mark Ellis, the company’s technical director, noting that AER have gained huge experience from testing, racing, and dynamometer development in the past three years. “But the specific, integrated package of upgrades we’ve been working on since this past January represents a sufficient step forward that it warrants the change in nomenclature. The P60B incorporates improvements that make it a step up from the P60 in terms of both performance and reliability that’s required for continued success in endurance racing.” According to Ellis the most prominent of the optimised component specifications include implementation of updates to the high-pressure fuel system, cylinder head casting, scavenge system/oil tank, ignition system and engine calibration. “Following impressive dyno test results, the first P60B was delivered to a customer last month,” Ellis said. “AER have since built several P60Bs in support of track-testing, as well as the 2018-2019 racing super season.”

Ellis noted that as a complement to endurance track-testing, AER is undertaking constant in-house dynamometer testing that substantially exceeds the demands of the Le Mans 24-hour race’s duration.

Mike Lancaster, AER’s Managing Director, noted the larger technical and organisational context of the introduction of the P60B. “This has been done in parallel with heavy investment in AER’s facilities in 2017, and in support of AER’s planned and future racing activities. All of our clients are now benefiting from this program and those benefits will only increase with the passage of time.”

Kristof Vermeulen. 

Friday, 17 November 2017

FIA WEC - 6 Hours of Bahrain: Porsche 919 Hybrid on pole in its final race

Neel Jani and Nick Tandy took pole position for the final race of the 2017 FIA WEC season, and the final race for the Porsche 919 Hybrid tomorrow. 
Jani and Tandy set a combined time of 1.39.383 in three stages. Tandy's first qualifying run was ruined by a driver error, but when Jani put everyone else on half a second, Tandy got back out again for a second run and nailed it too with the third fastest time of the session. The number 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid on pole for its final race in the FIA WEC, it couldn't be more symbolic.

Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez secured the second place on the grid in their #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, with a combined time of 1.39.646, 0.263 seconds slower than the leading Porsche. The #2 Porsche of Timo Bernhard and future F1 star Brendon Hartley was third fastest ahead of the second Toyota of Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima.

In LMP2 it's Signatech Matmut Alpine that clinched their third pole position of the season. Andre Negrao and Gustavo Menezes had an average time of 1.47.227, 0.385 seconds faster than the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing of Thomas Laurent and Ho-Pin Tung. Their main rivals for the title in the #31 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca will be right behind them on the grid in third place. Rounding out the top 5 in class are the #26 G-Drive Racing and the #25 CEFC Manor TRS Racing. Matthieu Vaxiviere set the fastest time in LMP2 in 1.47.000, but only got to seventh position on the grid.

2017 manufacturer champions Ferrari took pole position in the GTE Pro class with the #71 488 GTE of Davide Rigon and Sam Bird. Both drivers set a laptime within 0.025 seconds from eachother, resulting in a combined time of 1.56.033. Darren Turner and Jonny Adam gave the Aston Martin Vantage a front row start in its final race, just under four thenths of a second behind the Ferrari. Third fastest was the #67 Ford GT of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell, just ahead of their title rivals in the #51 Ferrari.

Pole position in GTE-Am was once again for Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy, impressively scoring their seventh out of nine pole position of the season. Both drivers set an average time of 2.00.111 which gave them an advantage of 0.174 seconds to the #61 Clearwater Ferrari of Matt Griffin and Weng Sun Mok. Proton Competition lost a point to Aston Martin in the title challenge and will start on third place tomorrow.

Free Practice 3

Porsche went fastest in this morning's practice session wit both 919 Hybrids on the top of the timesheets.  Fastest overall was Timo Bernhard in the #2 Porsche with a lap of 1.42.438, beating Neel Jani in the #1 sister car. Anthony Davidson was the fastest Toyota driver, but over a second behind Bernhard (1.43.734). 

Vaillante Rebellion's morning session didn't go as well as yesterday, the fastest of the two cars now only able to set the fourth time. Jackie Chan DC Racing stepped up, both cars outpacing the rest of the field. Ho Pin Tung set the pace in the Mighty38 with 1.48.879, which was just under half a second faster than Tristan Gommendy in the #37. Loïc Duval was the fastest driver in the #26 G-Drive Oreca again, ending up in fourth place. 

AF Corse took command of the GTE Pro class with James Calado in the #51 Ferrari F488 going round in 1.57.972. Andy Priaulx seemed to have found the right pace in the Ford #67, setting the second fastest time just over two tenths of a second over Calado. This fastest was Davide Rigon in the second Ferrari. 

