Podium and pace in Shanghai

It was a strong weekend for Jack Manchester as he made his Asian Le Mans Debut in Shanghai with the Thunderhead Carlin Racing team. The British driver was quick out of the blocks and together with teammates Harry Tincknell and Ben Barnicoat, the Thunderhead Carlin Racing team topped the timesheets in free practice.  Manchester lined up in the team’s Dallara P217 on the front row of the grid and helped the team take the chequered flag, but a time penalty for driver regulation infringement demoted the British squad to third place. 

Friday morning offered the first chance to get back behind the wheel of the Thunderhead Carlin Racing car following the disappointment suffered in the European Le Mans Series finale in Portugal. A test session clearly proved the pace within the car and allowed Manchester to get his first taste of the fast and challenging circuit. Saturday gave way to a further practice session before Tincknell jumped in the cockpit to participate in qualifying – setting the second fastest time during the 15-minute session to hand the team a front row start.

Lining up behind the wheel of the Thunderhead Carlin Racing car, Manchester launched brilliantly from the rolling start despite being on arguably the worst side of the grid and older tyres than those around him. Streaming in to the first corner, Manchester was able to place his car around the outside and run wheel to wheel with the G-Drive car however he soon found himself pushed wide and had to settle for third. From there, his first stint was a case of saving tyres – an issue that had been a consideration at the circuit all weekend long.

His second stint later in the race, while in the lead, was marred by accidents and a safety car period. This led to a difficult full course yellow restart in which he found himself shuffled back to third. Remining cool and focused on the task ahead he continued to look after his tyres before exiting the cockpit and handing to Barnicoat.

In the final stages Tincknell, who took on the final stint, manged to close in on the race leader and in utterly remarkable scenes stole the lead of the race on the very last lap with just a couple of corners to go.  Manchester and teammate Barnicoat were left celebrating in the pit lane as Tinknell crossed the line to take the chequered flag first. 

However, it was heartbreak for Manchester and the team when shortly after the race, the team were penalised for exceeding the maximum driver time for Barnicoat – demoting the team to third position. The result still meant a podium for Manchester in his Asian Le Mans Series debut and first season racing in LMP2 machinery – a huge achievement.

“We worked incredibly hard this weekend,”

“We worked incredibly hard this weekend,” Manchester said. “For the start of the race I was the only one on used tyres – most others around me started on new so I knew I had to try and hold position as best I could and just run my own race. From there I settled into a rhythm and managed the tyres. I had a bit of bad luck in the middle stint with the safety car and then the full course yellow restart but as a team we really pulled together.

“It’s an absolute heartbreaker to have crossed the line first and then have the victory taken away from us after the race but I think we can all be proud of our achievement and pace in our debut. We will be fighting for the win again next time out in Australia.”