The 6 Hours of Shanghai: Preview

The circus keeps racing on, and after the rain soaked antics of Fuji we’re all in need of a good sports car battle to sate our racing appetites. This weekend we return to China, land of democracy, fake brands and censorship, for the penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. If last year’s outing is anything to go by, we won’t be disappointed.

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The Shanghai circuit is one of a rare breed: a 5.5km Hermann Tilke success story. The WEC field will tiptoe through the ever-tightening first corner, push the limits of grip through the sweeping middle section and then get the hammer down along the back straight; it’s a tricky circuit that rewards the brave and punishes the foolhardy. It’s also shaped to look like the Chinese character ‘Shang’ which means ‘above’, though to be honest it could say anything and our uncultured western eyes wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

The 6 Hours of Shanghai will be another two day event, with double helpings of Free Practice sessions and Qualifying shootouts on Friday and the race on Saturday. China is 8 hours ahead of us in the UK, so you’ll have to be a bit of an early bird to catch the action on www.fiawec.com or Motors TV; 8am for Friday qualifying and 3am for the main event.

The race itself promises to be everything we were hoping for in Japan; a battle between two Audis and two Toyotas for the top spot of the podium. The Audi and Toyota #8 crews are unchanged but the Japanese marque’s #7 car will be without Kazuki Nakajima who is on duty in Super Formula. P2 and GTE lineups are staying largely the same too, with Aston Martin the only exception as they undo the reshuffles done for the last few races.

The teams arrive into China knowing that the clock’s ticking on the 2013 championship. The top honours are a bit of a foregone conclusion after the Audi #1’s late season woes have left them hoping for an act of God; Fassler, Lotterer and Treluyer need a 41 point swing in the last two races to retain their championship. It’s highly likely that we’ll be crowning Messrs McNish, Kristensen and Duval on Saturday afternoon.

But in all the other classes there’s a lot to play for. LMP2 is becoming a dogfight between Pecom and the two Oaks, with the sporadically impressive G-Drive having an outside chance.The AF Corse of Bruni/Fisichella leads GTE Pro by the slimmest of margins; 3 points ahead of Porsche and 5.5 from the Turner/Mücke Aston Martin with 50 points left to play for. In the Ams it’s just as close, with the #96 Aston holding a tentative lead over IMSA Performance Matmut’s Porsche and 8 Star’s Ferrari.

You can follow our coverage across the weekend, with our editor tweeting live through the night at @speedchillsview (click to follow) and reports up on Speed Chills after qualy and the race. With just two rounds left the FIA World Endurance Championship is coming to its climax; the next 12 hours of race action will be some of the best we’ve seen all year. Keep your eyes peeled when the field crosses the line on Saturday for the 6 Hours of Shanghai.

Jamie Snelling is a freelance motorsports journalist and 7 time Speed Chills veteran.