911 in Motorsport: FIA World Endurance Championship Shanghai preview

Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz lead the Porsche charge in China.
Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz lead the Porsche charge in China.

After venturing to Japan three weeks ago, the FIA World Endurance Championship circus continues its Far Eastern adventure with the penultimate round of the 2013 season coming from the Shanghai circuit in China.

With torrential rain curtailing the contest at Fuji, and allowing Ferrari and Aston Martin to stretch their advantage in the manufacturers’ standings, Porsche will be hoping for a full six-hours of racing in order to close the points gap to the two constructors.

In the GTE-Pro drivers’ championship, Richard Lietz and Marc Lieb currently find themselves residing in second place, behind the Ferrari pairing of Giancarlo Fisichella and Gianmaria Bruni.

The #91 car has shown good speed in recent races and will be looking for a good result at Shanghai.
The #91 car has shown good speed in recent races and will be looking for a good result at Shanghai.

2012’s race at the 3.39-mile (5.45-kilometre) circuit, saw Lietz and Lieb finish second in their 997 GT3 RSR. This year, however, the Austro-German duo will be looking to take the fight to Aston Martin with their new, faster (and factory-run) Porsche 991 RSR.

“We went really well in Shanghai last year”, explained Lietz, driving the number 92 car. “I’m confident we can further optimise our car for this race. I hope the data that we gather from these tests help us achieve a podium in China.”

The standout feature of the track is the super-long back straight. While this obviously requires a high top speed in order to remain competitive, the circuit is littered with slow speed corners, playing into the hands of the Porsche 911’s superior traction.

Marc Lieb will be looking to find the ideal compromise between top speed and downforce during testing.
Marc Lieb will be looking to find the ideal compromise between top speed and downforce during testing.

However, because of this circuit layout, the setup needed to be competitive is often a compromise, as Lieb explains: “Shanghai is only a two day event so the main thing is to find the right set-up as quickly as possible.

“The track is very demanding and we need to find a compromise between downforce and top speed.”

For the drivers of the number 91 entry, the Shanghai weekend may prove a little more difficult. Neither Jörg Bergmeister not Patrick Pilet have driven the Chinese circuit before.

Patrick Pilet is looking forward to his first taste of the Chinese circuit.
Patrick Pilet is looking forward to his first taste of the Chinese circuit.

While Bergmeister is unsure how the 991 RSR will perform around the Shanghai circuit, Pilet is looking forward to the race, even though he “only knows the circuit from Formula 1 broadcasts and video games”.

While the forecast for practice and qualifying is for dry, sunny conditions, there is currently a 20 per cent chance of rain for 11am (local time) on Saturday 9 November, exactly when the race is due to get underway.

The predicted wet weather could play straight to the strengths of the rear-engined Porsche 991 RSRs (as long as it doesn’t curtail the event). To watch the race live, tune into the FIA WEC website at 3am (GMT).

The 997 GT3 RSR showed well last season. This year, the faster 991 RSR should challenge for the win in China.
The 997 GT3 RSR showed well last season. This year, the faster 991 RSR should challenge for the win in China.

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