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FIA WEC: COTA, Race Preview Part 2, The GTE Classes

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LM GTE-Pro: 7 Cars

51 AF Corse Gianmaria Bruni Toni Vilander Ferrari 458 Italia
71 AF Corse Davide Rigon James Calado Ferrari 458 Italia
91 Porsche AG Team Manthey Richard Lietz Michael Christensen Porsche 911 RSR
92 Porsche AG Team Manthey Patrick Pilet Frédéric Makowiecki Porsche 911 RSR
95 Aston Martin Racing Christoffer Nygaard Marco Sørensen Aston Martin Vantage V8
97 Aston Martin Racing Darren Turner Jonny Adam Aston Martin Vantage V8
99 Aston Martin Racing V8 Alex MacDowall Fernando Rees Richie Stanaway Aston Martin Vantage V8

It’s the regular high quality seven again in Texas.

The result last time out threw the imaginary cat amongst the metaphorical pigeons as the, until then, dominant #51 Ferrari faltered.

A poor score from the defending champions change things entirely in all three championships.

Ferrari still lead the manufacturers standings but Porsche have closed in dramatically in the wake of their 1/2 finish at the Nurburgring, the gap now down to 24 points, Ferrari’s 166 playing Porsche’s 142 with Aston Martin back on 106.

Aston Martin though come to the Circuit of the Americas with an unbeaten record here in the WEC.

Its AMR that features the only change from last time out with their spectacularly unlucky #97 squad retaining the services of new British GT champion Jonny Adam who joined at the Nurburgring, but returning to a two driver lineup with Darren Turner in Texas, Stefan Mucke otherwise engaged on Blancpain Endurance Series duties. The #97 is set to wear the red and yellow Anergy livery this time out.

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It’s not though the #97 that leads the points charge for Aston Martin. Indeed the car sits rock bottom in the teams standings. 58 points shy of the lead!

It’s the #99 crew (whose steed will sport the Blue Valero livery at CoTA – seen below back in 2014) that sits closest to the top of the team points table, though even they are 21 points away from the lead ‘with the #95 ‘Dane Train’, again apparently missing the services of Nicky Thiim, a further two points back.

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At the top of the table it’s Ferrari, but no longer the #51 car whose crew now sits third. Instead it’s the sister #71, James Calado and Davide Rigon have been improving race by race and now hold a well deserved lead which could, and arguably should, have been better still after losing a place to contact under full course yellow in Germany that was not punished sufficiently for the car to regain its position.

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Their 86 points though gives a handy four-point margin over the #91 Porsche, the win last time out for the 911 RSR putting them right in the mix and splitting the Ferraris, the second of which sets further two points back.

Finally it’s the drivers championship and here it’s a Porsche man, Richard Lietz that leads, albeit by just a single point over the #71 crew – 73 to 72, with Bruni & Vilander now on 62.5 and the #99 Aston crew on 49.

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This could be a fascinating competition. If Bruni and Vilander don’t take the win we’ll surely see a fight of epic proportions for the rest of the season.

Either way this is a circuit that could deal a very different hand to those we’ve so far seen this season.

Will that be enough for Aston Martin to get back in to a Championship fight? Well a 1,2 wouldn’t do any harm would it?

LM GTE-Am: 7 Cars

50 Larbre Competition Gianluca Roda Paolo Ruberti Kristian Poulsen Chevrolet Corvette C7
72 SMP Racing Victor Shaytar Andrea Bertolini Aleksey Basov Ferrari 458 Italia
77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Patrick Dempsey Patrick Long Marco Seefried Porsche 911 RSR
83 AF Corse Francois Perrodo Emmanuel Collard Rui Aguas Ferrari 458 Italia
88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Competition Christian Reid Khaled Al Qubaisi Earl Bamber Porsche 911 RSR
96 Aston Martin Racing Francesco Castellacci Benny Simonsen Stuart Hall Aston Martin Vantage V8
98 Aston Martin Racing Paul Dalla Lana Pedro Lamy Mathias Lauda Aston Martin Vantage V8

The regular septet of LM GTE Am cars is fielded in this class too.

There’s just one change to report from the last round with Benny Simonsen called up to replace a business commitment disposed Roald Goethe. That will add pace, and not a little emotion, to the #96 Aston Martin effort.

Earl Bamber is again aboard the #88 Abu Dhabi Proton Competition Porsche for a second consecutive race.

After domination in the early races this season from the #98 Aston Martin, the last two races have seen a huge turnaround with the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari scoring a pair of wins, a faultless run in Germany extending a lead in the championship earned with a double points victory at Le Mans.

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Aston Martin though have an excellent record at the Circuit of the Americas, unbeaten in WEC competition here in both GTE classes. The #98 car though needs a win to get back into the mix, that late race fumble from Paul Dalla Lana at Le Mans cost them dearly in the points standings. It’s a hard chase back from here.

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It could be quite a contest, particularly if both Aston Martins find race length space.

The #83 AF Corse Ferrari has been scoring steadily too, the car has finished on the podium at every round and now sits second in the championship standings. Francois Perrodo is growing in confidence, and Manu Collard and Rui Aguas are combining well. A clean run from this car should see it finish very well up.

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Both of the Proton Porsches were in the mix too last time out. Earl Bamber led the class in the #88 and, as with Germany, this is a track where Patrick Dempsey in the #77 has prior experience, an invaluable asset in such a tight class. The 911RSRs though will likely be hoping for issues elsewhere to assist their efforts.

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The Larbre Corvette meanwhile will, undoubtedly, be a fan favourite once again. The C7R though seems to have been a magnet to trouble all season, some self-inflicted, rather more it seems under the subheading ‘assault and battery’. Is it time for that luck to turn?

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SMP lead the drivers and Team standings by a distance, their 106 point tally means that only a pole and a win from the second placed #83 Ferrari (81 points) it Would be good enough to knock the Russian Ferrari off the top spot before Japan.

The #98 Aston is next up (71 Points) with the #77 Porsche also still in contention (66 Points).

If the SMP Ferrari wins again it’s going to be tough to catch the Russian (and Italian!) Bears!