PROST AND SENNA TAKE LMP2

Autosport (UK) - - SHANGHAI/WEC -

RE­BEL­LION DRIVER BRUNO SENNA HAD TO come from be­hind over the fi­nal hour and a half to take the lead of the race – and the cham­pi­onship – from the best of the Jackie Chan DC Rac­ing en­tries. He had prob­a­bly thought he was go­ing to be home and dry by the time he re­took the con­trols of his ORECA-GIB­SON 07 af­ter Julien Canal and Ni­co­las Prost had taken their stints, given his su­pe­ri­or­ity at the start of the race.

The lead Re­bel­lion en­try was 30s up on the chas­ing LMP2 pack when Senna climbed out af­ter an hour and a half. But the car hadn’t en­joyed the same con­sis­tency across its three driv­ers as the Chan/dc ORECA pi­loted by Thomas Lau­rent, Ho-pin Tung and Oliver Jarvis. So much so that they were in the lead at the end of the penul­ti­mate hour in spite of two as­saults from other cars that re­sulted in quick spins while Tung was driv­ing.

The sec­ond of these in­ci­dents proved piv­otal. Tung flat-spot­ted a set of tyres af­ter Nico Muller in the G-drive ORECA need­lessly cut the front of Tung into Turn 1 in the penul­ti­mate hour. That left the class leader com­pro­mised dur­ing an un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to fend off Senna for the lead. He had to con­tinue to the end on two of those Dun­lops af­ter his fi­nal stop, be­cause there was noth­ing bet­ter left in the car’s al­lo­ca­tion.

The Chan/dc crew reck­oned it was on course to ex­tend its P2 class lead with vic­tory last week­end. Re­bel­lion was equally con­fi­dent, know­ing that its ri­val had to make a late stop for a splash of fuel.

Not only did Chan/dc miss out on the win, but it faded to fourth at the fin­ish and with it lost the cham­pi­onship lead that it has held since the sea­son opener at Sil­ver­stone. Tung was un­able to make any in­roads to­wards Ni­co­las Lapierre in the Sig­nat­ech Alpine ORECA, which had leapfrogged him in the pits, and then the splash brought Nel­son Pi­quet Jr within range in the clos­ing stages; the Brazil­ian knocked the Chan/dc car out of the podium po­si­tions in the fi­nal laps.

Jarvis was fum­ing af­ter the race. Ac­tu­ally he was on the lim­iter dur­ing it – the TV cam­eras cap­tured his re­ac­tion when first Manor driver Ben Han­ley made an op­ti­mistic at­tempt to re­claim the place Tung had just taken into Turn 2, and then when Muller was un­nec­es­sar­ily ag­gres­sive.

“We had vic­tory within our grasp and we’ve ended up fourth — it’s a dis­as­ter,” Jarvis said. “Nico is only here for one race and he was out of se­quence, so he wasn’t re­ally fight­ing us. It was all a bit un­nec­es­sary.”

Lapierre and team-mates An­dre Ne­grao and Gus­tavo Menezes ended up over half a minute be­hind in sec­ond at the fin­ish to keep their nar­row cham­pi­onship hopes alive. The Alpine-badged ORECA had qual­i­fied only fifth, but a dra­matic im­prove­ment in set-up brought them into the pic­ture, even if it didn’t al­low them to match the pace of the two pro­tag­o­nists for class vic­tory.

Pi­quet lost time af­ter con­tact with Muller in the open­ing laps, but third was prob­a­bly as good as it was go­ing to get for the Brazil­ian and team-mates Mathias Beche and David Heine­meier Hans­son, given that their strat­egy dic­tated they would make one more stop than their team-mates.

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