Updated: Nov 19, 2018
Text: Rick Kiewiet
It was a sunny day for the Brits at the rainy track at Shanghai: in a race that was red flagged twice due to the rain Mike Conway took the overall victory in the #7 Toyota – the second in a row after Fuji –, Jenson Button scored his first podium in the SMP Racing BR1 and most notably, Aston Martin secured the first victory for the new Vantage.
It wasn’t really a question if Toyota would win the race in Shanghai, but more as to which one. The #7 car driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José Maria Lopez had taken Pole Position with a little over a 2 tenths advantage over the #8 sister car, continuing its winning mood after the 6hrs of Fuji.
The start of the race was behind the safety car due to the (very) harsh weather conditions: cars had already been sliding off track while heading towards the grid. But after a couple of laps behind the safety car the race director decided to red flag the race until weather conditions would improve. 50 minutes later another attempt was made to get the race going again. When the field was unleashed the Toyota’s immediately took off. A small error from Lopez gave the #8 the lead, but as cars kept spinning off and conditions worsened again, the race was red flagged for the second time. Behind the Toyota’s Stephane Sarrazin passed the #1 Rebellion for 3rd.
It took until the second series of pitstops and a safety car until the #7 took back the lead. They managed to built a 30 second gap up to the final stint. When Conway took the wheel from Kobayashi and Nakajima got into the #8, the latter closed the gap to 18 seconds. Then the safety car did the rest after it was called on track for a shunt of the #11 SMP Racing BR1 of Isaakyan. In the last 6 minutes however, Nakajima didn’t find a way past the sister car which took its second victory in a row. In the fight for the last podium spot, it was the #17 SMP Racing who came out on top this time to take the team and Jenson Button’s first podium in WEC.
In the other prototype category LMP2 it was the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca who took the victory on home soil in a thrilling last stint to the finish. Gabriel Aubry took a gamble in his last stint to not go out on full wets but on intermediates. When the rain intensified in the last couple of laps the car got harder to drive, but he had enough GT’s between him and chaser Roberto Gonzalez in the Dragonspeed car to bring it home. In third was the #36 Alpine squad with drivers André Negrão, Phierre Thiriet and Nicolas Lapierre. In the championship the #38 now leads the #36, whilst before the race the two had an even amount of points.
Most notably maybe was the first victory for the new Aston Martin Vantage. The Dane Train (Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen) took the honors in th #95 car before the two factory 911s. At three quarters of the race the Astons seemed to be able to make it a 1-2, but in the final stages of the race the Porsche’s managed to close the gap and pass at least one of the two. The #97 was forced to settle for fourth place. The BMW M8 of Tom Blomqvist and Antonio Felix da Costa was long set to take third, but lost a major amount of ground in the last stage of the race. The other BMW of Tomczyk and Catsburg finished 6th but was later penalized for pushing the #67 Ford off track. Therefore the AF Corse Ferrari’s took 5th (Pier Guidi and James Calado) and 6th (Rigon and Sam Bird).
In 7th came the first of the Fords (#66), the Chip Ganassi ran cars both had a race to forget. The #66 car started from Pole, but both cars dropped down the line due to multiple incidents (most notably the #66 car which was pushed into a spin by the #92 Porsche). One time competitor Corvette had a decent race; couldn’t really catch on to the rest of the GTE Pros in terms of speed but had an almost incident free race which brought them 8th at the finish, keeping the second Ford and a BMW behind them.
In GT Am it was a clean sweep for Porsche: the #77 Dempsey-Proton car took the win, right in front the Project 1 entry who only took 2nd in the last lap from the other Dempsey-Proton 911.
Next race takes place in Sebring: at the 15th of March 2019 their will be extra points in the extra long (1000 miles) race.