2 wins, 2 pole positions and 1 podium: the Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team enjoyed its best weekend at the Wuhan International Street Circuit since the start of the adventure in WTCR: Vernay closed the gap further from the leaders, Shedden rewarded as the MVD of this Chinese round.
Action remained in China this weekend following last week Ningbo event as part of a 2018 WTCR double-header. The capital of Hubei province is a major transportation and industrial hub, plus an expanding population of more than 19 million people. Located 900 km east of Shanghai on the banks of the Yangtze River, the Wuhan International Street Track runs in an anti-clockwise direction with a length of 2,9 km and features 21 turns.
The WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup made its debut on the 2,9 km Wuhan International Street Circuit on Friday afternoon, as Pepe Oriola banked the fastest time in the final moments of Free Practice 1: a positive session for the Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team, with both team-mates Jean-Karl Vernay & Gordon Shedden setting a good pace. In Free Practice 2, Gordon Shedden's Audi RS 3 LMS set a promising third overall, suggesting him as one of the contenders on the Wuhan weekend:
“It’s a big transformation from few days ago in Ningbo. It’s been really good to have the team together, to go through everything, to actually sit down with everyone because we all jump to different parts of the world between races and this has been a real benefit. It was almost a post-mortem after Ningbo but credit to because we’ve got a car that feels alive, feels like I can drive and it’s great to be back competing rather than running around where we were.”
Qualifying for Race 1 of WTCR Race of China-Wuhan took place on Saturday at 10:30 local time. Jean-Karl Vernay set pole position for the WTCR Race 1 at the Wuhan Street Circuit in a Qualifying session dominated by the Audi RS3 LMS cars. The Frenchman jumped on top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:22.846; Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil’s great result was completed by Gordon Shedden (1:22.989) who qualified fifth, just one tenth off the pole.
Vernay after securing his second DHL pole: “Great qualifying, I am happy for the team. We had a terrible weekend in Ningbo, so this means a lot. We had a long talk after that about how to improve and get back to the front. Now I will focus on making a good start and lead after the first corner, which would make things easier.”
Jean-Karl Vernay converted his DHL Pole Position into a strong victory in Race 1, who led into Turn 1 and maintained his advantage all the way to the chequered flag for his third win of the season. The Frenchman driver headed fellow front row starter Pepe Oriola and his Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team-mate Gordon Shedden.
Vernay also paid tribute to his team-mate Shedden: “I was focused on my start to make sure it was good, it’s a technical & tricky track, so it’s easy to make a mistake. Now I will try and do it again tomorrow. It’s a good day for the whole team and also for Gordon. It had been hard for him, but we have stayed confident in him and now he deserves to be.”
The second qualifying session took place on Sunday at 09:00 local time. Gordon Shedded claimed his first pole position in WTCR and will lead an Audi quartet at the start of this afternoon’s Race 3 at Wuhan Street Circuit. The Scotsman drove his RS 3 LMS to post the fastest lap in Q2 and then repeated in Q3 with the time of 1:22.776. His Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team-mate Jean-Karl Vernay – pole sitter and winner in yesterday’s Race 1 – qualified fourth (1:23.022).
Flash said: “Absolutely fantastic! After the podium yesterday I had to keep up that momentum. The Q2 lap was ridiculous! And I haven’t done many Q3 shoot-outs this year… so I needed a solid lap. Now I need to lead from the start and win the race!”
Race 2 (with Top 10-reversed grid) started very badly for Shedden who was pushed off by another car at the start: the Scot was obliged to retire and the Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team were forced to carry out major repairs following damage to his steering before the start of Race 3. In the meantime, JayKay finished 5th and scored once again good points in the Championship. The revenge was going on!
Gordon Shedden became the thirteenth different winner in the WTCR maiden season in Wuhan’s Race 3. The Scotsman copied his teammate Jean-Karl Vernay’s exploit in Saturday’s Race 1 and drove his Audi RS3 LMS to a lights-to-flag victory from pole position; though it was not an easy one, as he survived to a couple of rutheless attacks from Denis Dupont.