In GTE Am it was Matt Griffin who went fastest again in the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari with a laptime just over two minutes (2.00.661).  Matteo Cairoli put the #77 Proton Competition Porsche on second place, with the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari behind him in third. The session was shortly red flagged when the #86 Gulf UK Racing Porsche had a small fire. 
The race into dusk and under the floodlights will be green flagged tomorrow afternoon at 16.00h local time. 
Results Free Practice 3
Qualifying results LMP
Qualifying results GTE

Kristof Vermeulen. 

Thursday, 16 November 2017

FIA WEC 2017 - 6 Hours of Bahrain: Toyota dominates Thursday practice

It seems only a few months ago when the 2018 season kicked off in Monza early April, and now we're already into the final raceweekend at Bahrain. A race into the night to finish another exciting season in the FIA World Endurance Championship, but also - again - a race after which a few goodbyes will be waived. Sunny, cloudless skies in Bahrain today & temperatures rising up to just under 30° Celsius this afternoon made it almost perfect conditions for the start of the final WEC weekend of 2017.

The afternoon session was red flagged for almost 40 minutes when Harry Tincknell lost oil out of his #67 Ford GT and stopped on track.  Another 30 minutes were added to the session, the cars now driving into sunset and finishing under the floodlights.

Mike Conway set the fastest laptime of the afternoon in his #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid with a 1.42.313. Sébastian Buemi took second place in the #8 Toyota, just under 0.2 seconds behind Conway.  The Porsches were third (#1) and fourth (#2) fastest, 0.334 and 0.500 seconds behind the leading Toyota. 

Vaillante Rebellion was quickest in LMP2, the championship leading #13 Oreca of Nelson Piquet Jr going round in 1.58.579. Piquet was a fraction of a second (0.022) faster than Loïc Duval in the G-Drive LMP2. Duval had to park the car early in the session, but that didn't stop him from putting in an impressive lap at his return to the FIA WEC. Third quickest was Alex Brundle in the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca, with a time of 1.49.083. Completing the top 5 were the #36 Signatech Matmut Alpine of Gustavo Menezes and the #24 CEFC Manor Oreca of Jean-Eric Vergne. 

Ferrari on top in GTE Pro with Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 AF Corse F488 GTE. The Italian held off Jonny Adam in the #97 Aston Martin with 0.322 seconds. Despite having to park his Ford GT early in the session, Harry Tincknell still managed to do a lap of 1.59.413, enough to put him on third place in the afternoon. 

Matteo Cairoli was fastest in the GTE Am class, with a lap of 2.00.428 in the #77 Proton Competition Porsche. Pedro Lamy put his Aston Vantage V8 in second position, 0.125 seconds behind Cairoli.  Third fastest was Ben Barker in the #86 Gulf UK Porsche.

Toyota Gazoo Racing continued to dominate both Porsches in the evening session, finishing first and second again. Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 TS050 Hybrid now went fastest in an uninterrupted session, putting a 1:40.095 on the timetables. Jose Maria Lopez now put the #7 sister car on second place, 0.598 seconds behind Nakajima. Brendon Hartley was the fastest Porsche driver this evening, just 0.080 seconds behind Lopez.

Swiss team Vaillante Rebellion set the pace again in the LMP2 class, now with both cars on the top spots of the leaderboard. Bruno Senna was quickest under the lights in a 1.47.664, 0.574 seconds faster than Nelson Piquet Jr in the sister car.  Thomas Laurent in the 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca was third fastest in 1.49.002, 7 thousands of a second ahead of André Negrao in the Signatech Matmut Alpine.

It's the final race in the GTE Pro class for the Aston Martin Vantage this weekend, but they sure won't be sent in retirement without a decent fight.  Both Astons set the fastest times in class this evening. Jonny Adam in the #97 beat Marco Sorensen in the #95 sister car with almost half a second. Adam's fastest time a 1.57.014. Best of the rest was Davide Rigon in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari F488 GTE.

In the Am class, the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari was the first to dive under the 2 minute mark today.  Matt Griffin set a 1.59.773, beating Francesco Castellacci in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari with 0.408 seconds. Pedro Lamy in the championship leading #98 Aston Martin set the third fastest time this evening.
Track action resumes tomorrow morning with the third and final free practice session at 11h20 local time.  Qualifying is due to start at 17h00 in the afternoon.

Free Practice 1 results
Free Practice 2 results

Kristof Vermeulen. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

FIA WEC - 6 Hours of Shanghai - Third win for Toyota, championships for Porsche and Ferrari

In a dominant performance by Toyota the #8 TS050 of Anthony Davidson, Sebastian Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima took the overall win in last weeks 6 Hours of Shanghai by a lap over the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley. 

