One hour is in the books from the Circuit of The America’s in Austin, Texas and Toyota Gazoo Racing sits 1-2 at the head of the field, with the #8 TSO50 leading its sister car the #7 after leap-frogging the #1 Porsche 919 on pitstop strategy. The Toyotas did not take tyres at the first round of stops.
Despite a good start from both of the Porsches which started on the front row, the TS050s were able to pounce and stay in the mix. On the first two laps of the race Sebastian Buemi in the #8, and Mike Conway in the #7 fought their way past the #2 Porsche driven by Timo Bernhard.
The Toyota’s spent most of the first stint battling each other, Jani able to pull away. Conway had to follow his slower teammate, Buemi, taking a few looks down the inside into Turn 12 after the long straight but decided discretion was the better part of valour and did not make a move on his teammate. Buemi and the #8 TSO50 lacked a little pace, the team dealing with a boost override issue that prevented the Frenchman from freely using his hybrid boost.
In LMP2 the #36 Signatech Alpine starting Nicolas Lapierre got off to a a great start and spent most of the hour in front of the field. The team had the second fastest pitstop of 59 seconds that helped give Gustavo Menezes some breathing room. Nelson Piquet Jr. took over the #13 Vaillante Rebellion from Mathias Beche who quickly began hunting down the lead car as the hour ended.
Rounding out the top three was Alex Brundle in the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA which started sixth on the grid.
The #25 CEFC Manor Oreca who had to start at the back of the grid after missing qualifying due to an electrical issue with one of the car’s wiring looms was able to climb to the back of the LMP2 field by the end of the opening hour.
GTE Pro was spearheaded by the ‘Dane Train’, with Nicki Thiim starting the car and taking it through to the first pitstop before handing the #95 Aston Martin Vantage to his teammate Marco Sorensen. Thiim though had to spend pretty much all of the first hour staring in his mirrors as both of the AF Corse Ferraris looked for a way past.
Eventually James Calado found a way past in the #51 at Turn 16 and blasted off from there, creating a nice lead for himself and Alessandro Pier Guidi. Soon after that the Aston fell back to third, the sister #71 of Davide Rigon battling his way past the #95 up the hill into Turn 1.
Pitstops came right at the end of the hour with the #67 Ford GT, that spent most of its first stint towards the back, able to stretch its stint a few laps longer and got some laps out front. Eventually though it all cycled through and the two Ferraris, #51, ahead of the #71 regained the lead with the #95 Aston Martin in chase.
GTE Am is the only class to see notable contact between cars. After 60 minutes of racing the Clearwater Racing Ferrari of Keita Sawa held the lead, the Japanese driver fighting past Paul Dalla Lana, and eventually Francesco Castellacci just before the second hour began.
The battle between Sawa and Dalla Lana was fierce. After Dalla Lana lost the lead to Castellacci in the opening laps, he had a coming together at the exit of Turn 11 15 minutes into the race. Dalla Lana appeared to slow to correct oversteer and Sawa got a good run and made contact with the back right side of the Aston, spinning it. It caused minor damage to the splitter but did not cost the Aston too much time. Sawa was given a warning for the contact.