More bitter-sweat results for AMR in Shanghai (Forgot to press 'submit')

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Just three weeks after the 6Hrs of Fuji the WEC circus rolled up to the Shanghai International Circuit just outside the metropolis that is Shanghai in the Peoples Republic of China.

Fielding only a slightly adjusted line up within the Young Driver car, Aston Martin Racing were keen to capitalise on the momentum secured by the team in their hard fought triple podium achieved in Japan. With Nikki Thiim again on Porsche Supercup duty at the Circuit of the Americas the reliable Kiwi Richie Stanaway would again deputise in the #95 Dane Train.

Despite some very wild weather during Free Practice that actually saw the session red flagged due to visibility Aston Martin Racing were still able to get the cars set up and achieve pole position for both  the #97 of Darren Turner/Stefan Mucke in GTE Pro and the #98 Northwest car of Pedro Lamy and Christoffer Nygaard in GTE Am.  This was the second consecutive class pole for the #98 and track position would give the #97 car a great shot of achieving an amazing triple if they could win their class at the circuit.

There would be no repeat of the qualifying success for the #99 Craft Bamboo car of Fernando Rees, Darryl O'Young and Alex McDowell who would start back in 6th in class. The #95 Young Driver car would just behind the #98 and would start P2 in class.

Come race day the weather had steadily improved from the Friday soaking and the six hour race around the 5.4mile circuit would at least start under blue skies with a pleasant 20deg C air temperature.

Drama wouldn't be far away after the green flag as a sudden and unexpected deceleration from the KCMG LMP2 car would catch out the championship leading GTE Pro #51 AF Corse car, destroying both in the process and bringing out the Safety Car for over 20 minutes whilst the debris was cleared.

This unfortunate incident would create the football equivalent of a '6 pointer' with the championship leaders now being eliminated and the chasing #97 car being in the class lead and ultimately being well set to reduce the point deficit to the AF Corse car. Once the Safety Car was brought back in the starting Stefan Mucke quickly set out his intentions and was soon able to to establish an eight second lead over the chasing Porsche's.  

Across the Aston Martin Racing line up the race format would be similar across the cars and categories - about an hour between each full service/driver change pit stops. The first couple of hours would be without real incident for the AMR cars - the #97 stretching their GTE Pro lead and the #95 and #98 GTE Am cars having a really inter team 'ding-dong' for their own top honours. All was looking good for a repeat of the triple podium the team.

Just before the half way mark Christoffer Nygaard in the #98 Northwest car finally slipped down the inside of the #95 Young Driver car going into the hairpin to take the Am lead which they would go on to retain until the end much to the distain of #95's Poulsen caught on the TV footage!

Despite being the fastest GTE on track at that point Darryl O'Young was struggling to move his car up the leader board in his #99 Craft Bamboo car so any podium repeat for them was unrealistic.

At about four and a half hours into the race and at about half way through Mucke's second stint in the #97 all their hard work to establish a 20 second class lead was to be unravelled and left for nothing when the left hand bank of the cars V8 engine catastrophically failed internally going into turn 6 sending plumes of oily smoke into the air signally the premature demise of that GTE Pro car. It also all but destroyed any possibility of the car winning the Pro class.

Despite this setback with the sister car the remaining hour and a half of the race were very much 'game on' for the #98 and #95 Am cars - Richie Stanaway was however told that discretion was the better path than valour and to secure maximum points possibly and settle for P2 behind the Northwest car.

Come the chequered flag it would be another double podium for Aston Martin Racing with Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Christoffer Nygaard claiming top honours in GTE Am in their #98 car followed by the #95 Young Driver line up of Richie Stanaway, Kristian Poulsen and David Heinemeier-Hannson just over 80 seconds behind. The #99 Craft Bamboo car of Fernando Rees, Darryl O'Young and Alex McDowell was to finish fourth in class and a lap down.

The result for both Am cars means that the championship can only be won by an Aston Martin car - but which one? That will pan out over the remaining two races in Bahrain and Brazil - the next just over a week away.

Photo credits - Aston Martin Racing & WEC

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