The weather was as warm and sunny as the welcome extended to the FIA World Endurance Championship at the Circuit of The Americas this weekend. In 30oC (90oF) temperatures today, the LMGTE categories today produced some of the closest and most entertaining racing within the 6 Hours of The Circuit of The Americas, the fifth round of the FIA WEC.
Kristensen, Duval and McNish Extend Championship Lead With Faultless Drive in the USA
Tom Kristensen, Loïc Duval and Allan McNish drove a faultless race today in Austin, Texas to win the 6 Hours of the Circuit of The Americas, the fifth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Held at the impressive Circuit of The Americas track, over 33,000 enthusiastic North American sportscar fans have enjoyed the combined entertainment over the weekend of the FIA WEC and the American Le Mans Series.
The Audi trio sealed their third victory of the 2013 season by 23 seconds over Toyota Racing and extended their championship lead over their team mates in the No.1 entry by 33 points. The No.8 TS030 Hybrid of Anthony Davidson, Stéphane Sarrazin and Sébastien Buemi challenged the Audis throughout, and finished a lap ahead of the No.1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro which had a disrupted race due to incidents and accidents.
The No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola Toyota of Nicolas Prost, Nick Heidfeld and Mathias Beche, unchallenged in the LMP1 Privateer category, finished in fourth place overall with another impressive display of reliability and consistency.
The LMP2 class provided some very close racing in the first half of the race, and the only Safety Car period of the race on the first lap. After leading for much of the race, victory for the No.26 G-Drive Racing ORECA 03 Nissan was fully deserved; its second consecutive victory for Mike Conway, Roman Rusinov and John Martin. A second place finish today for the No.49 Pecom Racing ORECA 03 Nissan entry of Luis Perez Companc, Nicolas Minassian and Pierre Kaffer was enough to give them the lead in the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 teams, while the No.32 Lotus Praga T128 of Thomas Holzer-Kraihamer-Charouz claimed its first podium finish of the season. This was some consolation for the first lap incident which befell the No.31 Lotus entry which led to its immediate retirement.
A fierce inter-team battle between the two No.24 and No.35 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissans resulted in contact between the team mates which ultimately affected the outcome of the LMP2 podium. Both cars had been challenging for the lead in the first half of the race and their 6th and 7th place finish was not the result the team was looking for.
As well as taking 25 championship points for the victory at the Circuit of the Americas, Tom Kristensen, Loïc Duval and Allan McNish were each the proud recipients of a Tudor Grantour Chrono Fly-Back wristwatch.
The Tudor Grantour Chrono Fly-Back is equipped with a 42 mm case and a Fly-Back pusher at 4 o’clock. The small seconds hand counter at 9 o’clock is set in a background motif reminiscent of automobile transmission belts. This Grantour model is available in steel and in a combination of steel and 18 ct pink gold.
Audi now hold a comfortable 69 point lead over Toyota but with 78 points available from the final three races, the Japanese manufacturer still has a mathematical shot at the title. With 138 points, McNish, Duval and Kristensen hold a 33 point advantage over their teammates Lotterer, Treluyer and Fassler (105 points). Toyota’s Davidson, Sarrazin and Buemi are currently on 81 points.
In LMP2 Pecom Racing are on 104 points, just three ahead of the no35 Oak Racing Morgan (101 points) and 13 ahead of the no24 Oak Morgan (91 points). Despite finishing 7th in class, Le Mans winners Baguette, Plowman and Gonzalez maintained their driver’s championship lead on 101 points, just three ahead of the Pecom Racing trio of Companc, Minassian and Kaffer.
Double Top for Aston Martin
Fred Makowiecki and Bruno Senna put on a dominant display of driving in the No.99 Aston Martin Vantage V8 to claim victory in LMGTE Pro, despite being put under persistent pressure by the two AF Corse Ferraris. The Frenchman took his first win of the FIA WEC season, and Brazilian Senna his second after the 6 Hours of Silverstone, but 15 seconds behind them in second place was Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella in the No.51 Ferrari 458 Italia. The result was enough to put the Italians into the lead of the World Endurance Cup for GT drivers by three points; the Ferrari factory drivers have 99 points, and Porsche drivers Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz, who today finished fourth in class, have 96 points.
Third in the Pro category, and only 1.7 seconds behind their teammates, were former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi and his Finnish team mate Toni Vilander in the No.71 AF Corse Ferrari. Unlike in Brazil, they fortunately got to the chequered flag without a fiery incident but this wasn’t the case for the No.91 Porsche AG Team Manthey 911 RSR of Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Pilet. A pit lane fire cost them 4 laps in the pits for repairs and they finished 5th in the Pro class.
Even greater misery befell Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke in the No.97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 which had been leading the GT drivers’ classification going into the Austin round. Turner fell foul of the circuit’s high kerbs and damaged the floor of the car and the car was retired in the fifth hour of the race. The result dropped the pair to third place in the classification on 86 points.
A late-race challenge for the lead by Jamie Campbell-Walter rewarded the No.96 Aston Martin Vantage V8 with its second LMGTE win of the year, the Briton sharing the cockpit once again with Stuart Hall. The result gives the pairing the 95 points in the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMGTE Am drivers and the championship lead, plus a four point advantage over Frenchmen Raymond Narac and Jean-Karl Vernay who finished third in today’s 6 Hours of Circuit of The Americas.
The No.95 duelled throughout the race with their Aston Martin Racing team mates in the No.95 entry: Nicki Thiim, Kristian Poulsen and Christoffer Nygaard. The Danish trio pushed the Britons right to the very end and they finished 1.7 seconds behind the winners and 57 seconds in front of the No.76 IMSA Performance Matmut 911 GT3 RSR of Narac and Vernay.
Ferrari now lead the World Endurance Cup for GT manufacturers by 182 points, with Aston Martin on 170 points and Porsche on 163.
The next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship will be the 6 Hours of Fuji in Japan on 20th October. From the cowboy boots and Stetsons of Texas to the kimonos and mountains of Fuji – the World Endurance Championship offers something for everyone the world over.