The FIA World Endurance Championship had come to China for the four-hour race in the third round of the season.
The weather conditions were completely different from the previous year, where there were both smog and rain. This year it was beautiful, clear weather throughout the weekend.
Rebellion Racing #1 with Bruno Senna, Gustavo Menezes and Norman Nato was on Pole Position, ahead of Team LNT #6 with Mike Simpson, Charlie Robertson and Guy Smith, while Team LNT #5 with Jordan King, Ben Hanley and Egor Orudzhev was P3. It was the first Pole for a non-hybrid car since Sebring 2012 with Audi Sport who then hadn’t introduced their hybrid car. The current hybrid cars from Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 and #8 only qualified in P4 and P5. Their success from the first two weekends meant that they were slowed down with theoretically 2,74 seconds to the non-hybrids.
In the LMP2 class, it was Cool Racing #42 with Nicolas Lapierre and Antonin Borga on Pole, followed by Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 with Gabriel Aubry, Will Stevens and Ho-Pin Tung, while United Autosports #22 with Phil Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Paul Di Resta was third, right in front of High Class Racing #33 with Kenta Yamashita, Anders Fjordbach and Mark Patterson in P4.
The championship leader in LMP2, Racing Team Nederland #29, got a puncture when Frits van Eerd was behind the wheel, so they couldn’t make it back to the pits, changed tires and come out again. Which meant they didn’t set any lap time with the second driver and had to start last in their class.
The championship-leading Porsche #92 with Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen had taken Pole Position amongst the GTE Pro cars, ahead of Aston Martin Racing #95 with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen, while their AMR teammates in #97 with Alexander Lynn and Maxime Martin claimed the third start position.
Team Project 1 Porsche #56 was on Pole Position in GTE Am with Matteo Cairoli, Egidio Perfetti and David Heinemeier Hansson. Aston Martin Racing #98 with Paul Dalla Lana, Ross Gunn and Darren Turner would start from P2, while Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 with Christian Ried, Riccardo Pera and Matt Campbell would start third.
The championship leader AF Corse #83 with Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Nicklas Nielsen unfortunately only qualified tenth in the GTE Am category, but they did have some success ballast in the car.
It was an odd start to the race, where Rebellion Racing #1 fell back all the way down to fourth. It meant that both Team LNT Ginetta cars came up to first and second, before Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 squeezed itself to the second place. It didn’t take long before Team LNT reclaimed the first two spots with #6 in front of #5.
Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 was up to fourth, ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 as Rebellion Racing #1 kept falling back, and they even got under pressure by Cool Racing #42.
Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 had a spin after a few minutes but could quickly continue.
Nicki Thiim had taken the lead in GTE Pro with AMR #95, ahead of Kevin Estre in Porsche #92 and James Calado in AF Corse Ferrari #51.
There was also some drama in GTE Am, where Paul Dalla Lana in Aston Martin Racing #98 fell back all the way down to last after a spin and a bit of contact with Team Project 1 Porsche #56 on the first lap in Turn 2. Team Project 1 Porsche #56 held on to their first position, in front of Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 and AF Corse Ferrari #54. Francois Perrodo had driven AF Corse Ferrari #83 up to P6, already after a few minutes.
Before the race even started, Red River Sport Ferrari #62 and Proton Competition Porsche #78 got a five and ten-second pitstop penalty respectively for speeding under red flag in FP3.
United Autosports #22 had to pit already fifteen minutes into the race for some debris in the airbox, so the engine didn’t work as well as it should. Filipe Albuquerque got it cleaned up and drove off after a full tank of fuel.
Proton Competition Porsche #78 and Cool Racing #42 had a contact in Turn 1, so that #78 spun around and had to pit to get the bodywork back in place. It took the mechanics a couple of minutes in the garage before #78 could go back out.
The two Toyota Gazoo Racing cars swapped positions so that #8 was ahead of #7.
Signatech Alpine Elf #36 came up to third place in LMP2 in front of #38 and High Class Racing #33.
Cetilar Racing #47 got a drive-through penalty for a jump start. Not that it meant anything since they were already last amongst the LMP2 cars that were yet to pit.
Team Project 1 Porsche #56 also got a Drive-through penalty for contact with #98 on the first lap. And it cost them their lead in the GTE Am.
