Updated: Nov 11, 2019
Rebellion Racing took their second ever outright win, in a race that was affected by a mixture of the new for 2019-2020 season success penalties, tyre choice and conservation, and the use of knowledge of the WEC Rulebook that affected several of the other cars.
It was also the third ever non-hybrid win, the others being for Audi in Sebring 2012, the first ever WEC event, and for Rebellion at Silverstone 2018 when the Toyotas were disqualified for technical infringements.
Having qualified on pole position, Rebellion used the full wording of the rules to control the start, knowing that although the lights had been changed from red to green, no-one could overtake them before they themselves had crossed the start line. Immediately, three cars, the two Ginettas and the #7 Toyota were guilty of jumping the start by reacting to the lights and would subsequently have to serve drive through penalties as a result.
But before the steward’s decision was issued, we had the sight of the Ginettas controlling the pace at the head of the field, the #6 leading for the first 22 laps, only losing the lead when they came in for their first pitstops.
The Toyota strategy was to complete two more laps per stint and reduce their pitlane limit, as a result of the further reduction of power afforded to them by the success penalty system after their two wins at Silverstone and Fuji. Indeed, at times it looked strange to see the other LMP1 cars streaking past them on the straights, and the difficulties they encountered trying to pass GTE traffic.
Conversely, the #1 Rebellion appeared to be off the pace completely after the start, dropping into the clutches of the LMP2 field while driver Norman Nato worked and waited for the tyres to reach their required operating temperatures, and it would not be until lap 40, with Gustavo Menezes at the wheel, that the car would finally re-appear at the head of the field. From there, it was pretty much an error free run, save for the odd rear wheel dropped onto the grass which caused a quick intake of breathe, and the #8 Toyota briefly taking the lead every time the Rebellion pitted, before relinquishing it on serving their own pitstop.
So it was that Nato, Menezes and Bruno Senna took victory by over one minute from the pair of Toyotas, the #8 leading the #7. Indeed, Senna has now become the first driver with wins in each of the four classes.
Alexandre Pesci, President and Owner of Rebellion Racing said, "This is a historic victory for Rebellion Racing! Despite a complicated start because of the tyres problem, the race was perfectly conducted by our trio of drivers and the whole Team. Congratulations to each member of the team who has shown extreme resilience. The Rebellion Racing family dedicates this victory to its fans who have been supporting the Rebels for a long time."
In LMP2, it was a case of the tyre war bringing a new name to the winners’ circle, with the Goodyear tyres on the two Jota Sport run cars taking the top two steps, the #38 Jota Sport car ahead of the pole position winning #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing car. Much of the foundation for the win was done in the first stint with Anthony Davidson at the wheel, picking off car by car to get to the front, a lead they would only lose during the pitstop sequences. The #22 United Autosport took the final step, just 5 seconds behind the Jackie Chan car, with the remainder of the class one or two laps in arrears. Mention should be made of the #42 Cool Racing Oreca, leading much of the initial laps before becoming the classes only non-finisher due to an electrical issue forcing their retirement.
Aston Martin were hoping to back up their class win from the Superseason with another at the Chinese track, and indeed the weekend had gone well, with the #95 Dane Train car of Nicky Thiim and Marco Sorensen taking pole position and heading the closely matched field. But a puncture during the third hour meant the Vantage had to take to the pits, conceding its position at the head of the class. The unlikely recipient was the #51 AF Corse Ferrari which has not demonstrated lightning pace during qualifying, but whose race pace and tyre saving consistency brought it to the fore, for an on-track win.
But their drama was to happen after the race, as the car failed the ride height test while in parc ferme. The team believed this was as a result of early race collision damage; however, the scrutineers could not find either broken suspension or oil from a damaged damper, so disqualified the car from the results. The team has appealed this decision, and we await the subsequent result.
In the meanwhile, the #92 of Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre, and the #91 Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni Porsche GT team cars have inherited first and second positions, with the #97 Aston Martin of Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin recording their third successive podium of the season.
Aston Martin at least had a happier day in GTE Am, with the #90 TF Sport car of Salih Yoluc, Charlie Eastwood and Jonathan Adam winning taking a second successive victory.
Aston Martin Racing Managing Director John Gaw added, “This is bittersweet for us. The Aston Martin Vantage GTE won again thanks to another excellent performance by TF Sport. But forces outside our control prevented all three works cars from winning in Shanghai. Nicki and Marco were flawless today and they deserve to be leading the championship tonight, while the FCY couldn’t have come at a worse time for Alex and Max – but at least they maintain their podium streak for the season. Paul produced a brilliant recovery in the Am car and another podium ensures all three cars remain in the hunt in the championship.”
“We actually were fortunate with penalties and incidents for the other cars, we’re very happy for the win,” said Yoluc. “I struggled with the pace all weekend, I’m glad it came back to me in the race.”
The #57 Project 1 Porsche took second, and #98 Aston Martin completed the podium after the completion of a remarkable drive following a collision and damage sustained in a first lap incident. The recovery drive brought the car back to head the class, only for it to slide back to third as its tyres became worn.
The next round is the 8 hours of Bahrain, being held on the weekend of the 10th-12th December.
Photos Copyright Joao Filipe / AdrenalMedia.com