***Thirty one cars are set for this weekend’s Six Hours of Shanghai, following the withdrawal of Strakka Racing’s Gibson 015S from the remainder of the FIA World Endurance Championship season due to engine issues. It leaves the grid without an open-cockpit car for the first time in series history.
***The penultimate round of the season sees a few new and returning faces, with open-wheel rising star turned BMW DTM driver Tom Blomqvist making his LMP2 debut in the No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P2 Nissan, replacing newly crowned European Le Mans Series champion Guido van der Garde, who will be back for Bahrain.
***There’s also been a shakeup in the lineup of the two Manor Oreca 05 Nissans, with Mathias Beche and Roberto Gonzalez joining Tor Graves in the No. 45 car and Alex Lynn moving over to the team’s No. 44 entry, replacing Roberto Merhi.
***Romain Brandela, meanwhile, completes the lineup in the No. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R, replacing Yutaka Yamagishi. It is the only driver change to either GTE class this weekend.
***A decision on Rebellion Racing’s 2017 LMP2 program could be made by the end of the weekend. Team manager Bart Hayden told Sportscar365 that Audi’s withdrawal has not changed the Anglo-Swiss squad’s decision to put its LMP1 program on hold, despite the reduced entry in the top prototype class.
***Open-wheel rising star Will Owen will be one of two drivers in RGR Sport’s Ligier JS P2 Nissan at the WEC Rookie Test later this month in Bahrain. The 21-year-old American finished fourth in this year’s Pro Mazda Championship and will make his sports car racing debut.
***The Mexican squad will return to the WEC in 2017 with a planned Ligier JS P217 effort and continued support from OAK Racing and Onroak Automotive. Team manager Toni Calderon told Sportscar365 that a second car remains an option, but dependent on funding.
***Details on BMW’s 2018 GTE-Pro effort are starting to become clearer. It’s understood that DTM squad MTEK is the leading candidate to operate the factory program, which is largely believed to utilize the new M8 platform. MTEK could exit DTM at the end of this year, as part of the series-wide reduction to six cars per manufacturer.
***A decision on BMW’s tire partner has also yet to be confirmed. Dunlop’s Director of Operations, Jean-Félix Bazelin, told Endurance-Info that discussions are ongoing with the German manufacturer. Dunlop supported the German manufacturer’s last factory effort at Le Mans in 2010-2011 with the M3 GT.
***Earl Bamber is making a guest appearance in the season-ending Porsche Carrera Cup Asia round, which is one of three support series this weekend. The two-time series champion will pilot a special No. 911 car supported by Team Carrera Cup Asia. “Shanghai is where I earned some of the toughest victories early-on in my career, so it’s always exciting to return,” he said.