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FIA WEC: Shanghai, LMP2 Race Preview, Battle Rejoined After Fuji Clashes

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LMP2: 9 Cars

26 G-Drive Racing Roman Rusinov Julien Canal Sam Bird Ligier JS P2 Nissan
28 G-Drive Racing Gustavo Yacaman Luis Felipe Derani Ricardo Gonzalez Ligier JS P2 Nissan
29 Pegasus Racing Ho Pin Tung David Cheng Alex Brundle Morgan Nissan
30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Scott Sharp Ryan Dalziel David Heinemeier-Hansson Ligier JS P2 Honda
31 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ed Brown Jon Fogarty Johannes van Overbeek Ligier JS P2 Honda
36 Signatech Alpine Nelson Panciatici Paul Loup Chatin Tom Dillmann Alpine A450B Nissan
42 Strakka Racing Nick Leventis Danny Watts Jonny Kane Gibson 015S Nissan
43 SARD Morand Racing Oliver Webb Pierre Ragues Chris Cumming Morgan Evo Nissan
47 KCMG Matthew Howson Richard Bradley Nick Tandy Oreca 05 Nissan

Pegasus Racing makes a one-off appearance in Shanghai with one of its trusty Morgan Nissans, the plan to field a Ligier coupé faltering. Ho Pin Tung and David Cheng will be joined in the car by the returning Alex Brundle; the rapid young Brit back from an illness that affected his abdominal muscles in an excruciatingly painful fashion. It’s good to see him back.

29 Pegasus Racing

The #36 Signatech Alpine team names young French GP3 (and HTP Bentley) racer Tom Dillmann aboard its Alpine 450b for this race and the Bahrain season finale. Vincent Capillaire’s season deal extended only to Fuji where happily he ended his year with a season best second place.

Chris Cumming stays aboard the #43 SARD Morand Morgan Judd for China and Bahrain.

Amongst the rest Strakka are still waiting for the lucky bus to call at its stop after a season long struggle, and the Tequila Patron ESM pair showed much better form last time out though it is now too far back to feature in anything other than the battles for the remaining race podiums.

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That brings us to THE story post-Fuji.

Let’s recap:

KCMG came into the Japanese race with a healthy points advantage thanks to the pace of its Oreca 05 Nissan and some ill-fortune in the early part of the season for the #26 G-Drive Ligier.

That saw the #28 G-Drive car take up the baton and the chase but over the last couple of races though the pendulum has swung back, Sam Bird has starred and Julien Canal too has shone with Roman Rusinov finding his form after some fractious mid season outings.

The #28 meanwhile had a great run at Spa and has been pacey throughout with ‘Pipo’ Derani showing real form but has suffered since, principally through G-Drive’s Silver (Ricardo Gonzalez) being less able to attack than his #26 equivalent (Canal).

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Up front KCMG have had good days (Le Mans was a seamless win and the #47 was untouchable too at the Nurburgring) and less good days, CoTA seeing Sam Bird at his best to assist the #26 to take the win.

Then we got to Fuji, KCMG leading by 14 points from the #26 with #28 a handful of points further back.

Nick Tandy had a nightmare in Qualifying but in the Race the #47 was back into the mix after his astonishing marathon stint put them back in the pound seats. Matt Howson vs Julian Canal in the middle stints saw the KCMG boys looking solid and then it came down to Rusinov vs Bradley.

That was a closely fought and fairly physical affair with both drivers robust in both attack and defence, the pressure of the situation showing very clearly in the body language of both men’s progress.

There was contact, adjudged as a racing incident, which saw the lead change, KCMG opting to pit which put #47 back out in third place, on track ahead of the #28, Gustavo Yacaman at the wheel a lap down in fourth.

Thereafter there were two notable incidents, both involving contact #28 to the rear of #47, the first turning the Oreca around and requiring a pit stop, the second ending the race for KCMG and putting #28 into third place.

First the numerical facts.

#KCMG DNF’d losing it the Championship lead to #26.

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The #26 now sits on 134 points from KCMG on 122 and the #28 on 119. KCMG need to win this one, and likely the finale too. A win for the #26 makes it very tough indeed for the #47. A win for #26 and a DNF for #47 sees a guarantee that the title goes to G-Drive!

Next the post race inquests where initially Bradley was deemed at fault after race stewards examined GPS data deciding had braked early, later though that judgement was withdrawn after the in car-data was examined which apparently shows that the #47 was hit whilst at full throttle. A Stewards decision is due before the cars hit the track at Shanghai.

Next an opinion:

Whatever happened it looked atrocious, the driving standards on display certainly not befitting a World Championship race and whilst the opportunity to express that in immediate terms was not taken during the race and in truth was fumbled badly afterwards; there needs to be a very clear message here.

What that message is and who it is delivered to, is a matter for the Stewards. They have access to the data, they will have spoken to the protagonists. But the reality is that whatever they determine, it will come too late for the difference that was made to the Championship race in Japan.

There are lessons here for the teams and drivers involved. But also for those responsible for determining whether unfairness is seen to be punished.

At present it all seems like too little, too late.

GG