Rebellion Racing #1 had closed the gap to the two Toyota Gazoo Racing cars again, where Norman Nato used the top speed to his advantage and drove past them.
Team LNT Ginetta #5 was the first LMP1 car to pit for fuel, while the leading #6 waited for a couple more laps.
Rebellion Racing #1 took the chance when Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 was about to overtake Cetilar Racing #47. #7 got past #47, but then it ran out of the hybrid power on the straight, so both #47 and #1 drove past under braking towards Turn 14.
Team Project 1 Porsche #57
Photo: JJ Media
Toyota Gazoo Racing was the last two LMP1 cars to pit. Their longer first stint meant that #8 could come out in front of Team LNT #5 in P2.
There was a bit of contact between Cool Racing #42 and United Autosports #22, when the latter overtook #42 from the outside in Turn 2. But it wasn’t enough to do any damage on either car.
Almost an hour had passed before Porsche #92 could drive past Aston Martin Racing #95 and retook the GTE Pro lead again.
TF Sport Aston Martin #90 had moved up to the lead in GTE Am, ahead of Team Project 1 Porsche #57 and AF Corse Ferrari #54.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 also got past Rebellion Racing #1 during one of the pitstops, but Gustavo Menezes used his higher top speed and pressured Kamui Kobayashi in #7 to make a mistake in Turn 14. The two of them drove side by side towards the final corner—until the extra horsepower from the hybrid part ran out and Rebellion could exploit their higher speed into Turn 1 and retook the fourth position.
Team LNT Ginetta #6 had a bit of a problem through the traffic, which allowed Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 to get close and even overtake #6 in the slower, curvy parts of the track. Buemi in #8 was lucky that High Class Racing #33 was between him and #6, so he could keep the lead down the back straight.
The lead in the LMP2 class also changed hands after the first round of pitstops. JOTA #38 was now ahead of their “sister car” Jackie Chan DC Racing #37, and High Class Racing #33.
Porsche #92 and AF Corse Ferrari #51 came out of the pits side-by-side, and Michael Christensen and James Calado had some contacts in the pit exit before #92 came out first. Shortly after that #51 got past and up to the second place. The stewards weren’t impressed by the incident and chose to give Christensen a ten-second time penalty in the next pitstop for an unsafe release.
Racing Team Nederland #29 and Red River Sport Ferrari #62 had a contact in Turn 15, when Guido van der Garde dived very late on Bonamy Grimes. Surely it was something the stewards would be looking into. They were lucky to avoid getting hit by the cars coming from behind.
There was a huge drama 70 minutes into the race. Team LNT #5 and #6, as well as Toyota Gazoo Racing #7, got a drive-through penalty for a jump start. Apparently it was the thing that caused all the panic at the start, and the reason for Rebellion Racing #1 to lose so many positions going into Turn 1.
However, the two Team LNT Ginetta cars found it difficult to nurture the tires, so they went from having a big lead to being over fifteen seconds behind Toyota Gazoo Racing #8. The positive thing was that Rebellion Racing #1 was just under three seconds from the leading Toyota.
It didn’t take many laps, before #1 could exploit their higher top speed, combined with newer tires, to take the lead of the race.
Kenta Yamashita in High Class Racing #33 drove himself up to second place in LMP2 by overtaking Ho-Pin Tung in Jackie Chan DC Racing #37. Great driving by the newly-crowned Japanese Super GT champion.
Photo: JJ Media
Aston Martin Racing #95 had built up a fifteen-second gap in GTE Pro, ahead of AF Corse Ferrari #51, who was busy fighting with Porsche #92.
In GTE Am, Aston Martin Racing #98 had picked themselves up after the contact on the first lap, and they were now up to fourth, chasing the two Team Project 1 Porsche cars in front of them.
Red River Sport Ferrari #62 and MR Racing Ferrari #70 fought over P8 in GTE Am, where Motoaki Ishikawa went through the run-off area.
Cool Racing #42 had some problems with the telemetry from the car, and they got ordered to pit and fix it. It cost them their podium chance, and they ended up retiring from the race as the mechanics couldn’t fix the problem fast enough for the car to drive the minimum distance, in order to be classified. Such a shame for them after showing good speed in the first part of the race.
