The weather in China was a significant factor in the 2018 6 Hours of China, with multiple safety car periods and two red flags before the chequered flag was shown to the no7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Mike Conway, just 1.4 seconds ahead of the no8 TS050 of Kazuki Nakajima as the rain began to come down heavily again.
The no11 SMP Racing BR1-AER of Vitaly Petrov finished a lap behind the Toyotas to secured the final podium position, the first overall podium finish for the Russian team and for Petrov, Mikhail Aleshin and Jenson Button, ending a great week for the former F1 World Champion having just secured the Super GT title in Japan.
The LMP2 category was won by Chinese team Jackie Chan DC Racing with a Chinese driver, Ho-Pin Tung standing on the top step of the podium alongside teammates Gabriel Aubry and Stephane Richelmi.
The race began behind the safety car and after 16 minutes of running the race was red flagged due to the amount of water on the track, which had caused several cars to spin off in the tricky conditions.
The race resumed behind the safety car after an hour under red flag conditions with the no7 Toyota of Jose-Maria Lopez leading the field. The race went green for the first time with Sebastien Buemi in the no8 Toyota pressuring his Argentine teammate, with Lopez running wide at the hairpin allowing Buemi to take the lead. However the green flag running didn’t last long before the race was once again stopped due to the treacherous conditions as the rain got heavier.
After a lengthy red flag period the race once again resumed behind the safety car as the rain eased. The race went green again just after the half way mark of the six hour race with Fernando Alonso leading in the no8 Toyota ahead of the no1 Rebellion Racing R13 of Bruno Senna, the no11 SMP Racing BR1 of Jenson Button and Kamui Kobayashi in the no7 Toyota, who were all challenging for the minor podium places.
The no4 Bykolles ENSO CLM caught fire on the start-finish straight and dropped oil from the last corner to the start line as the marshals quickly extinguished the fire. However this meant a long safety car period to clear the mess on the track.
The lead of the LMP2 category had fallen to the no38 Jackie Chan D C Racing Oreca of Stephane Richelmi after the no31 Dragonspeed and the no37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Orecas had both ended up in the gravel in separate incidents.
Fernando Alonso lost out in the safety car period and Kobayashi took the lead of the race from his Spanish teammate. The no11 SMP Racing BR1 was now running third well ahead of the no1 Rebellion R13 of Andre Lotterer.
In the pouring rain the no7 Toyota took the chequered flag to take the second victory in a row. The no38 Oreca finished 8th overall and first in LMP2 ahead of the recovering no31 Dragonspeed Oreca of Ricardo Gonzalez, the Mexican bring the car home in 12th overall. The final LMP2 podium place was secured by the no36 Signatech Alpine Matmut A470, Pierre Thiriet taking the chequered flag in 15th overall.
First Victory for New Aston Martin Vantage
Marco Sorensen secured the first win for the new for 2018 Aston Martin Vantage in the very wet condition during the 6 Hours of Shanghai. The Dane finished 7th overall and ahead of all the LMP2 cars, with a 9.4 second gap to the no91 Porsche 911 of Richard Lietz, with the no92 Porsche of Michael Christensen passing Maxime Martin in the no97 Aston Martin in the closing stages of the race to secure the final podium position.
The no66 Ford GT of Olivier Pla started on pole but dropped down the order as the French driver was tapped into a spin by the no92 Porsche after Kevin Estre challenged for the class lead in the slippery conditions.
After the race the no95 Aston Martin crew of Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim enjoyed the view from the top step of the podium, the first LMGTE Pro victory for the British manufacturer since 2013.
The LMGTE Am category saw a Porsche podium lockout with the no77 Dempsey-Proton Competition 911 of Christian Ried, Julien Andlauer and Matt Campbell taking the top spot, 8.7 seconds ahead of the no56 Team Project 1 911 of Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti. Bergmeister secured second place and denied Dempsey-Proton Competition a 1-2 by passing the no77 911 of Matteo Cairoli in the final hour of the race.