Toyota Gazoo Racing seem to have the upper hand at the 6 Hours of Shanghai, taking their first one-two of the weekend at the end of the second practice session. The LMP2 Championship battle took to the track as the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car split the two Vaillante Rebellion’s as they battled for fastest in the class. A bad start to the weekend was left behind the AF Corse team at they topped the GTE PRO class ahead of another top three consisting of three different manufacturers. The fight for the lead in GTE AM is set to be tooth and nail during Sunday’s race as the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche was on top of the #98 Aston Martin Racing car again in the second practice session.
Mike Conway appeared to be mastering the Shanghai International Circuit this weekend as he put in another time sheet-topping time for the second practice session of the penultimate round of the 2017 World Endurance Championship. His 1:44.741 put the #7 on top for the second time in a row and was too much for the sister #8 car to beat. But it was close at the top, with the Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima shared car just three-tenths off the pace.
Porsche had to settle for third and fourth, with the championship-leading #2 ahead of last year’s champion-winning car. It was as close between the two Porsches as it was between the two Toyotas. It does look like, at this point, it will be difficult for Porsche to take pole position tomorrow, but so long as they finish third or above it would not matter if they finished behind the #8 Toyota on Sunday’s six-hour race.
Vaillante Rebellion remained strongly at the front of the LMP2 class, but in the lull in action the #38 Jackie Chan team have stepped up. Nelson Piquet Jr set the fastest lap of the session with a 1:50.556. But it was close at the top, with the top five covered by just half a second. The #38 placed second, three tenths off Piquet’s time, whilst title rivals #31 Rebellion had to settle for third, just a tenth slower.
The #24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing and the #36 Signatech Alpine cars finished off the top five, with the sixth-placed #37 Jackie Chan car nearly a second off the pace. There could be some very close fighting at the sharp end of the LMP2 field as more than three cars clearly have the pace to challenge for the podium. The #36 Signatech car has to win this race to still be in with a chance of clinching the Driver’s title in Bahrain for Gustavo Menezes. If they fail to win, it will be a two horse battle between the #31 crew and the #38 crew.
James Calado made sure AF Corse’s bad start to the day got better as he topped the times in the GTE PRO class. It looks like all four manufacturers are in with a chance of taking the top step on Sunday as, once again, three different manufacturers made an appearance in the top three. The fastest time of a 2:01.913 saw the #51 Ferrari on top, with the championship-contending Porsche GT Team #91 car second. Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK took the last spot in the top three, with Aston Martin sixth and seventh in class as the second Ford, #67, and Porsche, #92, settled the top five.
Calado and team mate Alessandro Pier Guidi had a comfortable six-tenth lead at the front, whilst the two Fords were looking keen to take the second place spot from the Porsche team. Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx lost the lead of the GT Driver’s Championship for the first time this season after a terrible 6 Hours of Fuji for the duo. With the championship so close, they have fallen to fifth, but a bad race for the AF Corse team and a good one for them could see their fortunes reversed. The second AF Corse car, driven by Davide Rigon and Sam Bird could do no better than the bottom of the timing board, 2.2 seconds off the pace of the sister car.
The GTE AM battle is hotting up in the build up to lights out on Sunday. The on track fight between the Dempsey-Proton Racing #77 and Aston Martin Racing #98 looks to be the battle to watch this weekend. The trio of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda have the bit between their teeth after falling back to second in the championship by one point after the 6 Hours of Fuji. It looked like the Aston Martin trio were going to end on top, leading the majority of the session with a 2:03.664. But in the closing moments, Matteo Carioli put in a staggering lap for the #77, jumping it to first with a 2:03.353. It is guaranteed to be tight between the two cars come Sunday’s six-hour race.