After the anticlimax of the race that never was at Fuji three weeks ago we move on to the penultimate round of the 2013 FIA WEC in China.
Audi may have been confirmed as LMP Manufacturers Champions but there’s still plenty to savour in LMP1
With a 40 point lead and just 52 up for grabs fourth place will be good enough for the drivers title for the #2 Audi crew, Messrs Duval, Kristensen and McNish whilst their only remaining rivals, the defending champion #1 crew of Fassler, Lotterer and Treluyer need to score and score big, and hope their rivals (and team-mates) stumble!
Does it matter to them? Hell Yes!! Whilst the Audis do battle in China there’s another title up for grabs over in Japan, the Super Formula season finale comes to Suzuka, but it will run without either of the two leading title contenders, Andre Lotterer and Loic Duval.
The pair lie first and second in the points standings and only Duval would have been able to take away the title from Lotterer.
Lotterer wants to give himself every and any chance to close the WEC points gap whilst Duval most certainly wouldn’t want to read a headline of an Audi World Championship win with just two names on the trophy!
Not that it will all be about Audi – Toyota were mightily frustrated not to have the opportunity to take the fight to Audi at home in Fuji but have opted to take their planned two car Fuji attack straight to Shanghai where we’ll again see both the #7 and #8 TS030s.
We won’t though see Kazuki Nakajima in the #7 car as, ironically, he IS at Suzuka and looking to try to wrest second place in the Super Formula results from Duval! #7 will race with two drivers only.
If the weather plays ball this time we should be in for a real battle royal, Toyota looking to grab some headlines, some silverware and some data!
Rebellion meanwhile scored a second podium of the WEC season at Fuji as their ‘away’ team again dominated Petit Le Mans. Nico Prost joins the Fuji pairing of Andrea Belicchi and Mathias Beche.
We’re back down to nine cars in LMP2, KCMG opting not to race in China, but there is plenty to savour here.
Let’s look at the points standings first. The Fuji debacle helped the #35 Oak Morgan Nissan crew as they retook the lead courtesy of a poor start position for the Pecom boys. It’s still very tight at the top though, #35 leads #49 by just 5.5 points.
Next up is the #24 OAK Morgan Nissan, a further 10.5 points back with the #26 G-Drive Oreca Nissan now needing both good performances for themselves and poor luck for others to close the 33.5 point gap they have to the class leading #35 car.
None of the above have any changes to report for China but several other cars do.
Tor Graves is joined in the #25 Delta ADR Oreca Nissan by the returning Robbie Kerr and sportscar new boy and ex Superleague racer Craig Dolby – That’s an impressive looking line-up, though Dolby, who was race-engineered in Superleague by Delta ADR team boss Simon Dowson, is short on race time in the past few seasons.
The #31 Lotus sees Christophe Bouchut fill his regular ‘supersub’ slot with James Rossiter another man on Super Formula duty at Suzuka.
Greaves Racing regain their brand after the Gainer International entry with the #41 car in Japan. They have Eric Lux back in the car after the American raced for the team both at Sebring and Le Mans and another returnee, Bjorn Wirdheim is back too after featuring in the car in Brazil and Japan.
The most interesting addition though is yet another Nissan GT Academy graduate making the move up to LMP2, Mark Shulzhitskiy the fourth man to do so with three of them, Messrs Ordonez, Mardenborough and now Mark having done so with Greaves in their Zytek Nissans.
The final addition is AsLMS racer David Cheng who joins the #45 Oak Art Car crew for Shanghai.