The LMGTE categories once again provided edge-of-the-seat entertainment for the 28,000 fans present today from start to finish, with close on-track action, incidents involving race-leading and championship-leading cars, and a fight for podium positions right to the chequered flag. At the close of the 6 Hours of Shanghai, the penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, it was Aston Martin in LMGTE Pro and Ferrari in LMGTE Am who claimed the top step of the class podiums.
The No.97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Stefan Mucke and Darren Turner had a seemingly untroubled run from pole position in the Pro category to the finish, holding the lead throughout apart from during the pit stop window. Warmer temperatures than previously experienced this weekend (25oC) and the same tyre degradation issues experienced by all competitors, meant that the strong advantage they held in the first half of the race was reduced to 0.6 seconds at the finish but the result was enough to gain them the lead in the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers. They now hold the lead with 125.5 points, the margin to the Italian duo of Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella being 5.5 points.
It was the No.99 Aston Martin of Bruno Senna, Pedro Lamy and Richie Stanaway which finished so close behind its sister car, Senna managing his tyres’ performance well in the final hour to help the British manufacturer to maximum points and the lead in the classification for the World Endurance Cup for GT Manufacturers. Aston Martin now has 232.5 points over Ferrari’s 215 and Porsche’s 199.5.
Third in the GTE Pro class was the No.91 Porsche AG Team Manthey 911 RSR of Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Pilet, the German marque benefitting from a late-race front brake issue which caused the No.71 AF Corse Ferrari of Kobayashi-Vilander to make an additional, unscheduled pit stop. Their strong performance until that time was ultimately rewarded with points for only 5th place, one position behind the No.51 Ferrari 458 Italia of Bruni-Fisichella. The Le Mans-winning Lieb-Lietz driver combination finished 6th in class.
LMGTE Am provided plenty of thrills and action and, again it was a race of two halves. In the first three hours of the race it looked as though the No.95 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of the Danish trio Thiim-Nygaard-Poulsen was going to walk away with victory in the category. However, an electrical fault caused the car to grind to a halt in the fourth hour of the race and the No.81 8Star Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia was poised to take control. This is did, with strong performances from all three drivers, Enzo Potolicchio, Davide Rigon and Rui Aguas, and they ultimately finished a lap ahead of their competitors.
The Le Mans class-winning No.76 IMSA Matmut Porsche of Raymond Narac, Jean-Karl Vernay and Markus Palttala finished second in class, their third podium of the season, ahead of the No.96 Aston Martin Vantage of Jamie Campbell-Walter, Stuart Hall and Jonathan Adam. The results mean that the Britons (except Adam) maintain their lead in the Drivers’ and Teams’ championship tables, 5 points ahead of the Frenchmen. Bahrain is going to be exciting!
The No.50 Larbre Competition Corvette looked at one stage to be challenging for a podium finish but the team experienced a fuel rig fire in the pit lane which delayed them. Although two of Larbre’s mechanics were caught in the flames, quick thinking by the team and its neighbours in the pit lane – plus the high standard of firesuits and equipment required in the FIA WEC – meant that the fire was soon extinguished. The mechanics were checked by the FIA Medical Delegate and released with no further action required.
Alongside the No.95 Aston, the only other car not to finish the race was the No.57 Krohn Racing Ferrari 458 Italia. It had survived the attentions of a prototype earlier in the race but a stuck throttle 25 minutes before the finish was something it could not avoid. It ended the race in the gravel – Maurizio Mediani doing a great job to avoid damage to the Ferrari or other cars in the race.
So the championships in LMGTE Pro and Am remain open to the final round, the 6 Hours of Bahrain, which takes place on Saturday 30th November. Join us there to see who our Champions will be!
(Text: FIA WEC / Image: FIA WEC)