Following a perfect 1-2 win at Silverstone at the start of the 2019/20 World Endurance Championship (WEC), and another podium in Fuji last month, our GT Team arrived in Shanghai last weekend with a spring in its step.
Kévin Estre and Michael Christensen were in peerless form aboard the No. 92 911 RSR on Saturday, lapping the 5.451-kilometre Shanghai International Circuit with a fabulous combined time of 1:59.579 minutes, good enough for pole position.
Running a different strategy that would leave the No. 91 sister car with an extra set of tyres for the four-hour race on Sunday, Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz would take the start from sixth position.
The race would be far from straight forward for either car, however. Estre and Christensen, having lead their class at the start, had to serve a 10-second penalty due to an unsafe release in the pit lane when they pulled out on the rival Ferrari.
Despite this set back, the race was always too close to call and during a full course yellow over an hour before the close, both 911 RSR pitted early and then had to carefully manage their fuel to the flag. This didn’t stop Estre performing a trademark overtake for second place, with Bruni also passing superbly in his final stint for third.
The last roll of the dice was yet to come, however, when the winning No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi was disqualified for a ride height infringement. This promoted Estre and Christensen to first place and Bruni and Lietz to second, the team’s second 1-2 win in three races.
In the GTE-Am class, meanwhile, three customer teams were fielding six 2017-spec Porsche 911 RSR. Rookie German team Project 1 secured pole in qualifying, with the experienced pairing of Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli and Egidio Perfetti splitting the times on Saturday.
All the privateer teams performed doggedly the following day, but it was the Project 1 sister car, driven by Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Supercup star and WEC newcomer Larry ten Voorde that topped Porsche’s amateur rankings with an impressive second position after 113 laps.
Following another maximum points haul in GTE-Pro, our works team has extended its lead in the manufacturers' championship, while Estre and Christensen continue to control the drivers’ title ahead of teammates Bruni and Leitz.
Round 4 this year will be the 8 Hours of Bahrain, held once again in Sakhir on 14 December.