Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway stood up for Toyota in Shanghai to take an imperious pole position and break the hearts of Porsche boardroom members who were already beginning to feel nervous about their WEC championship lead.
Toyota were quickest in free practice, but how that pace would play in qualifying would potentially be down to the tyre battle, much as it did at Fuji.
Turn thirteen and sixteen were the trouble areas for staying within the track limits, but traffic would be the most likely issue on this front.
Brendon Hartley was first over the line in the number 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid with team mate Nick Tandy in behind – already three tenths up on Hartley in the first sector alone. Hartley was able to crawl back a tenth in the mid sector. Tandy slotted in a 1.42:9, four tenths up on Hartley and a tenth up on Conway in the number 7 Toyota TS050, who ultimately split both Porsches on the first run.
Sebastien Buemi was three-tenths behind Conway in the number 8 Toyota and up against it as Andre Lotterer climbed aboard the number 1 Porsche. The pressure was definitely ramping up with Lotterer running wide in traffic and Earl Bamber spinning in the wake of a slower car in the number 2 car.
Kobayashi made a massive push in the first sector to put the number 7 Toyota in top spot with a 1.42:52, the fastest lap we’ve seen in Shanghai and put pole well and truly out of Porsche’s reach.
Bruno Senna and Nelson Piquet were doing the business in LMP2 in the number 31 and 13 Vailante Rebellion entries with Nico Muller brought up third position in the number 25 G-Drive Oreca. The number 26 car would eventually split the Rebellions to take the fight into the race.
There were raised eyes aplenty in GTE Pro when AF Corse made like difficult for Andy Priaulx by slowing-up the number 67 Ford driver on his out lap. There was little doubt that there would be a return serve later in the session.
The Porsche pairing of Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz were first to set an indicative time, but the latter would soon have Marco Sorensen and James Calado for good company vying for the top three. Kevin Estre was three-tenths behind provisional pole-man Nicki Thiim with a few minutes remaining, but would find regaining that tough work given the Porsche pilot had already taken the best out of his tyres.
As such, the times remained, with Alessandro Pier Guidi taking the third spot in the number 51 Ferrari.
In GTE Am, Weng Sun Mok was the first to fall foul of the track limits with many skating on the knife-edge throughout the session. Thomas Flohr took GTE Am provisional pole in the number 54 Ferrari, but would have his time rejected for abuse of track limits, elevating Paul Dalla Lana and Perdo Lamy into the top spot.
Images: Adrenal Media/FIAWEC/Toyota Gazoo racing
300-101 400-101 300-320 300-070 300-206 200-310 300-135 300-208 810-403 400-050 640-916 642-997 300-209 400-201 200-355 352-001 642-999 350-080 MB2-712 400-051 C2150-606 1Z0-434 1Z0-146 C2090-919 C9560-655 642-64 100-101 CQE CSSLP 200-125 210-060 210-065 210-260 220-801 220-802 220-901 220-902 2V0-620 2V0-621 2V0-621D 300-075 300-115 AWS-SYSOPS 640-692 640-911 1Z0-144 1z0-434 1Z0-803 1Z0-804 000-089 000-105 70-246 70-270 70-346 70-347 70-410