After an hour of racing at Shanghai, it’s the #8 Toyota leads the race, the opening 60 minutes proving topsy turvy for the front-runners.
The #7 pole-sitting TS050 HYBRID of Jose Maria Lopez led early, fending off the challenges from Nick Tandy in the #1 Porsche behind. But after slipping to fourth early, Sebastien Buemi in the championship-challenging #8 Toyota ended up climbing the order to second, up the inside of Tandy at Turn 7 after 25 minutes.
Buemi was then promoted to the lead, when Lopez made an error through traffic, making contact with an LMP2 runner at Turn 8, spinning and slipping to third.
The #7 would end up finishing the hour third, with Kami Kobayashi climbing in at the first pit stop. The #7 did climb to second before pitting though, after Tandy suffered a throttle issue which caused the team to reset the car’s systems to get back up to speed.
It was a costly problem for Tandy and the #1 crew, the car losing over 70 seconds, and falling to a distant fourth. Crucially, it meant the #2 Porsche – driven by Earl Bamber from the start – moved into third and then second (after the stops), prime spot to win the Drivers Championship today.
In LMP2, Bruno Senna led the charge in the #31 Rebellion ORECA from pole. Behind though, there were multiple changes of position.
After the first round of stops, Nicolas Lapierre in the Signatech Alpine is second, 14 seconds behind Senna, with Matt Rao an impressive third. Rao, who started sixth, ended up moving into third on the opening lap, making up places after an incident at the Turn 6 hairpin.
There, Nelson Piquet in the #31 Rebellion hit the G-Drive Racing ORECA of Nico Muller which started on the front row. The #13 is now seventh, and with Muller in the G-Drive ORECA eighth.
The championship-leading #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA also had a tough opening hour, Thomas Laurent slipped down the order to seventh early, before moving into sixth after its first stop.
GTE Pro is now led by Kevin Estre in the #92 Porsche, the Frenchman getting past pole-sitter Nicki Thiim in the #97 Aston Martin after a lengthy tussle in the opening laps. After running side-by-side multiple times, he made a move stick at Turn 8 nine minutes into the race. Olivier Pla also followed Estre through past Thiim, demoting the #97 to third, and promoting the #66 to second.
Further back it’s been a tough time for AF Corse, its two Ferrari 488 GTEs at the back of the Pro pack, fighting Darren Turner in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage.
Aston Martin still leads GTE Am, Mathias Lauda leading Francesco Castellacci by a just a cpoiple of seconds before the first round of stops, which started as the hour ended. Up to third is the Clearwater Ferrari, after Christian Ried had a pair of spins, leading the Dempsey Proton Porsche last and over a minute behind the leader.
Photo courtesy of WEC