With five hours to run in the 2016 6 Hours of Shanghai, the #1 Porsche 919 leads the race after an impressive opening stint by Brendon Hartley. In LMP2, Alex Brundle paced the field towards the end of the hour, climbing the standings and taking the lead, while the #67 Ford and the #98 Aston Martin held station at the head of the GTE classes.
Up front it wasn’t a completely dominant run for the Kiwi in the #1 919 though, who lost the lead briefly on the first lap to Sebastien Buemi’s #5 Toyota, but managed to claim it back before the end of the lap when the safety car came out to clear up the stranded #45 Manor Oreca of Mathias Beche.
Beche had a spin at Turn 1 at the start and collected the #97 Aston of Richie Stanaway, both would retire due to the significant damage, which in turn ended Darren Turner’s hopes of taking the GTE Pro Drivers World Championship.
Once the safety car came in however, Hartley took off in the lead, building up a healthy margin of over five seconds.
There was a lot of squabbling behind, with the #8 Audi of Lucas Di Grassi climbing to second overall and the #2 Porsche of Neel Jani crucially making up considerable ground to take third after starting sixth. A podium finish would pay dividends here for the championship leaders.
Just off the podium sit the pair of Toyotas, which faded towards the end of the stint, the #6 leading the #5. The #7 Audi currently holds sixth.
In LMP2 Nicolas Lapierre took the lead in the championship-leading Alpine early on off Alex Lynn’s #44 Manor Oreca. But the story was Alex Brundle making light work of both of them before the end of the hour to take the lead.
After the first round of stops at the end of the hour, Lapierre still holds second, but Lynn, who handed over to Matt Rao, slipped to fourth behind the ESM Ligier of Tom Blomqvist who left the car to Antonio Giovanazzi at the round of stops.
It was a very frustrating hour for the RGR Sport Ligier, which with Bruno Senna driving struggled for pace and ended up sitting fifth in the class by the end of hour 1. Not the start the Mexican team had hoped for with the title very much at stake.
In GTE Pro, Ford continue to run in formation at the front with the #67 of Andy Priaulx leading the #66, but only after Stefan Mucke was forced to fight back to second after relinquishing the position to Gianmaria Bruni’s #51 AF Corse 488 early in the first stint. The German did however pull off a very bold move at the final corner round the outside to regain the place though.
Fourth is the sole remaining Aston Martin of Marco Sorensen, which continued to drift away from the leading pack in the opening 60 minutes.
Am however, was very topsy turvy throughout. The #98 Aston still leads at the turn of the hour, but didn’t hold the top spot for all of it. Ben Barker charged to the front in the Gulf Racing Porsche at the start, but slipped back, resulting in a battle for second place between Wolf Henzler’s KCMG Porsche, Manu Collard’s AF Corse Ferrari and Patrick Long’s Abu Dhabi 911 for the majority of the opening stint.
In the end, Long managed to climb to second from fourth, with Collard third. Henzler, after running second early, slipped just outside the top three.