The weather conditions under the 6-hour FIA World Endurance Championship race in Shanghai had changed completely from yesterday’s qualifying.
The rain came down heavy, and the race got starated behind Safety Car so that the drivers could dry out the track a little bit, since there were lots of sprays from the cars even under the Safety Car.
There was so much water that Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67 and Corvette Racing #64 among others, as well as ByKolles Racing Team #4 were off the track in the final corner, due to standing water, but luckily nothing worse happened.
Thomas Laurent in Rebellion Racing #3 got it worse, when he spun and hit the armco so hard that he broke the car’s rear suspension and had to pit right away.
Shortly afterwards, the race director chose to stop the race, since there was simply too much water on the track to drive.
After about half an hour of red flag, the race got restarted behind Safety Car.
Rebellion Racing mechanics had worked really fast, so they actually only lost two laps.
After two laps behind SC, the cars got released.
The two Jackie Chan DC Racing cars swapped places already in the first corner, when Jazeman Jaafar in #37 had more faith in his car than Stephane Richelmi in #38.
Both Toyota Gazoo Racing cars distanced themselves from the rest with over ten seconds on the first flying lap, since their four-wheel-drive cars helped a lot under the wet conditions.
Kevin Estre in Porsche #92 showed that it was Porsche-weather, when he quickly moved up from fourth to second position.
Tom Dillmann in ByKolles Racing Team had a solo spin in Turn 4, but came back on track.
The two Toyotas swapped places on the track, when Jose Maria Lopez in #7 outbraked himself at the end of the back straight.
Anthony Davidson in DragonSpeed #31 was flying in the LMP2 class and snatched the lead, ahead of the two Jackie Chan DC Racing cars #37 and #38.
SMP Racing #17 with Stephane Sarrazin came past Neel Jani in Rebellion Racing #1, when the Russian car had more grip than the French-Swiss.
After fifteen minutes drive, all hell broke loose when TF Sport Aston Martin #90 ended up on the gravel in the final corner. Nearly at the same time Signatech Alpine Matmut #36 spun in Turn 4, but it quickly came back to the track.
Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #66 and Porsche #92 came in contact with each other in Turn 1, when Estre in #92 dived on Olivier Pla from the inside. It meant that #92 overtook the lead in the GTE Pro class, while #66 fell all the way back to eighth place. It was something that the stewards surely would take a look.
Another red flag occurred, when the race director decided that the rain was too hard for them to continue.
After about 50 minutes of pause, the race was once again restarted behind Safety Car.
In the LMP1 class, Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 led the race in front of #7, while SMP Racing #17 was third. DragonSpeed #31 was the LMP2 leader, ahead of Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 and TDS Racing #26.
Porsche #92 had taken the lead in GTE Pro in front of Aston Martin Racing #97 and #95, while Aston Martin Racing #98 led GTE Am ahead of Spirit of Race Ferrari #54 and Team Project 1 Porsche #56.
All the teams had yet to do their first pitstop, but it would soon come, shortly after the race got restarted.
While the cars were still under Safety Car, we saw Michael Wainwright in Gulf Racing Porsche #86 spin off the track on the start-finish straight, when the car hit a puddle of water, aquaplaned off the track and hit the armco hard. It ripped the diffusor off the poor car and at the same time hit the front. Luckily, he could get the car back to the pits, so that the mechanics could start changing all the damaged parts. The Porsche was fortunately easy to service, and they could quickly change the parts. It cost them six laps, but the car was ready again.
Corvette Racing #64 was the first to pit. They were last in GTE Pro, so it was worth the risk, when the other teams would come in to pit later.
Racing Team Nederland #29 had some problems with the car, when Giedo van der Garde drove very slowly out on the track. He was in the pit for a few times when the mechanics tried to solve the problems.
Rebellion Racing #1 also chose to pit under the Safety Car, which could give them an advantage when the other LMP1 cars also should pit in the next laps.
The tactic worked, when Toyota Gazoo Racing pitted both their cars a couple of laps later, which for a short moment gave the lead to SMP Racing #17.
