The #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing car was the car to beat this weekend, and it had looked like the trio were going to complete a perfect weekend. However, a mistake whilst passing through traffic saw the #7 at the back of the LMP1 field, whilst the sister car took the glory. Championship-leading #2 Porsche finished on the second step of the podium, taking them enough points ahead of the #8 to claim the Drivers’ World Endurance Championship with a race in hand. For the first time this season, the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car does not lead the LMP2 championship. Off the back of taking the class victory today, the #31 Vaillante Rebellion team go into the final round of the season with a points advantage.
Another shuffle in championship order came courtesy of the win that was taken by Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx. The Pro fight is still as close as it has been all season, but a first place for the #67 team and third for the ex-championship leaders James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi has put the Ford team into third, just seven and a half points off leaders in the #51 AF Corse. The Am Aston Martin Racing trio managed to convert their pole position to race victory in the 6 Hours of Shanghai, taking back the lead of the class championship and going ten points ahead with the final race looming on the horizon.
Although Toyota were clearly the dominant car this weekend and were looking set to take a strong one-two at the chequered flag, Porsche trio Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber were in place to take the championship with their comfortable third place. However, a double podium was handed to the German team when Jose Maria Lopez made contact with the #91 Porsche GT Team car when trying to pass it in traffic. The damage forced the Toyota into the pits for repairs and dropped them out of contention for the podium fight. Left-rear suspension and driveshaft damage on the #7 put an end to Toyota’s hopes of scoring a competitive one-two and mathematically keeping the Manufacturers’ Championship going until Bahrain.
Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima had been closing down the sister car just before Lopez had his race-damaging incident. Buemi was less than two seconds off the rear wing of the #7 car, on fresher tyres so with better pace. The #8 car looked to have better race pace than the #7 as so it is assumed that even if Lopez had not have caused the incident he would have still lost the lead to the other Toyota.
It was not a good race for Lopez, who had only just recovered from a spin before making contact with the GTE Porsche. As Buemi made light work on depositing Nick Tandy in the #1 Porsche down to third, Lopez made contact with WEC debutant Nico Muller in the LMP2 G-Drive Racing car and spun off the track. He had managed to return to the track mostly unscathed, but this let Buemi close in on the sister car and add more pressure to Lopez’ drive.
Even though both Porsche 919 Hybrids ended up on the podium, it was Toyota who had dominated the Shanghai International Circuit. Both Porsche had fallen off the lead lap by time the chequered flag had fallen. The #1 had been the more competitive of the two Porsches, but an engine sensor issue in the opening stages of the race saw the reining champion car stationary in the pits, losing around a minute of time.
Bruno Senna, Nicolas Prost and Julien Canal converted their pole position to a race win and championship lead in an eventful six-hour endurance race. Senna commanded the first hour and a half of the race, but the team found themselves having to fight back from behind to secure victory in Shanghai. The win, whilst championship rivals in the #38 Jackie Chan car came fourth, means that the #31 takes the lead of the championship from the #38 car for the first time this season by four points.
It all unravelled for the #38 team in the last dramatic hour of the race. Ho-Pin Tung had been leading when Senna managed to make the pass on him. This would have left the #38 in the lead of the championship at the chequered flag, but two incidents saw Tung fall to fourth. In incidents that were not his fault, Tung was spun first by Ben Hanley in the #24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing car and then but Muller in the #26 G-Drive.
The incidents promoted the #36 Signatech Alpine and the #13 Rebellion cars onto the podium. However, as the #36 did not take race victory, there is no longer a posibility that Gustavo Menezes can take the LMP2 Drivers’ Trophy after the final race in Bahrain. The championship showdown will be between just #31 Rebellion and #38 Jackie Chan cars in a very close battle for points.
In a return to form, the Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67 entry took the class win and climbed to third in the GT Drivers’ Endurance Championship. It was a strong race for Tincknell and Priaulx over the six hours, ending with a tight battle between them and the #91 Porsche of Richard Lietz and Frederic Makowiecki. The Porsche recovered well after contact was caused between them and the #7 Toyota, leaving them in a competitive position as the final moments of the race occurred. Great driving from Tincknell saw the Ford team take their first victory since the opening round of the season in Silverstone. As hard as the Porsche duo tried, the car fell off the Ford in the final laps, leaving them nine-seconds adrift when the chequered flag fell.
Porsche had actually been hoping that the #92 could put in a surge for the race victory as that car had better race pace and was much more competitive. But it was not to be as only three hours into the race an engine issue forced them into the pits and they did not return to the track. Third place was claimed by Calado and Pier Guidi, managing to keep the second Ford of Olivier Pla and Stefan Mucke off the podium. The third place for the #51 and sixth place for the sister #71 saw Ferrari wrap up the GT Manufacturers’ World Endurance Championship.
An incident between the #37 Jackie Chan car and the Clearwater Racing and Spirit of Race Am Ferraris saw the #98 Aston Martin take an easy lights-to-flag victory. The incident between the three cars made both Am Ferraris lose time in the chase on Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda, making the gap too great to overcome in the six-hour race.
A third-place finish for championship-challenging Dempsey-Proton Racing put then ten points behind the #98 trio, pushing them back to second in the championship. The second Am Porsche, #86 Gulf Racing, took advantage of the incident that took the two Ferraris out of contention to storm to a brilliant second place finish.
With the 2017 World Endurance Championship nearly at it’s end, there are still plenty of championships yet to be decided. The 6 Hours of Bahrain sees Porsche heading to their final race in the WEC, whilst LMP2, LM GTE Pro and Am Drivers’ titles could not be closer. It will certainly not be a race you want to miss, taking place from the 17th-19th of November.