WEC makes 5th visit to Shanghai

The penultimate round of the 2016 WEC season takes place at Shanghai International Circuit. Last time out in Fuji, Toyota took their maiden win of this season and their first WEC victory since 2014. This meant that all three LMP1 manufacturers have now stood on top of the overall podium, something that has not been seen for at least a year.

A few things have changed in the few weeks break between the Fuji and Shanghai rounds. Most notably, the news that Audi will not continue with their LMP1 programme passed the end of 2016. Rumours had been circulating the team and Volkswagen, all pointing towards a 2018 departure from the sport. But it came out last week that the 13-time Le Mans winner would not race in LMP1 passed the end of the season.

As predicted, Audi will shift their racing focus to Formula E. The DTM Audi programme remains as it was and Audi will continue to appear in the series. With their racing budget now reduced, Audi have shown interest in looking into World Rallycross to run alongside their DTM programme and their what is assumed to be a full factory involvement in Formula E. The Formula E programme will also aid in developing Audi’s electrical cars that are due to be available for purchase at the start of the 2018 model year.

This has, however, left six works Audi drivers without seats – as of the moment – for the 2017 season. A few drivers already participate in Formula E, so they could take on the series as their primary race class. However, some of the drivers clearly are not happy about the departure from WEC, with Oliver Jarvis set to end his 9-year career at Audi in order to stay in WEC for 2017.

Rebellion Racing has been in the LMP1 Privateers category since 2012 and has won every Privateer’s Championship since it has been entered. With Rebellion having announced that they will be racing in LMP2 next year and Audi stepping out of the series, there will be only three teams racing in the LMP1 class for 2017: Porsche and Toyota in the Hybrid class, and Bykolles Racing Team in the privateers category (if they remain in LMP1).

In LMP2, Will Stevens stays in the #26 G-Drive Oreca 05 Nissan replacing René Rast for the second round. Stevens paired Alex Brundle and Roman Rusinov as the team took their maiden 2016 WEC series victory last time out at Fuji. The reigning class champions will be hoping to continue this form in Shanghai as the LMP2 field tries to close in on the current Championship leaders #36 Signatech Alpine crew.

The #42 Gibson 015S Nissan ran by Strakka Racing will not take part in the rest of the season. The team suffered and engine issue that has forced them to withdraw from the rest of the season. The team currently sit fifth in the team’s LMP2 standing, with a fourth place at Le Mans 24 Hour, 6 Hours of Nürburgring, and 6 Hours of Mexico being their best season result.

Two Chinese drivers take place in their home race this weekend, David Cheung and Ho Ping Tung, both aboard the Baxi DC Alpine Racing #35 Apline A460. Paul Loup Chatin completes the team’s driver line up. The team, co-owned by film-start Jackie Chan, will be one to keep an eye on as it takes part in it’s home race. The #43 RGR Sport team performed extremely well at their home round in Mexico a couple of months ago, taking pole position and the LMP2 class win. The #35 crew will be hoping that they can perform in a similar fashion.

On a track known for it’s changing weather conditions, the 6 Hours of Shanghai usually hands out an exhilarating race. Toyota has won twice around the Chinese circuit, with Audi and Porsche having one win a piece. Can Toyota make it three on the fifth WEC visit to China, Audi make it two wins on their final outing for WEC in Asia, or Porsche repeat their performance from just 12 months ago? Tune into the race on Sunday to find out. Race starts 03:00 GMT Sunday the 6th of November.

Photograph Toyota-global.com