Tragedy struck Porsche’s number 18 919 in the last hour of the World Endurance Championship’s 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas. Number 18 was leading both the top LMP1 class as well as overall when an electrical issue was detected with about 40 minutes to go. Fortunately for Porsche, this only gave the win to their other car.
Porsche was on pace for a 1-2 for most of the six-hour race, with much of the drama affecting other LMP1 teams.
Audi made an unusual mistake for them: a mechanic on their number 8 LMP1 dropped a tire during a pit stop, which gave that car a one minute stop and go penalty.
Toyota also received an untimed stop and go penalty when Anthony Davidson in the number 1 car screwed up his entry to the pit lane and then rejoined the track, crossing the line separating pit entry from the track.
Porsche’s biggest blooper for most of the race came at the hands of Mark Webber in the number 17 car. Webber overshot his pit stall.
“The first and last time of my career,” joked Webber after the race.
An unrelated one minute stop and go penalty for a mechanic intervening during refueling was lodged for the same pit stop, only serving to confuse Mark Webber after the race.
“I screwed up and we got the penalty for something else,” Webber said, explaining how he didn’t even know. “Someone over the line or something?”
Shortly after Porsche’s biggest oopsie, Toyota had the biggest oops of them all: Mike Conway spun their number 2 car while trying to get around a much slower Aston Martin GT car at Turn 11, ultimately eating the wall and being forced to retire from the race.
Finally, with about 40 minutes to go, Porsche noticed an electrical issue on the number 18 car. If they kept running, the car wouldn’t make it. Into the pits it went with 33 minutes remaining in the race. The number 18 team was gutted — they had to retire from the lead. The front end of the car was pulled off and some started to work on it, but ultimately, they dropped to 12th place overall by the end of the race.
The number 18 made one more appearance: on the last lap. According to the WEC’s rules, a car must take the checkered flag in order to be classified, and a 12th place finish for Porsche was better than not being classified at all.
Porsche lucked out, as their number 17 car had built a decent gap on the number 7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro behind it. Number 17 inherited the win, with over a minute separating it from the number 7 car at the end of the race. Audi’s number 8 R18 came in third.
Porsche didn’t get the 1-2 result that they wanted, but they got a ridiculously dominant win.
“It’s good when you have two strong cars,” said number 17 driver Timo Berhnard after the race.
The Porsche 919 team had changed the car’s setup from the Nürburgring, but according to number 17 driver Brendan Hartley, they really just refined that package for COTA.
“The car was a dream to drive,” Hartley explained after the race.
Audi knew that their second place spot was sheer luck, and nothing more.
“[We’re] a bit lucky in the end to have second place, because normally Porsche would have 1-2,” explained number 7 Audi driver Marcel Fässler. “We need to step up our game.”
The 919 is also just ridiculously fast. Brendan Hartley set a fastest lap time during the race of 1:47.412. That’s faster than the all-time LMP1 record from Audi in 2013 (1:47.868) and only a little over eight seconds off the Formula One record set by a Red Bull RB8 in 2012 (1:39.347).
Porsche had a good day in GTE Pro as well. For the second race in a row, Porsche Team Manthey took a 1-2 finish with its number 91 and number 92 cars, respectively.
Porsche Team Manthey now leads both the team and drivers’ championship for the year.
Of the LMP1 privateers, ByKolles seems to have their reliability woes solved. Today gave them a second win for the season after they won at the Nürburgring. Because Rebellion Racing was not classified in the first two races of the year, however, this is a tighter championship battle than you’d think. ByKolles is third in the standings after Rebellion’s two cars, however, only 19 points separates their lone entry from the championship leading car.
In LMP2, G-Drive and KCMG were neck and neck for most of the race, however, KCMG received a stop and go penalty for a pit stop infringement that handed over the win to G-Drive’s number 26 car. KCMG still leads the team championship, however, G-Drive’s number 26 car now sits only 14 points behind the leading KCMG entry.
SMP Racing’s ridiculously good number 72 Ferrari 458 Italia took the win in GTE Am by over 40 seconds over Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing’s Porsche 911 RSR. This extends SMP Racing’s lead to 35 points over fellow Ferrari team AF Corse for the GTE Am team championship.
Three races remain in the WEC calendar for the year, but there’s really no way to tell who will actually be drivers’, team or manufacturers’ champions this early.
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