At first, things looked good for Team LNT, but then #6 fell one lap back behind Rebellion Racing #1, due to the combination of their pitstop penalty and struggle to keep the tires alive.
After all the LMP1 cars had pitted for the second time, Rebellion Racing #1 had a lead of 34 seconds down to Toyota Gazoo Racing #8, who was 36 seconds ahead of #7, while Team LNT Ginetta #5 was ten seconds further behind.
The stewards gave Racing Team Nederland #29 a well-deserved drive-through penalty for the contact with Red River Sport Ferrari #62 earlier in the race.
Aston Martin Racing #97 put Porsche #91 under intense pressure in the duel for P4 in GTE Pro. The lime green car was right under the rear wing of the white 911.
The tires on the leading Rebellion Racing #1 began slowly but surely to lack grip, so Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 minimised the gap by a few seconds. Luckily for the private Rebellion team, the gap was still about half a minute.
Halfway into the race, Rebellion Racing #1 was leading the LMP1 class, JOTA #38 in LMP2, Aston Martin Racing #95 in GTE Pro, and Aston Martin Racing #98 in GTE Am.
Marco Sørensen handed the car over to Nicki Thiim again with under two hours left. Nice driving by the Danish duo, as they were leading the GTE Pro class up until that point with Aston Martin Racing #95.
The battle for the lead in GTE Am was solely amongst the Aston Martin cars, with AMR #98 ahead of TF Sport #90. The two old teammates in #97, Darren Turner and Jonny Adam, had a close duel with only a second separating the cars.
Porsche #91 and Aston Martin Racing #97 continued to swap positions between fourth and fifth places.
Gulf Racing Porsche #86 and AF Corse Ferrari #83 had a short off-track moment, which ended with Mike Wainwright in #86 spinning around.
An hour and 46 minutes before the finish, High Class Racing #33 put Mark Patterson in the car. He’d drive a single stint before Anders Fjordbach would hopefully drive the car to the finish.
TF Sport Aston Martin #90 fought to get past Aston Martin Racing #98 in the duel for the lead in GTE Am and quickly built up a gap.
David Heinemeier Hansson in Team Project 1 Porsche #56 went off the track in high speed, but fortunately for him, it was in one of the asphalted run-off areas, so he could come back to the track. However, he lost about half a minute to the other GTE Am cars.
Aston Martin Racing #97 had caught up with Porsche #92, so Alexander Lynn could put Michael Christensen under pressure for the last place on the podium.
High Class Racing #33 had to give up the third place, as Paul Di Resta in United Autosports #22 could drive much faster than gentleman driver Mark Patterson – who, by the way, is also 34 years older than Di Resta!
68 minutes before the chequered flag, Aston Martin Racing #95 got a puncture on the left rear tire. Luckily it happened right before the pit entry, so Nicki Thiim could dive into the pits and hand the car over to Marco Sørensen, who also got a set of four new tires.
It caused the first Full Course Yellow of the day, so the debris could get cleaned up.
A lot of teams used the opportunity to pit, since it was better to do it under FCY for much less time loss. But it also meant that AF Corse #51 took the lead in the GTE Pro category.
The final hour of the race started with Rebellion Racing #1 in a comfortable lead of nearly 40 seconds to Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 and #7. JOTA #38 was ahead in LMP2, followed by United Autosports #22 and Jackie Chan DC Racing #37. Although #22 was in a different strategy, caused by their early pitstop.
AF Corse Ferrari #51 had a 15-second lead in GTE Pro to Aston Martin Racing #97, while Porsche #92 was third. AMR #95 was down to fifth after the puncture.
In GTE Am, TF Sport Aston Martin #90 had the lead, but they were under pressure by Team Project 1 Porsche #57. AF Corse #83 had put Nicklas Nielsen behind the wheel, and they were up to fourth place in GTE Am.
AF Corse #83 & Toyota Gazoo Racing #7
Photo: JJ Media
Anders Fjordbach took over High Class Racing #33 with under an hour left, and he’d need to do another fuel stop if the race remained green all the way to the finish.
