So far this weekend, things have been rather strange at Shanghai Circuit. The first free practice session was delayed due to radio issues, then free practice No. 3 was cut to 40 minutes due to curb repairs. Through that, Toyota has been dominant and that continued in qualifying.
Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi set an average lap time of 102.832 seconds (118.574 mph) Saturday in qualifying. The average held up through constant assault to give Toyota GAZOO Racing the overall pole for the 6 Hours of Shanghai.
Kobayashi, who turned the fastest lap of the weekend (102.526 seconds (118.928 mph)) during his time in the car, is quite pleased with the No. 7’s form all weekend.
“The car has been really good throughout the weekend,” Kobayashi told the WEC’s Louise Beckett. “We are quite confident with the car. I obviously have to thank my teammate [Mike Conway]. He stepped up and did a really good job.”
Conway and Kobayashi’s average time was three-sevenths of a second faster than Porsche LMP Team’s André Lotterer and Nick Tandy. The No. 1 Porsche was hampered by having a lap deleted by the stewards due to abuse of track limits. The No. 8 Toyota of Sébastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson will start third, while the No. 2 Porsche of Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley qualified fourth. Bamber didn’t help his cause by spinning the No. 2 during the session. The car was not damaged, but the tires were hurt just a little.
In LMP2, it was once again Valliante REBELLION on top. Julien Canal and Bruno Senna posted an average lap time of 109.217 seconds (111.642 mph) to snatch pole. The time was a quarter of a second faster than G-Drive Racing’s Nico Müller and European Le Mans Series champ Léo Roussel. Valliante REBELLION’s No. 13 for David Heinemeier Hansson and Nelson Piquet Jr. will start third in class, followed by points leaders Oliver Jarvis and Thomas Laurent. Signatech Alpine Matmut’s Nicolas Lapierre and Andre Negrao will start fifth in class.
In GTE-Pro, Aston Martin Racing’s No. 95 of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen set an average time of 119.697 seconds (101.867 mph) to claim the class pole in the penultimate race for the Vantage V8. Thiim and Sørensen were two-tenths of a second faster than Porsche GT Team’s Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre. Point leaders James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi will start third in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari, followed by both of the Ford GTs. The No. 67 of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell will start fourth in front of the No. 66 of Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla.
Finally, Aston Martin Racing completed the GTE pole sweep with top honors in GTE-Am. Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy averaged a time of 122.357 seconds (99.653 mph) to claim the pole and the 22nd starting position. Dalla Lana and Lamy’s average time was four-tenths of a second faster than Matteo Cairoli and Christian Ried in the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche. The No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari shared by Thomas Flohr and Miguel Molina will start third in class.
The 6 Hours of Shanghai is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. local time Sunday morning. Here in the United States, that is 11 p.m. Saturday night. Pre-race coverage will start on FOX Sports GO around 10:30 p.m. At 11 p.m., it will move to FOX Sports 2 and stay there until the second 1:30 a.m. (Remember, daylight savings time ends at 2 a.m., resulting in the clocks falling back an hour in the middle of the race). From the second 1:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m., the race will be exclusive to FOX Sports GO. The race will then move to FOX Sports 1 for the finish. Post-race coverage will air on FOX Sports GO.