Inside WEC brings you news, highlights, and interviews from one of the world's most exciting race series, the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The 6 Hours of COTA produced another thrilling Audi versus Porsche fight at the front of the field, as the day-into-night race sprang some surprises during another thrilling FIA World Endurance Championship round.
Austin, Texas… Home of the Lone Star Le Mans and the sixth stop for the FIA World Endurance Championship – the 6 Hours of COTA [Coat-er].
The Circuit of the Americas comprises 20 turns over five kilometres in length. The famous “esses” section – with its red, white, and blue paint scheme – has become a favourite among both fans and drivers.
Mark Webber: “Well I like Austin, I’ve got a lot of friends here so its an easy place to visit and then race. It has been for a while now coming in with F1 as well. It’s a different feeling here obviously they've got the big trucks in the paddock, motorhomes and different categories. So it’s a really different feel to Europe which is good and here we are looking forward to the race. It’s a smoking hot event in terms of temperature…”
Often unpredictable, the hot weather in Austin was on every driver’s mind.
Anthony Davidson: “Well the heat is really the main talking point. Everything else is secondary really. We don't have air conditioning in these cars, it’s minimal air flow for the sake of aerodynamics and efficiency so the poor drivers are really earning their money here.
GTE Pro points leader Darren Tuner of Aston Martin explains how he deals with the Texas heat.
Darren Turner “From the driver’s point of view, you're trying to reduce the work load in the car. And that means maybe not driving absolutely 100 percent. Just back it off a little bit so you’re not fighting the car all the time and using the excess energy that you normally wouldn't have to use.”
All four Ford GT cars were reunited at the Lone Star Le Mans for the first time since the 24 Hours of Le Mans, although competing in different races with two in the IMSA Weathertech Championship taking place earlier in the day. Andy Priaulx of the #67 Chip Ganassi Racing WEC team has spent more time than most at COTA.
Andy Priaulx: “I had a little bit of an issue with my visa coming in so I ended up spending the whole summer racing out here obviously and living out here. We came to test here with three weeks before the race so I literally just parked my RV out on the back straight and stayed here for three weeks.
While the Porsche #1 team of Brendon Hartley, Mark Webber, and Timo Berhard was striving to achieve its third victory in a row, the #2 team of Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas, and Neel Jani sought redemption after last year’s heartbreak here.
Marc Lieb “You know one DNF and a few bad results and you’re not leading the championship anymore. It’s tough but we know the challenge, we know what we want to do so we are well prepared.”
As you’d expect from Americans, there was plenty of pre-race razzmatazz. "Mr Le Mans" Tom Kristensen waved the green flag, and the Audi-versus-Porsche duel for victory began immediately.
Audi had dominated qualifying, but Porsche’s Mark Webber split the Audis with a great move at Turn 1, darting ahead of Audi #8. And there was plenty of action behind them too, as the LMP2 and GT cars jostled through the unique hairpin at COTA.
Porsche’s decision to start on used tires – as opposed to their rivals’ fresh rubber – meant Audi’s 1-2 was soon restored and they pulled clear out front.
Toyota proved it was in the mix, and some stunning close-racing action unfolded in the opening stint, as the points-leading #2 Porsche of Romain Dumas battled to stay ahead of them.
Audi was truly dominating this event in the desert heat of Texas, but it proved to be a race of two halves. Once the sun set, and the moon rose, Audi’s dominant 1-2 unraveled in a startling sequence of events – and the race swung Porsche’s way.
The #8 Audi lost over 40 seconds when Loic Duval suddenly ground to a halt on the exit of Turn 1. He’d suffered an electrical failure, and needed to reboot the system to get going again.
A crash between the #66 Ford and the #44 Manor Oreca sparked a full-course yellow that played perfectly into Porsche’s refueling window. The #7 Audi had already stopped, so its big lead over the #1 Porsche was suddenly an 18 second deficit. And with fresher tires in the bank, after its strategy to hold back at the start, paid off in style.
In his bid to regain the lost time, Treluyer crashed out when he clipped another car – ironically it was the #66 Ford again. Although Treluyer dragged the damaged car back to the pits, it would finish a very distant sixth.
All this drama promoted the #6 Toyota in the podium positions, and Stephane Sarrazin chased the second-placed #8 Audi hard in the closing stages. The #8 suffered a further delay when it had to pit again to close the driver’s door.
While its big rivals hit trouble, Porsche #1 enjoyed a problem-free race and cruised home to an emphatic third straight victory for Webber, Brendon Hartley, and Timo Bernhard. Audi #8 held off the Toyota #6 for second, and the #2 Porsche kept its healthy points lead overall despite a puncture and aerodynamic issues.
In LMP2 there was a surprisingly dominant win for the points-leading #36 Signatech Alpine squad. The GT classes were topped by Aston Martin, with Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim winning the Pro category in the #95 Vantage over the two factory Ferraris, and Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda claimed the honours in the Am class.
But the big winners were Porsche. And straight off the podium, Mark Webber’s delight was clear to see.
Mark Webber “You know we had to get everything perfect today. Everything perfect. Not touching a single back marker, staying on line, flat-out every stint. Yeah it was an absolute qualifying race for us to try to keep some sort of pressure on Audi because they went very quick in the start obviously. They started on fresh tires we started on scrubs so we knew they were going to escape in the first two hours but we had to put our foot on their throat. If there were any slip ups we had to be there and one of our best victories if not the best victory for car #1. Out of the ones we've had this one was exceptional.”
Next, the World Endurance Championship heads to Asia for the 6 Hours of Fuji. Follow motorsport.com for the latest news, photos and videos.