A dramatic weekend of motorsport was overshadowed by the terrible crash in Macau yesterday that saw young Formula 3 star Sophia Florsch suffer a spinal fracture. We wish Sophia and everyone else effected in the incident a speedy recovery.
Earlier in the day, four customer 911s had taken to the fast and narrow Asian street circuit, with factory drivers Laurens Vanthoors and Earl Bamber vying for top honours in the FIA GT World Cup aboard the two Manthey Racing GT3 R cars.
Qualifying in Macau takes the form of a 12-lap race, and in a heart-stopping moment just after the start on Saturday, Vanthoors was knocked into the barriers at high-speed, leaving him unhurt but unable to continue. Bamber, who also narrowly avoided contact in the incident, managed to qualify in fifth.
The race itself saw Bamber at times the fastest car on the 6km Guia Circuit, but with track width down to a mere seven metres in places, passing opportunities were few and far between. In the end, the New Zealander was forced to settle for a frustrating fourth place. Behind him, Porsche Young Professional Mathieu Jaminet drove a flawless race for Craft Bamboo Racing, making up two places to finish seventh. His teammate Darryl O’Young also kept out of trouble to finish 14th.
Bamber summed up the positives from a tricky weekend for Porsche’s customer teams: “It was a really tough race. I managed to defend my position at the start, then the gaps varied occasionally. Towards the end, when the car became lighter with less fuel on board, we were really fast. The qualities of the Porsche 911 GT3 R came into their own, which allowed a consistently fast speed even on used tyres. We’ve underlined that our car is without doubt one of the strongest GT3 vehicles. If we’d started further up the grid we could’ve done much better, but that’s just the way it is in Macau.”
The other major event of the weekend unfolded 1,200km north in Shanghai. Here, round five of the World Endurance Championship took place amid torrential rains and attendant on-track chaos. The two works 911 RSRs qualified fourth and eighth in GTE-Pro, while the Dempsey Proton car missed out on pole by just 0.0.67 in GTE-Am.
The race itself was hampered by horrendous track conditions and numerous red flags. All the 911 RSR managed to stay out of trouble, however, and in the last 40 minutes of a six-hour slog and with darkness descending, Richard Lietz battled up from fourth to second in the #91 car. Not far behind, teammate Michael Christensen showed total commitment, passing for third on the last lap of the race. These two points positions mean Porsche extends its lead in both driver and manufacturer’s championships at this midway point in the 18-month long ‘super season.’
The two Pro podiums were upstaged, however, by a stunning display from the privateers in GTE-Am. The class win went to the Dempsey Proton RSR of Matt Campbell, Christian Reid and Julien Andlauer. Behind them, Project 1 driver Jörg Bergmeister swept past the second Dempsey Proton Racing RSR on the penultimate lap for second, giving Porsche a hugely satisfying 1-2-3 lockout.
After a lengthy break over Christmas and New Year, round six of the FIA World Sports Car Championship WEC will be contested in Sebring on March 15, 2019.