On Friday, Toyota GAZOO Racing’s Mike Conway put the No. 7 Toyota on the top of the timesheets in both 90 minute practice sessions at Shanghai Circuit. Conway’s lap of 104.741 seconds (116.413 mph) was almost three-tenths of a second off of last years’ pole time.
Free Practice No. 1
The first practice session was originally scheduled to start at 11 a.m. local time on Friday (11 p.m. Thursday night EDT). However, a radio communication issue forced a 90 minute delay.
— WEC (@FIAWEC) November 3, 2017
Once the radio issues were rectified, Toyota GAZOO Racing dominated the leaderboard. Early on, Sébastien Buemi was quickest in the No. 8 Toyota. Shortly afterwards, Conway went to the top in the No. 7. As the session continued on, Conway lowered the fastest time to an eventual chart-topping lap of 107.182 seconds (113.762 mph).
Conway’s lap was nearly a quarter of a second faster than Porsche LMP Team’s Nick Tandy. Teammate Earl Bamber was second fastest in the No. 2 Porsche, while Buemi ended up fourth fastest, three-quarters of a second off of Conway.
LMP2 saw Valliante REBELLION’s Mathias Beche turned in a time of 112.533 seconds (108.352 mph) on his first hot lap to lead the class and place fifth overall. Beche’s lap was six-tenths of a second faster than G-Drive Racing’s Nico Müller. CEFC Manor TRS Racing’s Vitaly Petrov was third quickest in the No. 25 ORECA 07-Gibson. TDS Racing’s Matthieu Vaxiviere was fourth fastest while Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Oliver Jarvis was fifth.
GTE-Pro saw Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Stefan Mücke turn in a lap of 122.693 seconds (99.380 mph) to top the GTE entries. Mücke’s lap was nearly a half-second faster than Aston Martin Racing’s Darren Turner. Porsche GT Team’s Frédéric Makowiecki was just one-hundredth of a second behind Turner in third. Nicki Thiim in the No. 95 Aston Martin was fourth in class, followed by Kevin Estre in the No. 92 Porsche.
GTE-Am saw Spirit of Race’s Miguel Molina turn in a lap of 124.789 seconds (97.711 mph) to top the charts in the amateur division. Molina’s lap was three-eighths of a second faster than Matteo Cairoli in the Dempsey-Proton Racing No. 77 Porsche. Aston Martin Racing’s Pedro Lamy was third quickest.
Free Practice No. 2
Usually, there are roughly three hours between the end of Free Practice No. 1 and Free Practice No. 2 in the WEC. However, officials declined to push Free Practice No. 2 after the radio issues of the morning hours. As a result, there were only 90 minutes between sessions. That limited the amount of changes that could be made.
As the track was cleaned off by the 26 cars on the circuit, times tumbled. Conway’s day-topping time of 104.741 seconds was more than 2.4 seconds faster than his best lap in the first session.
Conway was nearly four-tenths of a second faster than teammate Anthony Davidson in the No. 8 Toyota. Brendon Hartley, fresh off his first two Grands Prix for Scuderia Toro Rosso, was third fastest in the No. 2 Porsche. Tandy was fourth quickest, seven-eighths of a second off of Conway.
In LMP2, Valliante REBELLION’s No. 13 ORECA 07-Gibson was again fastest, but with a different man in the cockpit. Nelson Piquet Jr. turned in a lap of 110.556 seconds (110.290 mph) to lead the pack. Piquet’s time was one-third of a second faster than Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Thomas Laurent. Julien Canal in the No. 31 Valliante REBELLION ORECA 07-Gibson was third fastest, followed by CEFC Manor TRS Racing’s Jean-Eric Vergne. Signatech Alpine Matmut’s Nicolas Lapierre was fifth fastest.
GTE-Pro saw AF Corse’s James Calado fastest with a lap of 121.913 seconds (100.016 mph), which was more than six-tenths of a second faster than Porsche GT Team’s Richard Lietz. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK’s Olivier Pla was third fastest, followed by teammate Andy Priaulx in the No. 67 Ford. Estre was fifth quickest.
In GTE-Am, Cairoli turned in a lap of 123.353 seconds (98.848 mph) to top the class. The lap was good enough for sixth amongst all GTE cars. The lap was one-third of a second faster than Lamy in the No. 98 Aston Martin. Matt Griffin was third quickest in the No. 61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari.
FIA World Endurance Championship teams have one more practice session prior to qualifying. Free Practice No. 3 is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday morning local time (10 p.m. Friday night EDT).