Friday 3 November 2017

FIA WEC - 6 Hours of Shanghai: Toyota dominates Friday practice

Mike Conway was the fastest man on track in Shanghai today, topping both free practice sessions in his #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid.  With a 1.47.182 in the first session and 1.44.741 in the second session, the British driver outpaced all other drivers in the LMP1 class. 

© James Moy/Toyota Motorsport gmbh

Both Toyota's showed their strenght in both sessions, finishing first and third in the morning session and taking both top places in the afternoon.  Anthony Davidson on the #8 TS050 was second fastest in the second session, 0.390 seconds behind.  “It has been a decent first day. We have been continuously improving the car and working out which tyres to use. This circuit is very hard on tyres so that is an important point for us. We still have some homework to do in a few areas but it’s been an encouraging day overall.” said Conway. 

© Porsche

The Porsches couldn't match the pace of the Toyota's today. Nick Tandy was second fastest in the morning session in his #1 919 Hybrid, just 0.2 seconds behind the Toyota. In the afternoon session it was Brendon Hartley in the #2 Porsche who set the third fastest time, but 0.528 seconds slower than the leading Toyota. 

Porsche arrived in China with an advantage of 58,5 points over rivals Toyota, to won the 2017 manufacturers title, they have to finish ahead of both Toyota's. After their 1-2 finish in Fuji and beating the Porsches today, Toyota will be out for another strong finish and China and take the title battle to the wire in Bahrain. 

© Jota Sport

The stakes are high in the LMP2 class this weekend.  After a strong start of the season the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca of Oliver Jarvis, Ho Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent is still on top of the leaderboard but has seen its lead reduced to only ten points after Fuji. It's the home race for Jackie Chan and his team, they will be out to get back into winning form and take an option on the 2017 teams and drivers titles.

The #13 Vaillante Rebellion of Nelson Piquet Jr, Mathias Beche and David Heinemeier Hanssen was fastest in both sessions today. Beche set the benchmark this morning with a lap of 1.52.533, Piquet Jr took the honours in the afternoon in  1.50.556. 

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media

Both title contenders, the Mighty 38 and the #31 Rebellion of Julien Canal, Nicolas Prost and Bruno Senna settled for a time in the middle of the pack in the morning session.  Later today, both teams upped their game and completed the top 3 behind the leading Rebellion. Thomas Lauren was second fastest in the DC Racing Oreca in 1.50.884, a mere 0.062 seconds faster than Julien Canal in the second Rebellion. 

2 new faces in the #26 G-Drive this weekend with Frenchman Léo Roussel and German youngster Nico Müller. Roussel secured the ELMS title with G-Drive 2 weeks ago in Portimao after a strong season in the Oreca, showing his speed and reliability. Müller is one of the rising stars in the DTM championship and almost immediately showed his outright speed this morning, setting the second fastest time in the first session. 

In GTE Pro it was Ford and Ferrari each leading the way in a session. Ferrari leads the championship now both as a manufacturer as in the drivers standings, so Ford  (manufacturers) and Porsche (drivers) both need a strong race this weekend to keep their title hopes alive. 

© FIA WEC/Adrenal Media

The #66 Ford of Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla was fastest in the first session with a 2.02.693, almost half a second faster than the #97 Aston Martin who seemed to be back on the pace again after struggling in Japan. Fréd Makowiecki in the #91 Porsche was third fastest, while both Ferrari came in last in the session, a second off the pace of the Ford. 

Another story in the second session when the #51 Ferrari of James Calado & Alessandro Pier Guidi came out on top in 2.01.913, almost 2 seconds faster than their morning time.  Lietz & Makowiecki got up to second fastest now, 0.626 seconds behind the F488. Olivier Pla took third place in his Ford  GT. The second AF Corse Ferrari kept on struggling though, leaving Davide Rigon & Sam Bird dead last in their #71, even slower than the GTE Am Ferrari of Clearwater Racing. Both Astons struggled for pace too, going slower round the track than Pedro Lamy in the Am car. 

© Dempsey-Proton Porsche

The GTE-Am class is – with 12 hours of racing left in 2017 – really too close to call. Clearwater got back in the lead after their second place in Japan last month. Only 3 points separate the first 3 cars in the championship: Clearwater Racing has 149 points after 7 races, Dempsey Proton Competition 147 and Aston Martin 146. 

Miguel Molina set the pace in the first session, putting the Fuji winning #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari in top in 2.04.789. Matteo Cairoli was second fastest in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche 2.05.165; both drivers nestling themselves in between some of the Pro cars. Pedro Lamy in the #98 Aston Martin drove the third fastest time.  Championship leaders Clearwater Racing only managed a 2.05.911, just over a second slower than the #55 Ferrari.  

Title challengers Dempsey-Proton were impressive in the afternoon session, Cairoli fastest again in the Porsche in 2.03.353, a time that would have put him on fifth place in the Pro class. Pedro Lamy was second quickest in his Aston Martin, Matt Griffin now got into the top three with the championship leading Clearwater F488 GTE. 

There's one driver change to be noted in the class: Khaled Al Qubaisi returns to the FIA WEC this weekend in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche. He replaces Mike Wainwright and joins Ben Barker Nicholas Foster at the wheel of the 911 RSR. 

Useful links for the weekend:

Entry list 
Spotter guide