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JARVIS: Shanghai Debrief

Oliver Jarvis files his latest Sportscar365 column…

Photo: Audi

Photo: Audi

This was the first time back at a race track after Audi had dropped the bombshell that they would be leaving the FIA World Endurance Championship at the end of 2016.

We had all heard rumors suggesting a possible pullout at the end of 2017 but this news really came as quite a shock.
It was good to get to the track and speak to everybody in person after the announcement.

Despite everything that had happened away from the track it was business as usual inside the pit garage and the goal was to win the last two races and go out on a high.

After the three test sessions it was clear that it would once again be an extremely close fight between all three manufacturers.

We headed into qualifying quietly confident that we could fight for pole after my lap in FP3 was quick enough to top the times.

However, in order to have a chance a clear first lap on new tires would be key as tyre degradation was proving to be so high that there was a big drop in performance after only one lap.

Loïc and myself qualified, and had it not been for traffic on Loïc’s qualifying lap – costing him three-tenths exiting Turn 12 onto the back straight – we could have just stolen pole.

As it was, this meant that we had to settle for third on the grid as like Fuji, the times were incredibly close.

Lucas took the start of the race and things were looking good right up until the first pitstop.

In honesty, we probably didn’t have the pace of the No. 1 Porsche but we had moved ahead of the Toyota and were looking strong in second place. However after the first pitstop it became apparent that despite refueling for the correct amount of time, there had been an issue, which meant that our Audi had taken onboard significantly less fuel than desired.

Despite lots of analysis behind the pit wall, the reason for the problem was unknown. Lucas came in at the end of his second stint in a strong second position to hand over to LoÏc, however the stint length had been cut significantly short compared to the plan, due to the reduction in the amount of fuel going in.

In the stop everybody was focused on the refueling where once again there proved to be an issue.

The fuel simply wasn’t transferring from the refueling equipment to the car quickly enough due to a build up of pressure in the car and therefore it was taking over twice as long to refuel.

This meant that we lost over 30 seconds in the pits, and again had less fuel than planned in the car.

The refueling issues continued and by the time I got in the car our chances of a podium were over, and with it any chance of staying in the championship fight.

Later on in the race, by which time the fuel problem had been rectified, there was a misunderstanding between Benoît and myself, resulting in contact at the hairpin – which only added to an already miserable race for me.

We now head to Bahrain out of contention for the title but as a matter of pride we would like to end Audi’s 18 year sports car history with a win.

For me, Bahrain will be extremely emotional having been part of the “Audi family” for nine years but after Audi’s announcement I am forced to look at my options away from the Four Rings in a bid to stay in the WEC or switch to racing in America for 2017.

Oliver Jarvis (@OllyJarvis) is the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 winner, driving for Mazda Team Joest in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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