WHAT — The FIA World Endurance Championship makes its annual trip to the U.S. for Saturday’s Six Hours of Circuit of The Americas, part of the Lone Star Le Mans weekend that also features the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship in a separate race.
Twenty-nine of the world’s most advanced sports cars will take part in the six-hour race into the darkness at Circuit of The Americas. Most teams were last seen in June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, which counts as a double-point race towards the eight-round global championship.
Organized by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and sanctioned by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the WEC, now in its third year, brings the flavor of Le Mans to events around the world.
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COTA marks the third round of the 2014 season and the only event WEC event in North America. The series will visit Japan’s Fuji Speedway next, followed by trips to Shanghai and Bahrain before closing out the season at the historic Interlagos Circuit in Brazil in late November.
WHERE — Circuit of The Americas, home of the U.S. F1 Grand Prix, plays host to the race. Located in Austin, Texas, the Hermann Tilke-designed facility opened in October 2012, initially to F1 before also hosting GRAND-AM, ALMS, V8 Supercars and MotoGP races, among other championships.
The WEC cars utilize the full 20-turn 3.427-mile Grand Prix layout, which has quickly become a driver’s favorite for its challenging high and low-speed corners as well as elevation changes typically not seen on modern-day F1-grade circuits.
WHO — The WEC is split into four categories: LMP1 (and it’s LMP1-H and LMP1-L subclasses) as well as LMP2, GTE-Pro and GTE-Am.
LMP1 features cutting-edge hybrid technology — similar to F1 but with more technological freedom — with factory entries from Audi, Porsche and Toyota. F1 veteran Mark Webber is among the drivers in the Porsche 919 Hybrid, while nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen pilots an Audi R18 e-tron quattro. Ex-F1 pilots Alex Wurz, Anthony Davidson and IndyCar star Mike Conway will be in one of two Toyota TS040 Hybrids.
All of the manufacturer-backed car are in the LMP1-H class, designated for hybrid-powered cars, while LMP1-L is primarily reserved for privateer entries. Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost, who tangled while battling for the win in last weekend’s Formula E opener in Beijing, are co-drivers in a Toyota-powered Rebellion R-One prototype fielded by Rebellion Racing.
LMP2 features less powerful and more cost-effective prototypes. The class, which enforces at least one amateur or “gentleman” driver per lineup, is reserved for privateer teams only, with a diverse mix of open and closed-top machinery. Four of the five cars entered for COTA are Nissan powered, with a single Honda-engined prototype.
The production-based GTE-Pro and GTE-Am classes feature exotic sports cars commonly found on the road. Factory entries from Porsche, Aston Martin and Ferrari are in the Pro class, while cars one year or older are permitted to compete in the Am ranks, which enforces at least two gentlemen drivers per lineup.
This weekend’s race features a strong American contingent, both with teams and drivers. TUDOR Championship regulars Extreme Speed Motorsports makes its WEC debut with Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and Ed Brown piloting its Tequila Patron-sponsored HPD ARX-03b in LMP2.
GTE-Pro features a factory Corvette C7.R entry for brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor plus Tommy Milner, the only all-American driver lineup, while Texas-based Krohn Racing fields a Ferrari F458 Italia in GTE-Am. In addition to Tracy Krohn, fellow American Jeff Segal is competing in the U.S.-backed 8Star Motorsports Ferrari, which is also in GTE-Am.
HOW — Teams will have three hours of Free Practice on Thursday (2:45-4:15 p.m. CT and 7:30-9 p.m. CT), while an additional practice session is on tap for Friday (10:20-11:20 a.m. CT) followed by qualifying (6-7 p.m. CT).
The WEC Six Hours of Circuit of The Americas gets underway Saturday at 5 p.m. CT, live on FOX Sports 2, which will provide lights-to-flag coverage for the first time.
Live video streaming, on-board cameras, timing and scoring and telemetry will be available on the official WEC App, which can be downloaded for iOS and Android mobile and tablet devices. Charges do apply for individual race and season pass subscriptions.