The battle for the GTE-Pro titles in the FIA World Endurance Championship has taken a dramatic swing following a first-lap accident in Sunday’s Six Hours of Shanghai that eliminated the championship-leading team.
AF Corse’s Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander headed into China on the verge of clinching the drivers’ championship, only needing to finish ahead of the No. 92 Porsche in the race.
However, the AF Corse duo’s 49.5-point lead was cut in half after a heavy crash on Sunday, when Bruni clobbered the back of the KCMG Oreca 03R Nissan after the it suddenly slowed on track with a fuel pump issue. With the LMP2 car remaining on the racing line, the Italian driver had nowhere to go.
While Bruni and KCMG driver Alexandre Imperatori escaped injury, it resulted in the first retirement for the No. 51 Ferrari F458 Italia in two years, and took a massive hit for defending champions AF Corse and Ferrari in their respective title races.
The Amato Ferrari-led squad, which entered Shanghai with a 36-point lead over Porsche Team Manthey, now has just an 11-point margin over the No. 92 entry, which led a 1-2 finish for the German manufacturer on Sunday.
What’s more, Ferrari’s lead in the GT Manufacturers’ Cup is now just 7 points over Porsche heading into next weekend’s penultimate round of the season in Bahrain.
“The manufacturers’ championship is the main goal for us,” Porsche’s Patrick Pilet told Sportscar365. “For Fred [Makowiecki], the drivers’ championship is still difficult.
“For sure he closed the gap, but on the manufacturers side, we’re really fighting with Ferrari. Honestly, on the track, we have the chance to fight them. It will be tight until the end.”
As Pilet referenced, Bruni and Vilander’s title chances remain high, with a 24.5-point lead over Fred Makowiecki.
While a win in the Middle East would clinch the drivers’ title for the pairing, both the teams and manufacturers’ championships are now likely to go down to the wire in the season finale in Brazil at the end of the month.