Harry Tincknell made a last-lap pass on Roman Rusinov to snatch victory for Thunderhead Carlin Racing in round one of the 2019-20 Asian Le Mans Series at Shanghai.
Tincknell successfully planted his team’s Dallara P217 Gibson down the inside of Rusinov’s G-Drive Racing Oreca-based Aurus 01 Gibson heading into the long Turn 13 right-hander before the back straight.
The Englishman, who shared the Carlin car with Jack Manchester and Ben Barnicoat, had tracked his Russian rival throughout the final stint and left it late to make the crucial pass.
Rusinov couldn’t work up a response in the next two corners, leaving Tincknell to take the checkered flag by a margin of 0.378 seconds after four hours of racing and 111 laps.
Sunday’s season-opener witnessed a thrilling battle for the overall lead which involved the Carlin and G-Drive cars as well as the Eurasia Motorsport Ligier JS P217 Gibson.
By the end, every driver from each of these cars had taken a turn to lead the race at some stage.
Aidan Read started the Eurasia Ligier from pole after Roberto Merhi led the way in qualifying and took to the front during the first stint while James French ran second in the Oreca-Aurus ahead of Manchester.
The three cars were rarely separated by large distances throughout the race and changed positions frequently, most dramatically when Read and Merhi’s teammate Nick Foster shot past Manchester and Leonard Hoogenboom in one move with an hour and 45 minutes to go.
But it was Carlin’s Dallara that held the lead going into the final round of pit stops, although it dropped behind the G-Drive machine during this service.
This set up Tincknell’s chase of Rusinov to grab the win on the British team’s first appearance in the series.
Merhi went on to cross the line 42 seconds down in third as the Eurasia crew completed the podium, while Inter Europol’s Ligier driven by James Winslow, Mathias Beche and Jakub Smiechowski finished a lap down in fourth.
The Polish Inter Europol squad subsequently completed the top-five with its LMP3 class-winning entry.
Reigning champions Nigel Moore and Martin Hippe got their title defense off to a perfect start by dominating the second half of the race in their Ligier JS P3 Nissan.
They had initially been trailing the ACE1 Villorba Corsa Ligier which settled into a dominant lead thanks to a brilliant start from Alessandro Bressan who rose from fifth on the grid to the front.
However, an apparent mechanical problem as the field lined up to take the restart from the only Safety Car intervention of the race resulted in the ACE1 car stopping on-track and losing three laps.
Inter Europol went on to take a commanding two-lap win ahead of the No. 2 Nielsen Racing Norma M30 Nissan driven by Tony Wells and Colin Noble.
In the GT class, victory went to D’Station Racing and the No. 77 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Ross Gunn, Tomonobu Fujii and Satoshi Hoshino.
Fujii worked the dark green Aston into an early lead with a series of moves on the opening lap, including two to get past the Ferrari 488 GT3s that started on the front row.
Consistent pace, combined with issues for its closest rivals, then enabled the D’Station car to stretch out to a one-lap victory over the Team JLOC Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.
JLOC’s car led the race for a spell but was called to serve a stop-go penalty for undercutting the minimum pit stop time by one second.
Problems also befell the leading Ferrari entries which clashed early on, resulting in a drive-through for the No. 7 Car Guy entry which is the defending class champion.
Another GT3 car to hit trouble was the FIST-Team AAI BMW M6 GT3 which caused the race’s only Safety Car when Jun San Chen’s lurid spin coming onto the back straight resulted in heavy contact with the barriers on the inner side of the track.
Victory in the LMP2 Am Trophy class for previous-gen prototype machinery went to RLR MSport’s Oreca 05 Nissan driven by Arjun Maini, John Farano and Andrew Higgins.
RESULTS: 4 Hours of Shanghai