Waite denied China Endurance Series title despite last-to-first effort

After a gruelling final round of the China Endurance Championship at Tianjin International Circuit, Kiwi Andrew Waite and co-driver Ye Hongli have narrowly missed out on victory of the 2018 title.


The pairing entered the last race of the year with a one-point lead in the standings. However a sixth-place finish in the finale wasn't enough, as PTRS Racing teammates Josh Burdon and Nigel Moore romped to both the race win and the championship win instead. 


The weekend began with a credible victory in the opening race of the weekend for Waite and Hongli. They came from last place (the former was involved in a turn-one incident) to carve through the field and win. It was a result that handed them a one-point championship advantage heading into the last race of the season. A late-race incident for fellow Kiwi Taylor Cockerton (partnered with Kevin O'Hara) dropped them from podium contention to sixth at the flag. 


Waite's co-driver Hongli started the final race from third place on the grid, while Cockerton was seventh in his KCMG machine. Burdon had pole position. 


Hongli was handed a gift at turn one, when Australian Tim Macrow spun out in front of him. This briefly saw the driver sit second, however a wide run a few corners later dropped him to sixth place as Burdon led from Garmet Patterson, and Jake Parsons in third at the end of the lap. Cockerton meanwhile was 10th. 


Hongli spent much of the opening phase defending from the recovering Macrow. The pair were the tail gunners of a four-car train, as race leader Burdon drove away with a big race lead. 


The order changed on lap 14. The fifth-placed Yan C-W looped it by himself, and then at the last corner Parsons did the same thing while sitting third. These two incidents promoted Hong Li to fourth place. 


Three laps later, and things changed again. Hongli and a selection of others came in to make their mandatory pit stop — Waite hopping into the No. 17 machine. Over the following laps, everyone else started to peel off into the lane for their stops. 


The race had been safety-car free up to that point, but that changed on lap 22 just after the halfway mark. The No. 1 car spun at high speed, hitting concrete with each end before coming to a rest down an escape road. The debris strewn all over the track (and the imbobile car) prompted the safety car to come out, in turn compressing the field. 


The race restarted with 16 minutes to go, and Waite emerged in sixth position as the order corrected itself (Burdon's co-driver Nigel Moore led). Cockerton's teammate Kevin O'Hara was among the main benefactors. He improved to fourth. 


Waite dropped a spot off the opening lap, after an aggressive exchange through turns one and two with Tim Zimmerman and a spot lost to an opportunistic James Winslow. The fading O'Hara meant Zimmerman, Winslow, and Waite all progressed a spot.


But, that's how the order remained. Burdon and Moore collected the race win and with it the championship crown. Waite, unable to improve in the last laps, collected sixth place. Cockerton and co-driver O'Hara meanwhile ended up seventh. 


More to come. 


Photo: PTRS Racing