Toyota Gazoo Racing took a dominant victory in the 2017 6 Hours of Shanghai, the #8 TS050 HYBRID of Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Anthony Davidson leading the way and taking the win. But the victory, the #8’s second in a row, wasn’t enough to take the LMP1 Drivers World Championship down to the wire at Bahrain.
“It was hard at the end, trying to stay on the track because of the marbles. The last 10 laps were the hardest bit of it,” Buemi said.
With a second place finish, the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber, secured the world title (Hartley and Bernhard’s second). It was a quiet race for the champions, but staying clean and consistent was enough to take the top prize in the WEC a race early.
“It’s an awesome feeling, awesome year, Not the best race of the year, but we’ll celebrate,” Hartley said. “With Timo and Earl, I’ll remember this forever.”
In addition to that, drama in the final hour, which saw the #7 of Jose Maria Lopez – which was leading at the time – hit the #91 GTE Pro Porsche, and was forced into the garage, handed the World LMP1 Manufacturers Championship to Porsche too with a fourth place finish. It’s Porsche’s third in a row.
Third, behind the title winners was the sister #1 Porsche, which had a tough race, finishing a lap down after suffering with throttle issues early in the race. After that it was a conservative run to the flag for Nick Tandy, Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani, who were rewarded with a podium for their efforts at the end.
Rebellion takes LMP2 points lead with dramatic win
The LMP2 battle was frantic throughout, packed with incidents up and down the order. In the end, the #31 Vaillante Rebellion ORECA took the victory, Julien Canal, Bruno Senna and Nicolas Prost forced to fight until the final hour, taking the championship lead and their third win of the season.
It wasn’t an easy victory, the car, which led early, and held a comfortable margin for the first half of the race, but ended up slipping to second, behind the hard-charging #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA. In the end though, the #38 of Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho Pin Tung would finish fourth, despite taking the lead at the halfway mark, and battling hard in the closing stints. It leaves the them four points off the Rebellion crew in the standings going into the finale.
The pivotal point of the race, was a collision between Tung and Nico Muller’s G-Drive Racing ORECA, the pair sent spinning into the runoff at Turn 1 after Muller turned into the racing line, tagging Tung’s front-end. It occurred while Tung was leading, and cost the car valuable time in the class battle. It led to a battle for the lead between himself and Bruno Senna, the Brazilian eventually taking the top spot at Turn 7.
“Turn 1 is a pretty fast corner, nobody is going to wave anyone by,” Muller, who received a 10-second pit stop penalty for the collision, said. “He had 30 centimetres of his car next to me, I wasn’t going to lift, if he’s going faster then he can wait for a safe place. Instead he hit me, and I spun. Now it’s over to fight for something decent.”
By the end of the race, the #38 finished fourth because a late splash promoted the Signatech Alpine to second and left Tung fighting with Nelson Piquet Jnr in the sister #13 Rebellion ORECA. Piquet battled hard, and pounced in the final 10 minutes, getting past at Turn 8 to take third.
The #13 trio deserved the outcome, after a strong performance from the three drivers, David Heinemeier Hansson in particular having a stand-out drive, fighting for almost two hours with Muller to keep the car in contention through the middle of the race.
Priaulx and Tincknell take crucial victory in Pro
GTE Pro was a barnstormer, the #67 Chip Ganassi UK Ford GT of Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx taking a spectacular second 2017 victory, re-igniting their title hopes as a result. It was hard-fought, Andy Priaulx shining in his drive through the field early on, before Tincknell had to defend hard against Richard Lietz in the final hour, who eventually failed to get past after being hit by the #7 Toyota.
The 911 RSR was therefore denied its first WEC win once again, the car faster towards the end on fresher rubber, but unable to take the victory.
The #91 finished second, with the #51 AF Corse Ferrari recovering to third, after Alessandro Pier Guidi muscled past Olivier Pla in the #66 Ford GT. Pla was second after five hours, but on older rubber couldn’t hold off Lietz and later Pier Guidi, himself and Stefan Mucke were therefore unable to claim a podium spot.
It leaves Pier Guidi and James Calado with a two-point championship lead over Makoweicki and Lietz. Priaulx and Tincknell are now 8.5 points back in third.
The result also settled the GT Cup Manufacturers World Championship for Ferrari, a positive result for AF Corse despite not taking the win in China.
“It’s an amazing achievement for Ferrari to take the championship with one race to go,” Calado said. “It’s not a strong circuit for us, but we’re leading the Drivers Championship still, and now have to celebrate this Manufacturers Championship.”
#98 crew score take historic win for the AMR
GTE Am meanwhile was a quiet affair, the #98 Aston Martin Vantage of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda taking a crucial victory in pursuit of the class title; the 50th class win for the Aston Martin Racing since 2004.
It was a dominant showing from pole position, the trio finishing almost two minutes clear of the Gulf Racing UK Porsche which took second, and a lap clear of the Dempsey Proton Porsche which took the final podium spot.
For Clearwater Racing, it was a disastrous outing, Weng Sun Mok, Matt Griffin and Keita Sawa losing six laps in the pits for repairs after a being shoved into the Spirit of Race Ferrari at Turn 1 by the #37 DC Racing ORECA of Tristan Gommendy.
Spirit of Race retired with accident damage from the collision, and Clearwater limped home, scoring points but losing its lead in the Teams Championship.
Ford GT photo courtesy of Ford Performance