Teams participating in the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Shanghai ran qualifying laps today at the Shanghai International Circuit.
The fastest lap was set by Alexander Wurz (AUT) in the #7 Toyota, at an average speed of 181.2 kmh and an official qualifying time of 1:48.273, putting the Toyota team in the leading position for tomorrow’s start grid.
The #2 Audi, driven by Allan McNish (GBR) and Tom Kristensen (DNK), will be second on the grid, with a qualifying time of 1:48.373 set by McNish.
The grid for LM GTE Pro sees Aston Martin Racing in car #97 at the front, with a qualifying time of 2:03.721, while Team Felbermayr-Proton in car #77 placed second with a time of 2:04.471.
The #88 Team Felbermayr-Proton led the LM GTE Am class qualifying, with a time of 2:05.584, followed by the #61 AF Corse-Waltrip car with a time of 2:05.836.
Teams are now ready to tackle the final 6-hour race of the championship, set to begin tomorrow at 11:00 local time.
Q&A WITH “MISTER LE MANS” TOM KRISTENSEN
We had the pleasure of interviewing Rolex Testimonee and 8-time winner of Les 24 Heures du Mans Tom Kristensen here at the 6 Hours of Shanghai.
Kristensen ran us through his 2012 FIA WEC season and talked about the challenges he anticipates when racing here at Shanghai International Circuit for the first time on Sunday.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the biggest challenges, along with your personal highlights, of the 2012 FIA WEC season?
A: The highlights for us were definitely Sebring and Le Mans. We were performing very well and we also had Dindo on the team so we were three drivers to the car.
We won Sebring and, while we didn’t win Les 24 Heures du Mans, it was close: up until two hours before the end of the race we were looking good.
Unfortunately, that was also our biggest disappointment because we didn’t win… and as Le Mans is worth double points, our teammates in the other car had an advantage and we have since been playing “catch up” over the season.
One thing to keep in mind is that Allan and I have competed with three different chassis throughout the year: we started with the R18 TDI in Sebring, then we went to the e-tron quattro, then after Le Mans we drove the Ultra, and then for last two races, in Bahrain and Fuji, we again drove the e-tron quattro, so it has been a learning experience almost every time.
We’ve had some interesting races, but have also been a bit unlucky at stages. In Silverstone I remember a puncture at the wrong time.
In Interlagos I had a “misunderstanding” with a Ferrari that lost us some seconds, then there was the safety car… all in all we were looking strong but we lost by about 12 seconds. And that was a key moment in the championship.
In Bahrain we had to change the bonnet due to a broken headlight, and then we had another puncture so that also cost us.
As a team of two drivers we were strained; it was impossible to stay in the car for two stints and recovery in between, when the temperature was 40 °C, was incredibly tough.
But for me the low point was really Fuji, because in Fuji we had good pre-race preparation but in the race we just didn’t have the performance we needed.
As the race went on we had more and more issues; there was a contact at one stage that caused some problems on the car and we generally suffered from our set-up. So performance-wise, that was certainly our low point and was also a disappointment.
Q: Last year Zhuhai, this year Shanghai- how does it feel to be back in China for the finale of the championship, and what are the challenges you anticipate here in Shanghai?
A: It’s good to be back in China and the biggest change for us this year is obviously the circuit. Here in Shanghai we are racing on one of the best circuits on the Formula 1 calendar, so that is new and something to look forward to.
By Chinese standards the track at Zhuhai is quite an old circuit, one of the oldest tracks built in China. In comparison, the Shanghai International Circuit was built in 2004 under the influence of Mr. Hermann Tilke, who has designed a lot of the Grand Prix tracks.
The infrastructure here is phenomenal and the circuit itself is, in my opinion, one of the better ones, if not one of the best Tilke’s has designed in terms of layout.
I’ve never seen anything like the first sector and I anticipate this part of the track being very challenging. You have to bang it into the first corner, going at very high speeds, then you must go down through all the gears and brake hard while also increasing the steering angle.
It must be one of the longest corners in the world. In fact, it’s so long that they call it Corner 1 and Corner 2. It’s something like 300 degrees and once you’ve accomplished that, bam, you have to go immediately into a left-hander, which is tight again.
This means that in the cockpit we won’t be able to see where we’re going until we get there, which is always a challenge with this car, but particularly in this corner.
The rest of the circuit is quite normal. I like sector two as it has faster corners and in sector three, going into the back straight, there’s a banked corner that you must accelerate through, which means you will already be entering the back straight in 5th gear.
Corner 14 will also be a challenge since you approach it at such a high speed that it will be difficult to anticipate the braking point, usual when you are travelling close to 300 kmh. When you go into it, it’s practically a hairpin, so to get that braking point correct and not sail past it will be tricky.
This circuit is 5.451 km long, which means longer, wider and more up-to-date than Zhuhai. Zhuhai was narrow with a lot of stop and go.
There was also a narrow playing field in terms of traffic and in terms of finding the right line - that was it’s own unique challenge. Generally, I think that traffic will be easier to manage on this track in comparison to Zhuhai and also in comparison to the previous tracks we’ve raced so far in the series.