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VAN DER ZANDE: That’s a Wrap on 2018!

Renger van der Zande files his latest Sportscar365 column following last weekend’s Six Hours of Shanghai…

Photo: MPS Agency

My 2018 season ended last weekend with the FIA World Endurance Championship race in Shanghai. It was a special year where I joined Wayne Taylor Racing in IMSA, raced in the 24 Hours of Lr Mans in a LMP1 car and competed in the main endurance races around the world.

Sportscar365 asked me to share my thoughts on the WEC championship this year and Shanghai made me start to enjoy the series a lot more. It was an exciting race. Well, from the moment we started actually racing.

Photo: MPS Agency

Shanghai from My End

Short Version: It began with the challenge of sliding and aquaplaning around a very wet track and we ended up with 6th place, the position from which we also started.

We faced a lot of trouble with our LMP1 car so far and Shanghai was the first time the car ran smooth.

The first part of the race was maybe boring because of all the red flags and safety cars but when the race actually started, it unfolded spectacular in all classes.

There were a lot of strategy calls to gain or lose on and the many safety cars kept the field together to battle it out. A lot was going on in all the classes.

The rain was pouring down and it was up to me to start the race.

With the weather conditions as they were, I was in the car from 11 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. driving most of those 30 laps behind the safety car. Only very few of them were racing laps, and it was tough.

Even behind the safety car it was all about keeping the car on track. The conditions were tricky; it was so easy to spin off.

I never thought they would go green and once we did, it was a matter of surviving.

Nobody could see anything through the spray, probably not even the leader who had no spray coming from a car in front! We had everything to lose and nothing to gain, so I decided to stay on track and not go on the attack.

Looking back at the race, I think it was a great one. It was exciting and the GTs fought for the win until the final laps. I must also congratulate the other DragonSpeed drivers in the LMP2 car, who finished second in class. That was a nice result for the team.

Photo: MPS Agency

BR1: What a Beast!

It’s really fun to drive the Dragonspeed BR Engineering BR1. It’s a beast of a car, kind of old school, you have to fight it!

It has a lot of power, a lot of downforce, and it moves around a lot. Before the race, tire degradation promised to be an issue, but during the race itself that wasn’t a problem because of the rain.

Shanghai is a fantastic track with many technical sections and opportunities for good racing.

Photo: MPS Agency

Toyota Still in a League of Their Own

Toyota recently said the non-hybrid LMP1s will be able to catch up with them. I don’t think that’s going to happen, though.

In my opinion, we’re racing in two different classes. Maybe they were afraid that we were getting too close to them, but in Shanghai we only raced for half of the six hours — the rest of the time was behind the safety car or red-flagged — and still they finished one lap in front of the rest of the field.

During qualifying and the race it’s clear they’re in a league of their own. It’s hybrids vs. non-hybrids, we can’t race them.

The Toyotas are overtaking the non hybrids left, right and centre. Which I don’t mind at all, but I think the whole discussion is kind of useless.

Winter Break

In the U.S., my first season with Wayne Taylor Racing came to an end one month ago at Road Atlanta where we won Petit Le Mans.

Going into the winter break with that victory is fantastic, but even more fantastic is that three weeks ago I became a father for the second time.

It was rather hectic going to Petit Le Mans and leaving my pregnant wife and my daughter at home one week before she was due. It was amazing to come back home (with the P1 trophy!) and be there when we were welcoming our second child soon after.

Now that Shanghai is done, it’s great to spend time with the family and prepare for a short winter break! Up next will be the mighty Rolex 24 at Daytona again which rolls us into the new season.

Renger van der Zande (@Rengervdz) is a Dutch sports car racing star, driving for Wayne Taylor Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and DragonSpeed in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

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