Clash foils Porsche in GTE
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