Difficult 6 Hours of Shanghai for Ferrari
The 6 Hours of Shanghai has traditionally been a particularly difficult race for Ferrari. The GTE-Pro class cars had already been slow in qualifying, when they had been unable to do better than fifth row. In the race, the 488 GTEs of AF Corse recovered as always, even pushing into the podium positions for a few laps, but in the end slipped to fifth and eighth place in a race that saw them struggle with wet tyres. The GTE-Am class wasn’t easy either, with the Ferraris taking the lead at times but in the end finishing outside the top three.
GTE-Pro. The first half of the race was not very interesting. The race started behind the Safety Car because of the rain pelting down over Shanghai and was suspended twice. After three hours, fewer than 20 laps had been completed under the green flag. The two Ferrari cars competing in the GTE-Pro class adopted different strategies: the no. 51 making its first pit stop when the Safety Car was out, replacing Alessandro Pier Guidi with James Calado; the no. 71 continuing before finally entering the pits under the green flag but with Sam Bird staying at the wheel. Two hours from the finish no. 51 was in third and no. 71 sixth. At the restart after yet another Safety Car, Davide Rigon climbed into no. 71 and began to make up ground on his rivals to move into third, while Calado struggled to find a grip with the Wet tyres, the same problem that Rigon then complained about in his last stint. In the final stages, another Safety Car caused the group to bunch and Calado managed to pass Rigon, who in the final lap slipped to eighth in a race won by the Aston Martin of Marco Sørensen and Nicki Thiim.
GTE-Am. In the GTE-Am class, the first part of the race saw the Ferrari no. 54 of Spirit of Race excel with Francesco Castellacci although all the 488 GTE cars put up a fight with Weng Sun Mok in Clearwater Racing no. 61 and Motoaki Ishikawa in MR Racing no. 70. Thomas Flohr replaced Castellacci at the pit stop, while Eddie Cheever III took over from Ishikawa. However, Matt Griffin was best of all, climbing into no. 61 in place of Mok, in his last race in the WEC. The Irishman even took the lead but after the following pit stop Keita Sawa slipped back again. In the final stages, the deteriorating weather hampered the 488 GTE crews even though Giancarlo Fisichella drove the Spirit of Race car into fourth place with a last stint worthy of his reputation. The 488 GTE of MR Racing finished sixth and the car of Clearwater Racing seventh. Class win went to the Porsche no. 77 of Campbell-Andlauer-Ried, while the Toyota of Conway-Kobayashi-Lopez clinched the overall win. The next race is the Sebring 1000 Miles in March 2019.
Pre-Race: It had been a difficult qualifying
As anticipated, Ferrari endured a less than brilliant qualifying for the Shanghai 6 Hours in the GTE-Pro class. Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado in the 488 GTE no. 51, along with their AF Corse teammates Davide Rigon and Sam Bird, found the going tough in a session where the times were bunched and they finished down the standings. Both crews suffered from the car’s low straight speed, although the wet conditions forecast for Sunday will make for an unpredictable race. The 488 GTE no. 54 of Spirit of Race enjoyed an excellent qualifying session, with Giancarlo Fisichella and Thomas Flohr third fastest. Clearwater Racing also qualified well, with Ferrari no. 61 sixth on the grid, while MR Racing will set off back in ninth.
GTE-Pro. In GTE-Pro class, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Davide Rigon, respectively, started the session in cars no. 51 and 71. The world champion clocked 1:59.401 on his first attempt and then decided to return to the pits to hand over to James Calado. Davide Rigon stopped the clock at 2:00.019 and likewise chose to cede the 488 GTE no. 71 to Sam Bird. Calado, in no. 51, also set his best time of 1:59.508 at the first attempt, for a combined average of 1:59.454. Sam Bird was the fastest of the four Ferrari drivers recording his best time on the second attempt. After a decent 1:59.451 on his first lap, the British driver followed up with an excellent 1:59.359, for an combined average time of 1:59.689. The Ferraris will start from fifth row on the grid, while pole position went to Ford no. 66 driven by Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla in 1:58.627.
GTE-Am. In the GTE-Am class, Giancarlo Fisichella made his experience count, helping the 488 GTE of Spirit of Race to qualify in third place. The two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans came in at 2:00.228 before handing over to Thomas Flohr whose 2:03.900 made for an combined average time of 2:02.090. The Ferrari of Clearwater Racing was sixth fastest with Weng Sun Mok, who recorded 2:03.997 on his last FIA WEC qualifying session, which Matt Griffin then reduced to 2:02.400. The 488 GTE of MR Racing will set off in ninth, driven in qualifying by Motoaki Ishikawa and Eddie Cheever III with a combined time of 2:04.648. Pole position in the class went to the Aston Martin of Dalla Lana-Lamy-Lauda who set a time of 2:01.884, while the Toyota of Conway-Kobayashi-Lopez took overall pole in 1:42.931.