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#2 Porsche Wins Hard-Fought 6H CoTA

Late drama in GTE Pro and LMP2

After six hours of racing at Circuit of The Americas the #2 Porsche finished on the top step of the podium, the 919 Hybrid of championship leaders Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber finishing the race ahead of the sister #1 car in the team’s third consecutive 1-2 finish.

Unlike the race at Mexico City last time out though, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Porsche and Toyota spent most of the race trading the lead on pitstop strategy but things became to lean ever more in favour of Porsche, especially in the final two hours when the two TS050s faded, unable to match the pace of the 919s.

Towards the end it became a race between the two leading Porsches, as Toyota faded, though not falling off the lead lap. The #1 led most of the sequences in which the Stuttgart brand held a 1-2, before letting the #2 Porsche past on two occasions to take the lead. The second time came right at the end, when the final splash in the final half hour resulted in the #1 retaking the lead again. But Nick Tandy would let Earl Bamber through to score the #2 crew’s fourth straight win.

Behind, the #8 Toyota completed the podium, with the #7 coming home last in class.

“It was an awesome race, Toyota kept us honest all the way,” Hartley said after the race. “The No. 1 pushed hard and went off into the distance like a rabbit early, it was a shame for them, our cars were never more than 12 seconds apart towards the end, that was a proper race.

“I’m sure that the next race will be closely fought.”

Alpine dominates, takes first LMP2 win of ’17

In LMP2 it was all about the #36 Signatech Alpine of Gustavo Menezes, Nicolas Lapierre and Andre Negrao. The #36 ran off with it early from pole position with Lapierre driving, before losing time due to a mid-race safety car. After the restart the crew continued to lead though, and looked set to cruise to the finish.

However, in a shocking turn of events, Menezes, who held a one-minute lead, had to pit to fix a broken rear light at an unscheduled stop. The team brought Menezes in with roughly ten minutes to go, the lead so large that even with a 46-second stop, the lead was still comfortable.

Just behind them were the two Vaillante Rebellion Orecas with the #13 leading the #31. The biggest competitor for those two cars were the pair of Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca who came home in fourth and fifth. The #38, which leads the championship, finished ahead of the sister car, Jarvis admitting that he and teammates Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent “simply didn’t have the pace”.

Further back it was a tough day for Manor, its #24 Oreca unable to contend like it did in Mexico City, finishing sixth, the #25 retiring with multiple mechanical issues. The G-Drive Racing and TDS Racing Orecas also had a tough time, finishing seventh and eighth, TDS didn’t recover from an early spin by Matthieu Vaxiviere caused by contact at the Esses, and the G-Drive car faded with mechanical issues towards the end.

AF Corse wins Pro, after late drama

The GTE Pro victory went to the #51 AF Corse Ferrari driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado. Calado was able to respond to a storming #92 Porsche, driven at the time by Kevin Estre after the safety car, who shared to the lead with just over two hours remaining. Following the lead of his teammate, the #71 Ferrari also caught and passed the Porsche later in the race to make it a 1-2 for the Italian team.

It was a 1-2 right until the final twenty minutes when Michael Christensen mounted a challenge to Sam Bird. Christensen was able to get by Bird with a pass on the inside of Turn 1, and hold off the Britain’s 488 through the esses.

Like LMP2, there was late drama for the leaders. The #51 suffered a puncture with ten minutes remaining, prompting a 33-second stop from the team, which caused Pier Guidi to rejoin less than a second ahead just of the #92 Porsche of Christensen.

Christensen couldn’t get by though, he an Estre settling for second ahead of the #71 Ferrari of Sam Bird and Davide Rigon who book-ended the top three for Ferrari.

The Mexico-winning ‘Dane Train’ #95 Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen finished just off the podium in fourth, after leading for the first hour, Thiim defending hard against the two Ferraris. The duo were in the mix until late in the race, and will be disappointed not to come away with a podium finish.

Aston’s #97 Vantage had a quiet race, rising to fifth ahead of the second Porsche which lost time due to a stop-go penalty and the two Ford GTs, that struggled to keep pace with the leaders.

Second Am win of 2017 for AMR

For GTE Am it was another win for the #98 Aston Martin Vantage of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, the team’s second of the year. Lamy got past the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari with one hour and twenty eight minutes remaining, Weng Sun Mok unable to keep the Portuguese veteran behind at Turn 1.

Clearwater led from the end of the first hour, almost all the way to the flag. The Spirit of Race Ferrari took the top spot at the start, before Keita Sawa in the Clearwater Ferrari stormed through the field to take the lead in the opening hour. Sawa had contact with the rear of the #98 Aston of Dalla Lana on the exit of the hairpin, taking second after the Vantage’s subsequent spin, then later muscled past Francesco Castellacci to take the lead.

The Singaporean team was unable to take its second win of the year though, even after Matt Griffin’s best efforts to create a gap up front in the middle of the race. With 90 minutes remaining Weng Sun Mok slipped back into the clutches of the hard-charging Lamy, who after getting by, bolted off and created a 50-second lead by the end of the race for the AMR crew, securing the trio its second win of the year.

Further back, there was late drama for the #77 Dempsy-Proton Racing Porsche, the championship leader had to come in for emergency repairs with just 28 minutes left to go. Smoke was coming from the left-rear corner when the team got the car into the garage. The car eventually rejoined the race, stopping  just after crossing the line, but crucially finishing fourth and scoring points.

Gulf Racing UK’s day was also tough, Mike Wainwright having an off at the hairpin, slamming into the barriers causing the aforementioned Safety Car period. Wainwright managed to get the Porsche back to the pits, but the damage was too significant, and the team retired it.

The issue for the Porsche meant the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari joined the Aston boys on the podium.

More to follow…