Toyota Unequalled in Shanghai 6 Hours

Toyota Racing continued their dominant form today as they powered into the distance to secure a 1-2 finish at the FIAWEC 6 Hours of Shanghai.

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The #8 TS040 of Sebastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson survived a small hiccup in the team’s fuelling rig early on to come from behind and drive past every one of its championship rivals to take the victory.

It wasn’t to be a classic race with controlling drives at the front of each class, but battles throughout the rest of the field and the odd massive failure gave the record crowd a good spectacle.

As the lights went out and 27 cars roared up the pit straight for the first time it was Romain Dumas’ #14 Porsche that headed the pack. But the fans were denied a repeat of Fuji’s first lap spectacular as Alex Imperatori’s KCMG Oreca failed, stopped and caused the GTE Pro leading #51 AF Corse to pile into the back of it.

That brought out the safety car which hampered the action, and although the two Toyotas came in for an early short stop they soon made up the gap when the green flags flew. When the #7 and #8 finally made their way past the two 919s their eventual victory was all but assured.

This left the two German manufacturers to squabble over the final podium position, with Audi quicker through the twisty sector 2 and Porsche unleashing its superior hybrid system down the long back straight.

In LMP2 it was the new-for-2014 Ligier JSP2 of G-Drive Racing that drove off into the distance at the hands of Oli Pla, Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal. The brand new chassis was on a different level completely to the ageing Orecas and HPDs of its rivals, lapping consistently quicker and proving its reliability.

The battle behind the Russian outfit was tense and close, however. American team Extreme Speed Motorsports and G-Drive’s compatriots SMP Racing swapped positions throughout the race, dropping back with Silver drivers and powering ahead with their pros.

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The #97 Aston Martin of Darren Turner and Stefan Muecke shook off the spectre of Fuji’s first corner calamity and took a convincing lead in GTE Pro for the first four hours. The two Porsche 911 RSRs could only chase and were preparing themselves to fight over second and third when the left bank of the Aston’s V8 blew up in a huge cloud of smoke.

Muecke stood forlornly at the side of his Vantage and Turner looked thoroughly fed up in the pits, but Porsche were delighted as they defied their season’s form to drive off in team formation.

GTE Am proved a much luckier proposition for Aston Martin as their two contenders powered away at the front and fought amongst themselves for the win. The class’ single Ferrari, the 8 Star Motorsport 458 which was running in AF Corse red instead of its usual bright orange, was in acres of space behind the Astons and ahead of the two Am Porsches.

As the chequered flag dropped nobody was surprised to see Ant Davidson power past in first place, a position his car had held for the majority of the race. The #7 came home second to lock out the front two podium spots while some brilliant recovery driving from Jani, Lieb and Dumas secured a well deserved third for the #14 Porsche.

The two Audis finished fourth and fifth with the #2 heading the #1, while Mark Webber’s #20 Porsche took sixth. In LMP1-L the #12 Rebellion beat it’s sister #13, both R-Ones 9 laps ahead of the Lotus CLM P1/01.

G-Drive finished three laps ahead of the entirety of the P2 field, a performance which will weigh heavily on KCMG, SMP and Oak Racing for the final two races. Extreme Speed take no points from the race as they aren’t full season entries, but followed a third in Texas with a brilliant second in China. Next stop the Americans: the top step.

The #27 SMP took third in class after some good driving from Maurizio Mediani and Nic Minassian, crossing the line just ahead of their #37 team mates. The second ESM finished fifth after mid-race issues and the Oak Racing Morgan-Judd rounded out the six car entry.

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GTE Pro ended an all Porsche affair with the #92 ahead of the #91 and the lone surviving AF Corse in third. Last of the class finishers was the #99V8 Vantage, rounding off a disappointing day for the Pro side of the Aston garage.

The Am side had a much better day of it though, with the #98 of Lamy, Dalla Lana and Nygaard coming home just ahead of the ‘Dane Train’ #95. 8 Star took third while the #75 Prospeed took fourth to beat Proton Competition to the Am Porsche plaudits.

With two races still to go in this year’s World Endurance Championship it would take a brave soul to bet on any team other than Toyota. With two utterly dominant performances in the last two races and a record of only being beaten when faced with problems, the Japanese squad look set to breeze to a first world crown.

The next race comes along in just two weeks at Bahrain’s Sakhir Circuit as the world endurance circus starts heading towards the 2014 season’s close. Stay tuned to speedchills.com and @SpeedChillsView on Twitter for all the latest news and views.