The focus and media hoopla recently has been on Brendon Hartley and his burgeoning Formula One career. The Kiwi has acquitted himself well having been thrown in at the deep end with very little practice.

Thus weekend though, he's back on familiar ground at the penultimate round of the World Endurance Championship in Shanghai, China and behind the wheel of a car he's quite familiar with.

Hartley is also joined by familiar teammates fellow Kiwi Earl Bamber and German Timo Bernhard in the Porsche LMP1 919 Hybrid. The trio lead the world championship and could become champions elect with one round to go if they finish third or higher this weekend.

The trio lead the series by 39 points from the Toyota of Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima.


"It's a busy time for me at the moment and I feel really good and excited," said Hartley.

"The most important thing is to focus on the very next target. In Shanghai, together with Earl and Timo, we definitely want to secure the drivers' world championship title with our Porsche 919 Hybrid.

"The most recent six-hour race in Fuji didn't bring the results we were aiming for. Shanghai is a circuit that should suit our car and we have to have everything lined up there perfectly."

And speaking of Shanghai, it's almost like a home track for the China-based Bamber who's completed more laps around the 5.5 Kilometre international circuit than you can poke a stick at.

"I really like the Shanghai circuit and have some very fond memories from the place. I've raced there in the Carrera Cup, GT races and others.

"It's quite a challenge with a mix of high speed and technical sections. On the long straight you don't want to run with too much downforce [more drag so less top end speed] but you need it for the corners.

"It's a track where you have to have quite a few compromises, which makes it hard to set the car up right for the whole lap. On top of getting the handling right for the various tight sections you also have to worry about tyre degradation," said Bamber.

Being able to seal the championship deal this weekend would be great for the team. It would also mean Bamber will have a world championship to go with his two Le Man 24 Hour titles. Not bad for a young fella from Whanganui.


However, it's not a done deal yet and anything can happen in motorsport and history is littered with drivers and teams who were almost champions.

"It's not over yet and we still have to get through the race. It's endurance racing and a lot can and will happen. Just look what went on last time we raced in Japan {torrential rain and a very much truncated race].

"It's not going to be an easy race, but let's hope we get a better race than last time. The car will have had a few little tweaks but will really be much the same as the last race.

"The focus for us this weekend is to try and win the race. We don't want to just turn up to make up the numbers and run around to collect the championship. We want to win but not take too many risks along the way.

"Porsche has given us a quick enough car to win the championship so it's now up to us to go and do it and in style by winning the race," said Bamber.

Nearest rivals the Toyota Gazoo Racing team travel to China in a positive mood following a well-earned one-two finish in its home race at Fuji, its third win from seven races in 2017. Buemi, Davidson and Nakajima are aiming for back-to-back victories after their triumph in Japan.

WEC points
1. B Hartley/E Bamber/T Bernard 172
2. K Nakajima/S Buemi 133
3. A Davidson 118
4. A Lotterer/N Janni/N Tandy 98
5. M Conway/K Kobayashi 78.5
6. H Tung/O Jarvis/T Laurent 70.5