Signatech Alpine Matmut #36 was the first LMP2 car to do a regular pitstop.
ByKolles Racing Team had a bit of flame out of the exhaust under their pitstop, so the mechanics had to take the fire extinguisher out, before Tom Dillmann was sent back to the track.
After around 45 minutes behind Safety Car, the race got restarted. Currently, BR Engineering was 1-2 in the LMP1 class, with SMP Racing #17 ahead of DragonSpeed #10. Rebellion Racing #1 was third and the first placed LMP1 car that already did their first pitstop as well as driver change.
Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67 spun on its own, where Andy Priaulx came out on the wet track and thus ended up on the gravel, and had to be pulled free. It released another Safety Car, in order to get the car back to the track.
The standing after three hours race was SMP Racing #17 in front of DragonSpeed #10 and Rebellion Racing #1 in the LMP1 category. In LMP2, DragonSpeed #31 was leading ahead of Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 and Signatech Alpine Matmut #36.
In GTE Pro, it was Porsche #92 in front of Aston Martin Racing #97 and AF Corse #71, while Team Project 1 Porsche #56 led GTE Am ahead of Clearwater Racing Ferrari #61 and Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88.
But we have to remember that not all of them were real positions, since some cars had pitted while others hadn’t.
The race got quickly restarted, with the GTE Pro class in front of the field, since they hadn’t pitted and didn’t lose a lap to the LMP1 cars.
It only took five corners before Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 with Fernando Alonso took the lead, by taking advantage of the car’s four-wheel-drive. It sent Rebellion Racing #1 to second place, while the newly crowned Super GT champion Jenson Button in SMP Racing #11 was third.
Corvette Racing #64 could really use the rain, since they were right behind Aston Martin Racing #95, in the duel for third position in GTE Pro.
Clearwater Racing Ferrari #61 had taken the lead in GTE Am, while SMP Racing #11 almost at the same time did an overtaking on Rebellion Racing #1, and thus overtook the second place in LMP1.
Tommy Milner in Corvette Racing #64 had to look at his rear view mirror, when both Porsche #91 and AF Corse #51 had more speed than the American combo. And there were only the two BMW Team MTEK as well as one of the Fords and one Ferrari behind them.
Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 with Weiron Tan did a copy of Priaulx’s exit in Turn 1, and sat just as firmly on the gravel, which gave a local yellow to get him out. The race director was seemingly tired of Safety Car periods and chose to handle it in another way.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 was also in a progress and drove itself up to third, since Rebellion Racing #1 couldn’t find their speed at all on the wet asphalt. A few laps later, Kamui Kobayashi also went past Jenson Button in #11, so we were back with a Toyota 1-2, which was totally expected with their big advantage about the front wheel drive.
With two and a half hours left, Rebellion Racing #1 pitted again, where Andre Lotterer got in the car. He has a bit more experience in the rain from Japan, which the team hoped to get more speed from the car.
ByKolles Racing Team #4 eventually gave up with over two hours to go. Dillmann parked the car on the start/finish straight, where the marshals used a fire extinguisher all over the car. It deployed the Safety Car once again, but probably also combined with DragonSpeed #10 that also needed to be pulled from the gravel in Turn 1, when James Allen didn’t turn to the right, which you normally do in that corner.
#4 had dropped a lot of oil, and the hard working marshals had to try to clean it before the race could continue.
With two hours left on the clock, the race was restarted.
TDS Racing #28 and Aston Martin Racing #95 had a bit of contact in Turn 2, but both could continue.
The two AF Corse Ferraris raced against each other – but only for seventh and eighth places in GTE Pro. They couldn’t keep up with the competitors, neither on yesterday’s dry track nor on today’s wet asphalt. Only Corvette was slower than them.
Oliver Gavin in Corvette Racing #64 did a nice 720 degrees spin in Turn 1, but it ended up with the car pointed to the right direction again.
There was also a close battle for third position in GTE Pro between BMW Team MTEK #82 and Porsche #91. The BMW had more horse power down the straight, while the Porsche had the corner speed. After several laps of battle, #91 came out in front.