© Toyota Motorsport gmbh

Despite the Toyota win, second place was comfortably enough for the #2 Porsche trio to seal the World Endurance Driver’s Championship.
“It’s an awesome feeling” Hartley said at the end of the race, “Not the best race for us but we will celebrate anyway and I will remember this forever”. Today’s Championship title gives the trio their ‘endurance double’ being crowned both Le Mans and World Champions in a single season.

© Toyota Motorsport gmbh

Until the final 40 minutes of the race it looked as if Toyota were on course for a 1-2 finish which would have pushed the race for the Manufacturer’s World Championship title to the final round in Bahrain next week. However, in his second incident of the day, while leading the race, Jose Maria Lopez hit the #91 Porsche 911 RSR GTE of Richard Lietz, damaging both front & rear suspension of the #7 Toyota which required a 13 minute tip to the pits to rectify, ending Toyota’s chances of a double podium win and handing the Manufacturers LMP1 Championship crown to Porsche. 

© Porsche

Lietz’s 911 fared slightly better from the incident and required just the two right side tyres replacing, however, the collision ended his hunt for Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford GT, resigning the Austrian to second place in class. Although scant consolation to the Porsche GTE team, Lopez received a 10 second penalty for the incident which was added to his overall time.

© Porsche

Rounding out the podium in Shanghai was the No.1 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Neel Jani, André Lotterer and Nick Tandy. Their race was compromised in the first hour when Tandy slowed with a throttle sensor issue.

© Autowebbb - Drew Gibson

In the LMP2 class China provided us with arguably one of the best races of the season. The class was eventually won by the #31 Vaillante Rebellion squad of Bruno Senna, Nicolas Prost and Julien Canal, who also took over the lead in the championship from the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca.

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media

In a race packed full of incident and excitement, Brazilian driver Senna laid the foundations for the team’s eventual win taking him and Canal to the lead of the LMP2 championship by four points (Prost having missed a race earlier in the year). Their chief rivals during the race were the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing trio of Oliver Jarvis, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent. The three-time category winners had seemed to have built a race-winning platform after a stellar double stint from Jarvis, but then a fraught final two hours saw a collision between their Oreca 07 and the #26 G-Drive Racing car. Damage to the front of their car meant they eventually finished off the podium in fourth position.

© Signatech Alpine

Runners-up in the LMP2 category were the Signatech Alpine crew of Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and André Negrão; today’s result keeping Menezes in outside contention for the LMP2 Drivers’ crown.

Making it two Vaillante Rebellion cars in the top three was the #13 car of Nelson Piquet Jr, David Heinemeier-Hansson and Mathias Beche. They recovered from contact on the opening lap to score their second podium position of the season, with Heinemeier Hansson arguably being crowned ‘driver of the day’ as he defended throughout his stint against factory Audi DTM driver Nico Müller in the #26 G-Drive Oreca.

© Ford/Drew Gibson

In the GTE ranks, Ford scored a hard-fought victory as Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell claimed their second LMGTE Pro win of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship season for their #67 Ford Ganassi Team UK Ford GT. The win for Ford’s ‘Britpack’ car thrust the British duo thrust back into contention for the FIA GT World Endurance Championship Driver’s title with 127,5 points. The win came after Tincknell performed a heroic rear-guard action when he came under intense pressure from the #91 Porsche in the fifth hour. When Lietz’s 911 RSR was hit by the #7 Toyota, driven at the time by José Maria Lopez, it freed up Tincknell and he brought the car home to claim the maximum points haul.

© Porsche

Second spot on the podium went to the #91 Porsche 911 RSR of Frédéric Makowiecki and Richard Lietz who now lie second in the driver’s championship with third place going to the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi. The final spot on the podium coupled with the 6th place finish for the #71 car was enough to give the Italian manufacturer the FIA GT Manufacturer’s Title one race before the final round.

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media

In the GTE AM category, Aston Martin turned its pole position into their 50th class win with the #98 V8 Vantage GTE of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda taking the chequered flag a lap ahead of the #86 Gulf Racing UK Porsche 911 of Khaled Al Qubaisi, Ben Barker and Nicholas Foster. The final spot on the podium went to the #77 Dempsey – Proton Racing Porsche.

© Porsche

Dalla Lana & co now lead the championship going into the final race of the season. Clearwater Racing had a disastrous race losing 6 laps in the box after being hit by the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca early in the race, taking out also the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari. All is still to play for though in Bahrain next week with the Aston leading the Porsche with 10 points and the Ferrari 1 point further behind.

Race highlights

Kristof Vermeulen
This article originally appeared on Sportscarglobal