Having recorded a sensational first victory last time out at Fuji Speedway, TF Sport headed to Shanghai, China, for the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. With expectations raised, the team performed flawlessly to claim back-to-back wins, whilst also taking the LMGTE title lead heading to the next event in Bahrain.
The team fielded the #90 Aston Martin Vantage GTE for Salih Yoluc, Charlie Eastwood and Jonny Adam once again and worked through the test programme in free practice. With an additional 25 kilos off success ballast on board courtesy of the championship positions and the Japanese win, they tweaked the setup, assessed tyres and brakes, whilst showing great pace and lapping towards the top of the timesheets.
Qualifying saw Salih and Charlie team up again, aiming to repeat the pole average from Silverstone together. However, on this occasion, they had to settle for fourth position for Sunday’s four-hour race. While it was not the desired result, the pre-event championship leaders were behind in tenth place which boded well for race day.
The glorious weather continued into race day, with Salih again starting the race and making quick work to move ahead of the #54 of Thomas Flohr to run in third position. By lap eight, he had made yet further progress as he passed the #77 of Christian Ried and began to apply pressure to Egido Perfetti ahead.
The race leader however was already under investigation for lap one contact with the #98 Aston Martin and sure enough, he was soon called in for a drive through penalty, placing Salih firmly at the head of the field.
The Turkish racer continued to pull a margin throughout the first stint before pitting for the first time on lap 29. He resumed in the lead after the stops had shaken out, further extending his advantage in which was another sensation performance to over 25-seconds by mid-distance.
Jonny took over for the third run, exiting the pits just behind the #9 Aston Martin Vantage of Darren Turner. With fresher tyres, Jonny battled his AMR factory colleague, and shortly after made the pass on lap 66 to regain the class lead from the #57 Project 1 car.
A full course yellow provided the ideal opportunity for Jonny to hand over to Charlie. He too put in a flawless drive, extending the already healthy margin to 40 seconds whilst managing the tyres should there be a late race safety car. With fuel a little too close for comfort, TF Sport opted to played it safe, with a splash and dash in the final five minutes, emerged comfortably in the lead and subsequently taking their second WEC victory by 16 seconds.
With 58 points on the board and three clear of the class field, TF Sport now head to Bahrain next month for the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Tom Ferrier, TF Sport Director
“Salih won it for us, his two stints were brilliant – to go from fourth to first and then lead by 25 seconds – was just incredible. It’s been a really solid weekend; I don’t think we were expecting the win. Sitting here this morning, we thought, maybe we could get the podium from where we were in qualifying, so a big turn-around from Salih and we and the drivers all did our job – as we should.
“The final stop was as a result of the injectors we changed Saturday and we were getting differing readings on the fuel from what we expected, so we opted to pit – play it safe, it was the sensible thing to do – as we had the time and we get win number two!”
“I’m very satisfied with this win as it really wasn’t as straight forward as the last win at Fuji. The pace came back to me in the race and yes, we took advantage of the problems for the car ahead early in the race and I managed to pull a gap from the pack. The other guys took care of the rest and we got that second win. I’m very happy.”
“I was in a situation of tyre management – whilst looking behind to keep the gap – as you never know if there will be a safety car and if you’ve taken too much out of the tyres, it could be difficult at the end of the race.
“We had the splash of fuel at the very end, but it was a great race for us and it’s great to [take the win and be allowed to] come down the pitlane backwards to the podium. Last year we watched it many times, but it’s great to get back-to-back win. Bahrain will be hard with the extra success ballast, but we’ll give it a bash!”
“It’s been a great race and for the team, they performed brilliantly – probably our best race in terms of pitstops – so mega stops, great strategy and the car was consistent all the way. Salih made it happen, his stint was superb and that put myself and Charlie in the position to manage the gaps as the race unfolded.
“The back-to-back victories mean we lead the championship but unfortunately we carry even more ballast into Bahrain but overall, we expected a podium here, so the win is extra special.”