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Shanghai Friday Notebook

Daniel Lloyd’s Friday notebook from FIA World Endurance Championship in China…

Photo: Porsche

***Rebellion Racing led the Michelin LMP1 tire test on Friday morning. Andre Lotterer’s time of 1:57.812 in the No. 1 Rebellion R13 Gibson was 0.034 seconds quicker than Kazuki Nakajima in the second-placed No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid.

***The No. 1 Rebellion of Lotterer, Neel Jani and Bruno Senna also completed the most laps, with 29 in the books. The two Toyotas completed 23 and 22 laps respectively, while the ByKolles Racing ENSO CLM P1/01 NISMO registered 21. At the other end of the spectrum, neither the DragonSpeed BR Engineering BR1 Gibson nor the No. 17 SMP Racing BR1 AER completed anything more than an installation lap.

***The session was interrupted by a brief red flag period with 40 minutes to go when Oliver Webb spun the ByKolles CLM into the gravel at the turn 10 left-hander.

***BMW encountered an issue with its No. 81 car’s right-rear upright during pit stop practice on Thursday. The problem was resolved in time for Friday morning practice, which the same car led thanks to a quick time from Martin Tomczyk.

***Shanghai marks the first time Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan has missed a race with the Pratt & Miller-run team since the program was founded in 1997. A Corvette spokesperson told Sportscar365 that Fehan is away on a vacation that was booked before this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship outing was announced in June.

***DragonSpeed is expected to announce an additional driver for its 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona lineup this weekend. The U.S team previously confirmed its entry to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener with an Oreca 07 Gibson for Nicolas Lapierre, Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman.

***The team plans to run its 24 Hours of Le Mans driver lineup in the remaining races of the ‘Super Season’. Hedman is set to rejoin for Sebring after skipping the two Asian fly-aways, and will be partnered by Hanley and Renger Van der Zande.

***Van der Zande said it feels “strange” to be missing the Macau weekend this year for only the second time in 12 years. Until this weekend, the Dutchman had competed in all but one edition of the annual motor racing festival, in the GT World Cup and the Formula 3 Grand Prix, since 2007.

***Will Bamber, the younger brother of 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Earl, is one of 28 drivers taking part in this weekend’s Porsche Carrera Cup Asia support races. Other notable  names include Falken Porsche driver Martin Ragginger, reigning series champion Chris van der Drift and Porsche junior hopeful Philip Hamprecht.

***The weather in Shanghai has been gray and drizzly, with low visibility. Local reports suggest tomorrow’s qualifying session will be dry, while rain is expected to fall in the afternoon of race day on Sunday.

***Andy Priaulx believes that the Ford GTs will struggle if the wet conditions felt so far extend into Sunday’s race. “If it is wet, we are going to struggle a little bit because we are lacking quite a lot of top speed,” he said. “It all depends on tires and strategy but the last few races have been good for us which is great because at Spa and Le Mans we had some issues. We are just trying to claw back as many points as we can.”

***Jenson Button said that SMP Racing needs to improve in the pits to make use of the on-track time gained by the most recent Equivalence of Technology change. “Our pit stops were five seconds slower on average in Fuji, so it was costing us a lot of time,” he said. “The only thing now is that we need to learn how to change drivers quicker because we’re on the limit.”

***The SMP Racing driver also predicted that the latest EoT change, which sees a slightly larger increase in petrol energy for the naturally-aspirated LMP1 cars over their turbocharged counterparts, should help SMP in the fight against Rebellion, although Button doesn’t think it will bring the privateers any closer to Toyota.

***2015 Le Mans LMP2 winner Richard Bradley was spotted in the paddock today. The current Super GT driver lives in Shanghai and dropped in to visit the WEC event before heading to Macau to catch up with his old KCMG colleagues at the FIA GT World Cup.

***There were three off-track incidents to note on Friday. Besides the ByKolles morning spin, there was a trip to the turn two gravel for AF Corse’s James Calado, which a Ferrari spokesperson said was due to the driver testing the limits of the wet circuit on slick tires.

***The third incident was a clash between the No. 86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR and the No. 98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage, also in FP2. Gulf driver Ben Barker was reprimanded by the stewards for turning in on the Aston at turn one.

***The LMP1 qualifying lap record at Shanghai is 1:42.526, set by Kamui Kobayashi in a Toyota TS050 Hybrid last year. In LMP2, the record stands at 1:48.509 (Bruno Senna, Oreca 07 Gibson) while for GTE-Pro it’s 1:59.578 (Michael Christensen, Porsche 911 RSR) and 2:01.494 for GTE-Am (Miguel Molina, Ferrari 488 GTE). All of those times were set during last year’s event.

***Free Practice 3 gets underway tomorrow at 9:50 a.m local time (08:30 p.m Friday EST) while qualifying is set to begin at 2 p.m local time (1 a.m Friday EST).

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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