Clash foils Porsche in GTE

Autosport (UK) - - SHANGHAI/WEC -

THE FORD GT WASN’T THE FASTEST car at Shang­hai last week­end, but long-time GT points lead­ers Andy Pri­aulx and Harry Tinck­nell pulled off a class vic­tory for the UK Ganassi team that was both hard-fought and well-ex­e­cuted. They came out on top of a bat­tle with the Porsche 911 RSR shared by Richard Li­etz and Fred­eric Makowiecki that raged for the bet­ter part of the race.

Pri­aulx trailed Makowiecki for an hour in the mid­dle of the six-hour event, ini­tially with the sis­ter Ford sand­wiched be­tween them, be­fore mak­ing it past Makowiecki af­ter the third round of pit­stops and then mov­ing away into a clear ad­van­tage.

Li­etz, on the fresher tyres, came back at Tinck­nell in the penul­ti­mate hour, though he was un­able to find a way past. Porsche’s strat­egy, how­ever, would al­most cer­tainly have given the Aus­trian a track-po­si­tion ad­van­tage for the run to the flag af­ter the fi­nal stops – he wasn’t due to take an­other set of Miche­lins, and Tinck­nell was.

The clash with the Lopez Toy­ota forced a change in that strat­egy. Two rims were dam­aged in the in­ci­dent, and Porsche’s bid for vic­tory in a race it prob­a­bly should have won evap­o­rated.

Porsche had looked on course to win this race for the first two hours with the sis­ter car shared by Michael Chris­tensen and Kevin Estre. The Dane and the French­man had a clear edge on both their team-mates and the rest of the field, but what looked like it was go­ing to be an easy run to vic­tory came to an end when Estre slowed and stopped early in the third hour with en­gine is­sues. The rear-en­gined 911 RSR is still wait­ing for its first WEC vic­tory, but sec­ond for Li­etz and Makowiecki was enough to get them within two points of the lead of the driv­ers’ clas­si­fi­ca­tion ahead of the Bahrain fi­nale.

Fer­rari sealed the GT man­u­fac­tur­ers’ ti­tle in China. James Cal­ado’s and Alessan­dro Pier Guidi’s third po­si­tion in the best of the fac­tory AF Corse Fer­rari 488 GTES was enough to give the Ital­ian mar­que an unas­sail­able points lead. That kind of re­sult didn’t look likely for the duo as their ri­vals broke away early in the race, but their tyre strat­egy came good through the course of the six hours.

Cal­ado started on the tyres on which he and his team-mate qual­i­fied and then Pier Guidi got two new Miche­lins. But when they ran three sets of brand­new rub­ber over the next three stints, they came back into the race and took a firm grasp on the fi­nal podium po­si­tion.

As­ton Martin had qual­i­fied on pole cour­tesy of a mega lap apiece from

Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen, but the Van­tage GTE had too much of an ap­petite for its Dun­lop tyres in the race. Fifth place, just ahead of the sec­ond AF Fer­rari driven by Sam Bird and Da­vide Rigon, was all they could man­age as their hopes of re­tain­ing the ti­tle fi­nally dis­ap­peared.

As­ton did, how­ever, win in GTE Am, Mathias Lauda, Paul Dalla Lana and Pe­dro Lamy notch­ing up the 50th vic­tory for a fac­tory en­try since Pro­drive brought the mar­que back to sportscar rac­ing in 2005. They had things pretty much their own way once the Spirit of Race and Clear­wa­ter Fer­rari 488 GTES, the only two cars in the fight that could have beaten them, were in­volved in an in­ci­dent early in the sec­ond hour.

Ford was al­ready in the hunt for vic­tory when works Porsche ri­vals ran into trou­ble

As­ton Martin won in GTE Am

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