2014 WEC - 6 Hours of Shanghai - Michelin scoops top finishes in every class…
LM P1: Toyota Racing makes the break in the FIA WEC standings | LM P2: podium honours for SMP | LM GTE Pro: a one-two for Porsche Team Manthey opens up the title chase | LM GTE AM: Aston Martin Racing take the spoils
LM P1 class
After securing a one-two finish three weeks ago at Fuji, Toyota Racing produced a strong performance in qualifying for the 6 Hours of Shanghai where the N°8 Toyota TS 040-Hybrid of Davidson/Buemi qualified on the front row of the grid and the N°7 sister car of Wurz/Sarrazin/Nakajima started from fourth place. The team went on to convert this speed into a one-two finish at the end of China’s round of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship. The race started under a clear sky and the vast majority of the lingering damp patches after overnight rain had cleared. As the two Toyota TS 040-Hybrids, two Audi R18 e-tron quattros and two Porsche 919 Hybrids battled for supremacy at the start, the opening lap was marked by a collision between the N°51 Ferrari 458 GTE and KCMG’s Oreca 03R-Nissan which slowed without warning because of a sudden mechanical problem. The safety car was dispatched and the two Toyotas caught their rivals by surprise by making a pit stop after just two laps at reduced speed (the N°8 car even pitted a second time to complete the operation). When the race re-started, Porsche Team took advantage of the Japanese cars’ absence at the front of the field to pull clear of the Audi Sport Team Joest cars which had trouble matching the pace of the 919 Hybrids. Meanwhile, the Toyotas began a spectacular comeback to make up the 30-seconjd gap to the leading N°14 Porsche (Romain Dumas). Sébastien Buemi (Toyota N°8) produced a series of fast laps and, after picking his opponents off one-by-one, was in the lead by Lap 30. The sister car (Alexander Wurz) had to wait until the end of the first wave of refuelling stops to ease into second spot which it then held until the chequered flag. In the wake of the dominant Toyota Racing machines, the Porsche 919 Hybrids and Audi R18 e-tron quattros were locked in a fierce battle, with the former in front. The second sequence of pit stops saw the N°14 Porsche appear in third place before gradually pulling clear of the Audis en route to a podium finish.
The two Toyotas used ‘high temperature medium compound’ MICHELIN Tires from start to finish, while Audi Sport Team Joest and Porsche Team chiefly ran the high temperature soft compound’.
LM P2 class
Frenchman Nicolas Minassian ensured third place for SMP Racing’s N°27 prototype after the Russian team’s strong showing with its two Oreca 03R-Nissans. With an hour remaining, the squad was even second and third overall but the N°37 car, with Kirill Ladygin at the wheel, lost ground and had to settle for fourth. SMP used ‘medium’ and ‘medium plus’ compound MICHELIN Tires during the race.
LM GTE Pro and AM classes
In a repeat of the 6 Hours of Fuji, Aston Martin dominated Saturday’s qualifying, this time with the N°97 of Turner/Mücke. The British car ended the session narrowly clear of the N°92 and N°91 Porsche 911 RSRs of Makowiecki/Pilet and Bergmeister/Lietz respectively. These three cars were tailed by the two AF Corse Ferrari 458 GTEs. Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander (N°51 Ferrari) had a chance of wrapping up the class’s 2014 FIA WEC Drivers’ world title with two rounds remaining thanks to a 49.5-point lead over Frédéric Makowiecki. Victory in China would have been sufficient to seal the crown.
Gianmaria Bruni got away to a first class start to mix it with the two Porsche 911 RSRs and the Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Stefan Mücke. Towards the end of the opening lap, however, the Italian’s Ferrari 458 GTE ran into the KCMG LM P2 prototype which suddenly slowed in front of it because of a mechanical problem. Nobody was hurt but the incident put paid to the Ferrari pair’s chances of leaving Shanghai with the title in their pocket. The N°97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 then appeared to be heading for an assertive victory, but Frédéric Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet kept up the pressure and, on Lap 125, this was rewarded when the British car was halted by a mechanical problem. Makowiecki’s ensuing win puts the Frenchman back in the frame for the title, while Porsche Team Manthey’s one-two result promotes the German outfit to within a single point of Ferrari in the provisional Manufacturers’ standings. The Italian make salvaged third place thanks to Davide Rigon and James Calado.
Aston Martin’s bitter taste of defeat in the LM GTE Pro class was compensated for by its domination of the LM GTE Am battle. The N°98 and N°95 Aston Martin Vantage V8s of Dalla Lana/Lamy/Nygaard and Poulsen/Heinemeier-Hansson/Stanaway respectively crossed the line in first and second places (the reverse of their finishing order in Japan) after spending the entire six-hour race in front. The N°90 Ferrari 458 Italia (8Star Motorsports, Roda/Ruberti/Cressoni) joined the British cars on the podium in Shanghai.
The next round of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship will take teams to Bahrain (Sakhir circuit) on November 15.