Meanwhile the two Aston Martins swapped places in the front of the GTE Pro class, where Nicki Thiim in #95 was now ahead of his teammate Alex Lynn in #97 for the real lead.
In GTE Am, Porsche had got the 1-2-3 with Dempsey-Proton Racing #88, in front of their sister car #77 as well as Team Project 1 Porsche #56. MR Racing Ferrari #70 and Aston Martin Racing #98 were, however, not many seconds behind, with only 17 seconds separating the five cars.
Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 was in front of the LMP2 class, ahead of DragonSpeed #31 and TDS Racing #28.
The track was pretty much free from spray, so the teams could start thinking about mounting the slicks.
The dried-out track meant that the two AF Corse Ferraris were closing up on Michael Christensen in Porsche #92.
Thomas Preining in Gulf Racing UK Porsche #86 ended up on the gravel in Turn 1. The young Austrian spun by himself when he came in too fast round the corner. It could be handled with a local yellow, so it didn’t really affect the race as a whole.
Tom Blomqvist in BMW Team MTEK #82 struggled with the car that he fell back close to Michael Christensen in Porsche #92 and Davide Rigon in AF Corse Ferrari #71.
Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 had a little off track detour, but Gabriel Aubry came quickly back.
At the start of the last hour, Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 was leading ahead of #8, with SMP Racing #11 in P3. Aston Martin Racing #95 with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen was in front of Porsche #91 and Porsche #92 with Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre. In LMP2, we had Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 in front, followed by DragonSpeed #31 and TDS Racing #28, while Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 was leading the GTE Am class, ahead of Team Project 1 Porsche #56 and MR Racing Ferrari #70.
But again there were various pit strategies between the teams, since some cars still needed to do two pitstops while others only had one left.
With 47 minutes left, the biggest penalty of the day was given, when Rebellion Racing #3, DragonSpeed #10 and SMP Racing #11 had sped up in the pitlane. All three got a drive-through penalty for the error.
BMW Team MTEK #82 got a 30-second Stop & Go, when they did a mistake under a pitstop.
With 35 minutes left on the clock, the rain began to fall again, which could cost the teams who had intermediates on their cars, such as Jackie Chan DC Racing #38. Rightly enough, Gabriel Aubry did a spin after a close contact with Rebellion Racing #3.
Aston Martin Racing #97 and Porsche #91 had a duel for the second place, which Richard Lietz in #91 won over Maxime Martin in #97.
SMP Racing #17 unfortunately had to pit with half an hour left due to technical problems. But they could come back to the track after a few minutes.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 went in and got some fresh rain tires on, as well as fuel, with a bit over 25 minutes left.
SMP Racing #17 hit the armco with 22 minutes left, where Matevos Isaakyan hit it with both the front and rear part of the car. He could drive back to the pits by himself, but it caused another Safety Car period, since there were lots of debris on the track.
The race got restarted with six minutes left.
It meant that Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez won the race, ahead of their sister car #8 with Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, followed by SMP Racing #11 with Jenson Button, Vitaly Petrov and Mikael Aleshin.
In LMP2 Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 won with Gabriel Aubry, Stephane Richelmi and Ho-Pin Tung behind the wheel, ahead of DragonSpeed #31 with Anthony Davidson, Roberto Gonzalez and Pastor Maldonado, while Signatech Alpine Matmut #36 with Nicolas Lapierre, Pierre Thiriet and Andre Negrao finished third, since TDS Racing #28 with Francois Perrodo, Loic Duval and Matthieu Vaxiviere had to pit on the penultimate lap.
The GTE Pro class was won by Aston Martin Racing #95 with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen, in front of Porsche #91 with Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni, while Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre in Porsche #92 finished in P3, after a great overtaking on Aston Martin Racing #97 with Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin on the penultimate lap.
In GTE Am, Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 with Christian Ried, Julien Andlauer and Matt Campbell won, ahead of Team Project 1 Porsche #56 with Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti, who drove past Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 with Matteo Cairoli, Ricardo Pera and Khaled Al Qubaisi in the very last minute.
The next FIA World Endurance Championship race will be run at Sebring on 15 March 2019.