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CALADO: Super-Soggy Shanghai

James Calado files his latest column for Sportscar365 following Six Hours of Shanghai…

Photo: MPS Agency

We all know that racing around the world throughout the year can be a life of extremes, but Shanghai certainly threw all of that and more at us while there for the WEC’s final round of 2018.

A 5th place definitely wasn’t what we were looking for but, with the benefit of a bit of distance, I guess many of us were lucky to finish the race at all as the conditions were so bad.

We arrived at Shanghai International Circuit mid-week to sunshine but cool temperatures…kind of what you’d expect for mid-November I suppose!

It’s a huge place on the outskirts of the city, which you can sometimes see through the smog but often can’t…it’s never been that kind to Ferrari over the years but were reasonably optimistic about our chances for this year.

It was great having Corvette Racing with us for this event, a real pro team which we normally only get to race against once a year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 11 factory cars and full pro driver line ups meant there was plenty of focus on GTE Pro and our AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTEs were a big part of that.

Practice was quite tricky as it was wet but I got us to the top of the category after FP2.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the same in qualifying which was in the dry. Both our cars suffered from a straight-line speed deficit compared to our rivals and, as the Shanghai track is quite long (3.38 miles) with a couple of long straights, we were well down. With 1.2 seconds between all 11 cars, it was tough.

So to race day and the worse rain we’ve seen for ages. I felt really bad for the fans who came – and there were a lot of them for the autograph session and race start – but that’s how it goes sometimes. We race all year nowadays, and you can get rain pretty much anywhere …we’ve even had a few drops in Bahrain in the past!

The conditions were very difficult for everyone, but it was a particularly tough race for us as the Ferraris struggled in the wet.

We had tire problems in my first stint which cost me a lot of time, and it was hard reacting to the constantly changing levels of rain and deciding which tires would work best. Overall, I think the team got it spot on for the six hours which included almost 1.5 hours of red flag stoppages and 5 Safety Car periods, the most we’ve had for ages.

The last SC came with just 22 minutes to go but it was quite a short one. By this stage it was not only pouring with rain again but the light was fading fast and temperatures were low so it was almost impossible to get any temperature into the tires. Difficult for everyone, and really disappointing to finish our WEC year like this.

I say our WEC year deliberately as I’m still in Shanghai!

Both Alessandro [Pier Guidi] and I will be competing in the opening round of the new Asian Le Mans Series which takes place this weekend at the Shanghai Circuit. I’m driving a Ferrari 488 GT3 for the Car Guy team with two Japanese team mates and, for a change, I’m going to be against Ale. Bring on the competition!

Looking ahead to 2019 and the final three races in the Super Season, we’ve got lots of reasons to be positive. I love Sebring – the track, the atmosphere, the weather, the bumps, everything! Due to Shanghai being a wet race we’d also expect no BoP changes…

On pure performance it’s going to be difficult, however strategy always plays a big part at Sebring which for us will be over 1000 miles or approximately 8 hours. It’s going to be a mega event for the fans and we can’t wait!

James Calado (@caladojames) is a Ferrari factory driver and the 2017 WEC GTE World Champion, driving for AF Corse in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

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