For the second time this year bamboo-engineering’s Alex MacDowall posted the fastest lap in Friday’s test session. It had happened in Sonoma before, when the session was cut short by a red flag.
Today in Shanghai, the red flag was also waved, but the session was resumed and MacDowall set the fastest time of 1:56.304 after the break.
Rob Huff was second fastest, having completed a lap of 1:56.346 just seconds before MacDowall improved for good. Pepe Oriola and his SEAT were classified in third position with the time of 1:56.387 also posted in the final minutes. Nearly at the same time WTCC returnee Colin Turkington climbed to fifth with a lap of 1:56.651, after the red flag had spoiled his previous attempt.
It is a very difficult track to get used to.
They were the only four top drivers who were able to improve after the red flag that had been waved with eight minutes left on the clock to replace a pack of tyres hit by a car at Turn 11.
Tiago Monteiro’s Honda Civic was placed in a promising fourth position with a lap of 1:56.439 – only one tenth behind MacDowall’s – that the Portuguese driver had set a couple of minutes before the session was disrupted, topping the sheet for the time being.
Yvan Muller (1:56.653) was sixth, followed by the fastest BMW of Tom Coronel (1:56.735), local hero Darryl O’Young (1:56.785), Tom Boardman (1:56.931) and Fernando Monje (1:57.184).
The third Chevrolet factory driver, Alain Menu, placed himself in 11th (1:57.188) just ahead of James Nash’s Ford Focus (1:57.316). A few drivers spun while trying to find the limits of the track, but they all rejoined: Alex Liu at Turn 2, Mehdi Bennani and Kelvin Leong at Turn 3, Monje at Turn 4.
DRIVERS SAY THE TRACK IS HARD WITH TYRES
Alex MacDowall commenting on his fastest lap in the session said: “After the red flag we put a new set of tyres on and we made a few set up changes. It is a very difficult track to get used to. It has a low grip and when you put new tyres on you are quick for just one lap and then they go off dramatically. We have to work hard on the race set up.”
Chevrolet title contender Rob Huff was second fastest: “I did use new tyres at the very beginning, but my fastest lap was on old tyres, though I benefitted from a slipstream on the back straight. I was happy because the car feels good and the balance is also good. Now we will concentrate on the race set up because had a few problems with the front left tyre during the season and we don’t want this happening again here.”
Pepe Oriola was classified third in the best of the SEAT cars: “This track is quite hard. We worked to find a good set up and then put new tyres on to post a fastest lap. I could have done better but I did not find any car to give me a good slipstream on the straight. I have a good feeling for tomorrow’s qualifying and also for the races, because there are many points where it is possible to overtake.”
The Honda of Tiago Monteiro set the fourth fastest lap: “It was a good test, but we have to keep on working and not to get too excited. We know that a lot of people did not get proper runs on new tyres, why I did. So we should expect improvements from the best drivers. We do not think too much about that. We have to do our job and collect information until the end of the season.”