Porsche triumphs again as Audi hits bad luck at CoTA
Porsche has again capitalized on Audi’s misfortunes to claim victory in Saturday’s Six Hours of Circuit of The Americas.
Timo Bernhard took the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid to its third consecutive FIA World Endurance Championship win of the season, benefiting from a well-timed Full Course Yellow and multiple issues for the pace-setting Audis.
The pair of Audi R18s dominated the first half of the day-into-night race, with the diesel-powered LMP1 hybrids stretching out to a one-minute-plus lead in the hot and humid conditions.
However, Audi’s hope of victory began to crumble in the third hour, when the No. 8 car of Loic Duval lost 45 seconds when it stopped on track with electrical issues.
It handed the lead to the pole-sitting sister No. 7 Audi, until Brendon Hartley capitalized on the race’s third Full Course Yellow with 2 hours and 7 minutes to go to pit, when the others had previously come in for service under green.
The advantage put Bernhard 20 seconds ahead of Benoit Treluyer, until contact between the Frenchman and the No. 66 Ford GT sent the Audi into the Turn 18 barriers with 1 hour and 40 minutes remaining.
Treluyer’s accident cost the No. 7 car more than six laps in the garage for repairs, en route to a sixth place finish overall.
Bernhard crossed the line 23.641 seconds ahead of the No. 8 Audi of Lucas Di Grassi, which managed to get around the No. 6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid for second in the final 90 minutes.
The win for Bernhard, Hartley and Mark Webber was Porsche’s fifth win out of six races this season and sees the German manufacturer extend its lead in the World Championship.
Di Grassi edged out Stephane Sarrazin at the line for second, with the championship-leading No. 2 Porsche of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb finishing one lap behind in fourth.
LMP2 saw a dominant performance from Signatech Alpine to claim its fourth class win in the last five races, with Nicolas Lapierre, Stephane Richelmi and American Gustavo Menenzes.
Menezes, on home soil, took the No. 36 Alpine A460 Nisan to a one-lap victory over the No. 43 RGR Sport Ligier JS P2 Nissan of Filipe Albuquerque, Bruno Senna and Ricardo Gonzalez in second.
The No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 05 Nissan, which started from the rear of the 31-car field, completed the class podium in third after its first trouble-free run in three races.
A late pass from Maurizio Mediani on the No. 31 Tequila Patron ESM Ligier Nissan of Ryan Dalziel saw SMP Racing score a season-best fourth place class finish for its No. 27 BR Engineering BR01 Nissan.
LMP1 Privateer honors, meanwhile, went to the No. 13 Rebellion R-One AER of Alexandre Imperatori, Matheo Tuscher and Dominik Kraihamer, in seventh overall.
Aston Martin Racing took its second GTE-Pro win in a row, but this time with the No. 95 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen.
The car led the field for the full six hours of the American round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, except for a couple of laps during the first round of pit stops.
While the No. 97 car that won last time out in Mexico City was only able to score a fifth-place finish, AMR did also take the GTE-Am honors with Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy for the third time this season.
It marked Sorensen’s first win in WEC competition, and Thiim’s first since Bahrain 2014. They take over the points lead from teammate Darren Turner.
AF Corse completed the GTE-Pro podium with its pair of Ferrari 488 GTEs.
James Calado and Gianmaria Bruni finished second in the No. 51 car, while Davide Rigon and Sam Bird were third.
It was a disappointing race for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, which suffered from a string of issues and bad luck with the No. 66 Ford GT.
This started in the first hour with a broken air conditioning system, costing the car nearly 20 laps. Later in the race, the car was beached after contact with the Manor LMP2 car.
Finally, a drive-through penalty for using too many tires topped off a race to forget for title contenders Stefan Muecke and Olivier Pla.
The No. 67 car, meanwhile, salvaged a fourth-place class finish ahead of Turner and Fernando Rees’ No. 97 Aston Martin.
AMR’s GTE-Am win wasn’t as dominant as in the top GT category, but the No. 98 crew did still lead most of the way.
Lamy dropped down to third from pole on the start, while Abu Dhabi Proton Racing’s Kevin Estre assumed the class lead.
Eventually, Lamy made his way back to the front of the class and the car led most of the remainder of the race.
KCMG secured second-place with its Porsche 911 RSR, while Pierre Ragues took the No. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R to third.
Michael Wainwright drove straight on into the gravel trap with no brakes at Turn 1 soon after the track went into darkness, causing one of three Full Course Yellows in the race.
Nevertheless, the Gulf Racing Porsche was retrieved and was classified fourth despite stopping with a puncture in the final lap, while the Abu Dhabi Proton car was fifth.
David Heinemeier Hansson had a scare when a freak fuel fire occurred during a pit stop for the Abu Dhabi car, and the race only got worse thereafter, with a drive-through penalty that led to more problems and ultimately forced the No. 88 car to spend time in the garage.
The championship-leading AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia headed to the garage after two hours, putting a challenge to the title hopes of Francois Perrodo, Rui Aguas and Emmanuel Collard.