Kiwi Brendon Hartley along with Mark Webber (Aust) and Timo (DE) Bernhard have won the Six Hours of Circuit of the Americas, the latest round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Raced at Austin, Texas, the No.17 Porsche 919 Hybrid took the chequered flag 1m06s seconds ahead of the No.7 Audi Sport Team Joest car to claim Porsche’s third successive WEC race victory.
The 6 Hours of COTA result means that today’s winning trio of Brendon Hartley, Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard have reduced the points’ gap to leaders André Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler to just ten points.
The race, which ran under three hours of complete darkness, seemed to have been settled in the fourth hour when the No.17 Porsche, which was leading at the time, was given a penalty for a pit infringement. The offence occurred during the second scheduled stop when Brendon Hartley handed over to Mark Webber. A mechanic touched the car during the re-fuelling, which is forbidden under the regulations, and the car was given a 60-second stop/go penalty. This was not the only pit drama for the eventual winners as Webber made a rare error when he overshot his pit after the third stint.
This handed the lead to the pole-sitting No.18 Porsche 919 Hybrid, and from there it looked like a relatively straightforward first win of the season for Marc Lieb, Neel Jani and Romain Dumas. However, a technical problem with just 30-minutes to go ended any chance of a podium position and they eventually finished fifth in class to claim eight points.
Lotterer, Tréluyer and Fässler were unable to offer a challenge to the Porsches despite a different pit stop strategy. The No.7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro appeared to be a faster proposition in the second half of the race but, by that stage, any attempt to attack the No.17 Porsche was not possible.
Completing the podium at COTA today was the No.8 Audi Sport Team Joest R18 e-tron quattro. The car spent much of the first half of the race staying in touch with the Porsches but, sadly for Lucas Di Grassi, Oliver Jarvis and Loïc Duval, they too fell foul of a pit penalty when one of the mechanics dropped a wheel. The resulting 60-second stop/go penalty dropped the car back behind the No.7.
Toyota collected more points with the No.1 TS 040 HYBRID. Fourth place was the final reward, despite having to take a stop/go penalty in the second hour when Anthony Davidson entered the pit lane then crossed the white line before re-joining the track.
The No.2 Toyota retired spectacularly just after half distance when Mike Conway crashed while attempting to lap an Aston Martin.
The LMP1 privateer class once again went the way of ByKolles. Despite a spin and time lost in the pits, the CLM P1/01 took maximum points for Pierre Kaffer and Simon Trummer to move closer to the Rebellion drivers in the points’ standings. Both Rebellion LMP1 cars were significantly delayed by technical issues.
The No.26 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan of Sam Bird, Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal secured a second LMP2 win of the season after a hard-fought victory. A race long battle with the KCMG ORECA was resolved in G-Drive’s favour after some scintillating laps by Sam Bird at the beginning and end of the race. Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal also drove flawless stints to reduce the gap further to
KCMG and gathered further useful points for its title quest. Nicolas Lapierre, Matt Howson and Richard Bradley all led at stages of the race as differing pit strategies played out. A late race penalty for a pit infringement that had to be taken by Lapierre ensured that the win went to the orange and black No.26 Ligier-Nissan.
It was a successful weekend for G-Drive Racing as the No.28 completed the podium. It mirrored the Nurburgring result for Gustavo Yacaman, Ricardo Gonzalez and Pipo Derani. It was a close battle for the final podium position as third to sixth in the class was covered by just 21 seconds.