Porsche #91 came up to third in the GTE Pro class as Gianmaria Bruni did a very late dive on Maxime Martin in AMR #97. Afterwards, they could start chasing their teammates in #92, and the leading AF Corse Ferrari #51.
United Autosports #22 was the first LMP2 team to do the last regular pitstop of the day.
MR Racing Ferrari #70 got a drive-through penalty for the contact with Gulf Racing Porsche #86 earlier in the race.
Team LNT Ginetta #6 got a ten-second pitstop penalty for speeding under FCY. It didn’t mean anything since they were already last in the LMP1 category.
Signatech Alpine Elf #36 had a solo spin in Turn 1, which cost them P3 in LMP2 to United Autosports #22.
Proton Competition Porsche #78 had to pit again when the bodywork that was damaged earlier in the race, began to flap in the wind again.
Rebellion Racing #1 overlapped Toyota Gazoo Racing #7, with six minutes left on the clock.
Five minutes before the finish, TF Sport Aston Martin #90 pitted for fuel, but they had a big enough gap to keep the lead.
After four hours, Rebellion Racing #1 with Gustavo Menezes, Bruno Senna and Norman Nato drove first over the finish line, ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 with Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and birthday boy Brendon Hartley, and Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Jose Maria Lopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi. It’s the first victory for Rebellion Racing since Silverstone 2018, where they “inherited” the win after both Toyotas got disqualified. But this time they can proudly stand on top of the podium. At the same time, Bruno Senna became the first driver in FIA WEC, who has won in all four categories: LMP1 and LMP2 with Rebellion Racing and GTE Pro and Am with Aston Martin Racing.
In the LMP2 category, JOTA #38 won with Anthony Davidson, Roberto Gonzalez and Antonio Felix da Costa, ahead of their sister car Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 with Ho-Pin Tung, Gabriel Aubry and Will Stevens, while United Autosports #22 finished third with Phil Hanson, Paul Di Resta and Filipe Albuquerque.
High Class Racing #33 with Anders Fjordbach, Mark Patterson and Kenta Yamashita ended up in P6, as the stint with bronze-rated driver Patterson cost them so much time and ruled them out of the podium.
Racing Team Nederland #29 was once again the best car with a bronze-rated driver in the car, in the shape of Frits van Eerd. He shared the car with Guido van der Garde and Nyck de Vries.
AF Corse Ferrari #51 with James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi took the victory home in GTE Pro, in front of Porsche #92 with Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre, and Porsche #91 with Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz. Thus all three constructors in GTE Pro had won a race this season; Porsche at Silverstone, AMR at Fuji and now Ferrari in Shanghai.
Aston Martin Racing #95 with Nicki Thiim and Marco Sørensen finished fifth, having led the most of the first three hours. What a difference a puncture and a Full Course Yellow can make.
TF Sport Aston Martin #90 with Charlie Eastwood, Jonny Adam and Salih Yoluc won GTE Am, followed by Team Project 1 Porsche #57 with Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating and substitute Larry ten Voorde. Normally, Felix Praga is also in the car, but he was home in Brazil this weekend to fight for the championship in Brazilian Stock Car. Aston Martin Racing #98 with Paul Dalla Lana, Darren Turner and Ross Gunn finished third, right ahead of AF Corse Ferrari #83 with Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Nicklas Nielsen. Team Project 1 Porsche #56 with Egidio Perfetti, Matteo Cairoli and David Heinemeier Hansson finished in P5.
After these results, Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 leads the LMP1 championship, ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 and Rebellion Racing #3.
LMP2 still has Racing Team Nederland #29 in the lead, followed by Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 and Signatech Alpine Elf #36. Danske High Class Racing #33 is in sixth place.
Porsche #92 has extended their lead in GTE Pro, ahead of AF Corse Ferrari #51, who got past Porsche #91 in the table. Aston Martin Racing #95 fell all the way back to fifth.
In GTE Am, TF Sport Aston Martin #90 has taken the lead, in front of AF Corse Ferrari #83 and Team Project 1 Porsche #57.
Now the teams will have a five-week break before the 8 hours race in Bahrain on 14 December, as the fourth round in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The race will start in the daylight and finish in the dark.
There were some changes in the GTE Pro result – read more here.