This weekend brings the final 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship race, but only round five of the WEC ‘Super Season’ that keeps the competition going until June next year. The six hour event is a momentous one for some of the entrants, as well as the FIA’s last chance this year to bring the classes closer together and produce the wheel-to-wheel racing that fans have been missing more than usual this year.
The LMP1 class remains as it was in Fuji, with the sole remaining Ginetta once again not making an appearance. Little is being said about Ginetta issues, with the team’s car appearing on the provisional entry lists for events, then being removed when the final entrants are revealed. We’re hoping to see the Ginetta back on track next year, but they could chose to do what ByKolles Racing Team did at the end of 2017 and sit out the remaining races of this season to be better prepared for the 2019/20 championship.
Toyota Gazoo Racing kept up their on-track consistency of one-two finishes in Fuji, and they will be looking to round off the year with another strong performance. Even though the EoT saw some changes ahead of and during the last event, the Hybrid cars still appear to have a strong advantage on the Privateer cars. Fernando Alonso contributed this to the Privateer team’s performances during the events, rather than the Toyota’s having a pace advantage, but with teams like Rebellion Racing managing to complete clean races and still end four second down on the Toyotas could lead to some scratching of heads around the Spaniard’s statement.
Signatech Alpine go into 2018’s last race with the advantage in the LMP2 championship, but Jackie Chan DC Racing are hot on their heels, with just one point separating the two teams at the top. Both Jackie Chan cars are on 86 points, meaning there is barely a gap between the top three leading into the weekend. Apart from the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the three teams battling for the top spot of the class have been the only ones to feature on a class podium.
Corvette Racing join the GTE Pro grid this weekend. The American team are travelling to Shanghai to round off their 20th year of racing and promote the launch of their Chevrolet Redline production line in China. Porsche are also celebrating their final WEC appearance in their 70th year of racing, a year that gifted them a one-two class finish at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Working in sequence with the two-race BoP change that the automated system produces, Ferrari and Aston Martin have seen changes to the weight and power output of their cars ahead of the weekend. The vibe in the GTE Pro class is that these changes could see the field now close enough to produce six-hours of wheel-to-wheel racing where the competitive pace of all the cars is relatively similar. Hopefully this shows as true from Friday’s first practice session.
Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen hold the top spot in the World Endurance GT Drivers’ Championship, with a 31-point lead over second-placed Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #66 Olivier Pla and Stefan Mucke. The Porsche GT Team‘s Le Mans win has given them an edge over the class and will see them hold the class lead going into the new year whatever the result on Sunday.
Despite having their worst race of the season last time out in Fuji, getting his with post-race penalties for minimum fuel time infringements, the Le Mans winning #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing still leads the Am championship. The Project One Porsche took its maiden victory at the Japanese race and is sitting a comfortable second in class, with a 14-point deficit to the class leaders. The top three is rounded off by the TF Sport Aston Martin, which – excluding Le Mans – has had a very consistent 2018, scoring second in class at every race.
The ongoing investigation into the Dempsey-Proton Porsche, looking into whether or not their fuel monitors were intentionally modified in Japan, is yet to be resolved. TheCheckeredFlag will bring you the latest updates as the news breaks in the Shanghai paddock.
Racing gets underway for the last time in 2018 on Friday morning. With the time difference to China, it is an early start for the European spectators, so keep up-to-date with all the racing progress as it unfolds with TheCheckeredFlag (@TheCheckerFlag).