Gordon commented: “Crazy race! Denis attacked me twice, at Turn 1 and then at the chicane when he hit me with the tyre stack! The team did a fantastic job to replace the steering rack between the races – just incredible. I’d also like to thank all the support I’ve had back in the UK. We’ve found something this weekend – what a transformation in seven days [since Ningbo].”
There was plenty of drama at the start: Dupont tried to dive inside of Shedden who was leading and hit him, the determined Scotsman was though able to stay at the front. Behind the leaders, Vernay and Conte made an unfortunate contact, with the Leopard Lukoil driver obliged to serve a drive-through impeding him to score any point.
In the title fight, Vernay closed the gap further from the leaders: Tarquini still leads with 241 points followed by Björk, Muller, Björk and Oriola, with Vernay’s tally has reached 205. Gordon Shedden finished the weekend as the MVD - Most Valuable Driver - scoring the biggest number of points through the weekend (52 p). The WTCR will move to Suzuka, Japan, for the penultimate event of the season on October 27/28.
WTCR 2018 Race of China (GMT +8)
Circuit: Wuhan International Street Track
Length: 2984 m
Free Practice 1 : p 3 - Shedden / p 6 - Vernay
Free Practice 2 : p 3 - Shedden / p 7 - Vernay
1 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 1’22.846
2 - Oriola / SPA / Campos Racing / Cupra TCR / 1’22.890
3 - Berthon / FRA / Cometoyou Racing / RS 3 LMS / 1’22.909
4 - Dupont / BEL / Audi Sport Cometoyou / RS 3 LMS / 1’22.959
5 - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 1’22.989
1 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 20 Laps
2 - Oriola / SPA / Campos Racing / Cupra TCR / +4.913
3 - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +5.513
4 - Vervisch / BEL / Audi Sport Cometoyou / RS 3 LMS / +10.070
5 - Comte / FRA / DG Sport Competition / Peugeot 308 TCR / +11.102
1 - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 1’22.776
2 - Vervisch / BEL / Audi Sport Cometoyou / RS 3 LMS / 1’22.825
3 - Dupont / BEL / Audi Sport Cometoyou / RS 3 LMS / 1’22.959
4 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 1’23.022
5 - Guerrieri / ARG / All-inkl Motorsport / Honda Civic / 1’23.744
1 - Bennani / MAR / Sebastien Loeb Racingt / VW Golf GTi / 18 Laps
2 - Comte / FRA / DG Sport Competition / Peugeot 308 TCR / +0.478
3 - Berthon / FRA / Cometoyou Racing / RS 3 LMS / +0.618
4 - Oriola / SPA / Campos Racing / Cupra TCR / +5.115
5 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +5.516
NC - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +17 laps
1 - Shedden / GBR / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / 23 Laps
2 - Vervisch / BEL / Audi Sport Cometoyou / RS 3 LMS / +0.558
3 - Dupont / BEL / Audi Sport Cometoyou / RS 3 LMS / +5.018
4 - Guerrieri / ARG / All-inkl Motorsport / Honda Civic / +8.475
5 - Berthon / FRA / Cometoyou Racing / RS 3 LMS / +8.813
15 - Vernay / FRA / Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil / RS 3 LMS / +24.642
WTCR DRIVERS’ STANDING:
1 - Tarquini/ 241 p.
2 - Björk / 234 p.
3 - Muller / 233 p.
4 - Oriola / 207 p.
5 - Vernay / 205 p.
12 - Shedden / 122 p.
WTCR TEAMS’ STANDING:
1 - MRacing - YMR / 479 p.
2 - BRC Racing Team / 443 p.
3 - All-inkl Motorsport / 383 p.
4 - Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team / 341 p.
5 - Sebastien Loeb Racing / 296 p.
Photo credit: DPPI