Another podium and valuable points for Sam in Shanghai
A dramatic Six Hours of Shanghai saw Sam and the #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2-Nissan team survive the challenging wet-to-dry conditions and earn a battling second place to increase their lead in the FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 standings.
After back-to-back victories, a third consecutive win eluded Sam and team-mates Julien Canal and Roman Rusinov and ultimately they were glad to safely bank their sixth podium of the season. With just one race remaining and a maximum of 26 points available they hold a 16-point advantage over their nearest challengers.
On a dry Saturday Sam had grabbed the bonus point available for qualifying on LMP2 pole - but a treacherous Sunday saw the race begin with 16 minutes behind the safety car and continue with cars spinning off the track from the first green flag lap to the last.
When racing began Sam immediately looked to build a gap from the rest of the LMP2 cars, but his progress was swiftly disrupted by a full-course yellow after the #26 car's main championship rivals, the #47 KCMG Oreca, span into the gravel and had to be recovered.
Sam ended his stint as the LMP2 leader, but worsening weather caught out many drivers, causing multiple full-course yellows, and also posed a challenge for the tyre strategists. By the time he returned to the car for his second stint the #26 had fallen to fifth in class.
On a drying track he regained third place and handed over to Rusinov who moved up to second at the flag. Behind him, the recovering #47 KCMG Oreca took advantage of a last-lap spin for the second G-Drive car to seize third place and set up a title decider at the season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain on November 21.
G-Drive Racing team principal Philippe Dumas said: "The team was very strong. We continued to demonstrate the performance of the Ligier JS P2 in dry, normal conditions, as shown by getting pole in qualifying. We were hoping for a dry race and I think, had it been dry, we would have been very strong. But that's how it goes: sometimes you get difficult races.
"It was a very stressful race for everyone - it was hard for the drivers to stay on the track, for the engineers to get the right strategy, which I think they got right. We've scored some important points for the championship.
"I'm really disappointed for the #28 who had done a very good race. It was a cruel end to go out one lap from the end, but that's part of motorsports. We still have one car in strong contention for the title and we'll put our efforts together to get there."