Round 2 of the Raceroom Endurance Series saw the competitors head to the Beautiful but challenging circuit of Shanghai. With Portimao behind us, the competition lit up as drivers attempted to close the gap in both the driver's and constructors championship.
(Highlight video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ikxKEqt_Z0 )
As the cars and teams headed into the session, we witnessed a well fought Qualifying session with only tenths seperating the front row from the rest of the pack in both classes. LMP2 saw the driver of J.Dalton take pole position, as he and his team mate S.Jansen attempted to close the gap in the Constructors. However Dalton would have to fend off Jonathan Schelstraete of VDS Racing, who joined him on the front row of the grid for the green.
In GTR3 it was the Mclaren of Radek Pawlaczek who took the pole position, followed closely by R.Arella in the No.19 BMW M6. A tough day for the No.58 Mclaren of M.Sanderson would see him start from the back of the grid after qualifying 4th, as he suffers technical issues with only 3 minutes of the session remaining.
Both classes piled into turn one as the 90 minute clock began its decent to zero. J.Dalton in his Radical SR9 led the pack into the race after an amazing start off the line. His teammate Jansen also got a flyer off the line along with A.Vesic, as they went around the outside of the VDS car of Jonathan Schelstraete, who dropped down into 4th position.
In GT3, Joseph Mitchell appeared to miss his braking point, colliding with the playstation sponsored BMW of Marc Martens. Joining the incident was the Ford GT of Lammert Mook, who was collected and sent off track. The rest of the field flew past, trying to get as many position as they could while the traffic was dense.
Both fields started to spread out, with J.Dalton establishing a comfortable lead in LMP2 after the first 20 minutes or so. In GT3 however we witnessed R.Arella take the lead, followed closely by the Yellow Mclaren of Radoslaw Indyka, who had qualified 3rd in class. Both would stay together for the whole of the first stint, with neither driver wanting to take any major risks at the early stage of the race.
Further back in the GT3 field, the man who qualified 1st in class (Radek Pawlaczek) found himself being chased by the Garage 59 Mclaren of M.Sanderson who had made his way up to 4th place. A bad start resulted in the Pole sitter losing first place to R.Arella, followed by a scary moment in turn 1 a couple of laps later. The Blue No.55 Mclaren would fight his way back up the grid and even started to catch the front runners, however issues and small incidents would sadly see him miss out on the podium spot.
Mid way through the race, a major accident would see the Bentley of Krystian Sulkiewicz spin out and collide with the barrier at speed, resulting in a DNF for the driver in his first showing of the season.
We saw different tactics and strategies come to a head as the front runners in both classes all met on the final laps of the event. M.Sanderson in the White and orange Mclaren took the bold move to only take fuel for his second pit stop, leapfrogging R.Arella who had just pitted the lap before for tyres. The bold tactic saved time in the pit lane, however the BMW would then be on the rear bumber for the remainder of the race with fresh rubber and far much more pace.
Radoslaw Indyka who was leading GT3 was also forced to pit early, as he saw R.Arella fall into 3rd place. A wise choice as he would rejoin the track in the lead with only a few seconds seperating the top 3 GT3 cars. After the race R.Indyka stated " When I saw on timing that the mclaren was in front of Ralf after pit, I decided to pit much earlier than I planed. If I'd had pitted a lap later I would definitely came out after the No.58".
There was still good news for the No.58 driver though, as the Mclaren was able to hold of R.Arella who tried on several occassions to get past the tyre worn mclaren, good defending would see him remain in P2 for the foreseeable future
In lmp2, Rollcentre Racing continued to lead with a 1-2, with J.Dalton leading the class. However further back there was a fierce fight taking place for the final spot on the podium. Ben Swarey, A.Vesic and J.Schelstraete all raced for the finish line as the clock got ever closer to Zero. With time running out, J.Schelstraete made a bold move into turn 1, taking 4th place from the Daytona Prototype of Ben Swarey as a result.
The chase began for 3rd place in LMP2, with A.Vesic pushing with everything he had in order to maintain the podium. The Two drivers were bumper to bumper as they entered the last lap, diving down the inside of the two GT3 cars of R.Arella and M.sanderson who were fighting fiercly for P2 in Class themselves.
Contact was made between J.Schelstraete and the No.58 Mclaren of M.Sanderson, which sent the LMP2 spinning onto the grass, ending his fight for 3rd place in LMP2. It wasnt over though, as the BMW of R.Arella took advantage of the situation, siezing the high ground before swooping down to get that drive on the back straight. The LMP2 of Ben Swarey also slid down the inside line, giving the BMW M6 a slipstream to follow, allowing him siezing P2 in GT3
The countdown hit zero and the cars started to cross the line. Drained after such fierce fighting, one could mistake the intensity you would come to expect from a 5 lap sprint race. The drama wasnt over for M.Sanderson though, as the exhaust Mclaren came to a stop just as he reached the chequered flag, after the car ran out of fuel. After the race M.Sanderson said "i gave it everything i had, everything on the car was flashing red and it was a really hard job to keep the car on some form of pace. I was still able to get P3 in class, sadly the contact i made with the LMP2 resulted in my line being compromised down the final back straight. Good racing from everyone".
This race was certainly one to remember for all those who took part. If you watched us live then give us your thoughts of the race, who was the Driver of the day? who do you think will come out on top next round?
Only time will tell.. See you all in Silverstone.