The No. 1 Porsche team of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley, and Timo Bernhard stayed out of trouble to claim the overall prize for the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas.
The reigning championship team scored their third win in a row for the sixth round of the 2016 championship after Audi showed strong pace throughout the weekend. Dominating in the LMP2 class, the No. 36 Signatech Alpine, Gustavo Menezes, Nico Lapierre and Stephane Richelmi led through the race after gaining the early lead and scored their fourth win of the season. Aston Martin Racing dominated in both LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am as the No. 95 Vantage V8 of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen led through all six hours of the event and the No. 98 of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, and Mathias Lauda took the top spot in class.
The Nos. 7 and 8 Audi R18’s took to an early lead as temperatures soared in the early-evening Texan sun. Throughout the race, but especially at the start drivers were describing the grueling conditions as it reached 95°F in the first hour. The heat was no more apparent to anyone other than Stefan Mucke, who was forced to the garage in the first hour for a failure in the air conditioning system of his No. 66 Ford GT.
Alex Brundle started the race on a tear through the field in the G-Drive Racing No. 26 Oreca 05. After starting at the back of the field, Brundle was able to make it all the way up to third in LMP2 within the first hour. After climbing as high as second, Brundle would finish third with teammates Rene Rast and Romain Rusinov. RGR Sport’s Bruno Senna, Filipe Albuquerque, and Ricardo Gonzolez were able to get around the G-Drive entry to finish second.
Action all over the track made for an exciting first stint of competition as Porsche and Toyota fought for position. It was apparent that the Porsche 919 Hybrids had a disadvantage against their Toyota TS050 and Audi rivals in the heat of the first couple of hours.
The first full course caution was called after the No. 37 SMP Racing BR 01 stopped on the circuit due to electrical issues. Another team struggling with electronics was the No. 42 of Strakka racing, who were forced to retire early on.
As the sun began to set, the changing conditions began to change the tide of the fight. As the track cooled, battles for position heated up throughout the field. The No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari and No. 97 Aston Martin traded position through the middle part of the race until the next break in action. A second full course caution was caused by Michael Wainwright beaching the No. 86 Gulf Racing Porsche outside Turn 1.
After the round of yellow flag pit stops, Logic Duval’s No. 8 Audi stopped on track due to an electrical issue. The No. 7 Audi inherited the lead, but Duval was able to continued before the Porsche was able to pass.
The next round of green flag pit stops saw quick work in pit lane by the Porsche crew, giving them the lead and changing the momentum of the race.
With just over two hours left in the race, the third Full Course Caution was waved due to an incident between the No. 44 Manor Oreca and Mucke’s Ford GT. The Manor entry was able to continue onto the pit lane to replace the nose while the Mucke was forced to wait to be retrieved from the gravel. Unfortunately for the Ford team, the No. 66 was again collected in an incident to bring out the fourth and final Full Course Yellow, this time with Olivier Pla behind the wheel. The No. 7 Audi made contact with the Ford sending both machines spinning, but ultimately taking the brunt of the incident.
After the checkered flag, it would be the No. 8 Audi team of Lucas Di Grassi, Duval, and Oliver Jarvis coming home second and Toyota Gazoo Racing’s No. 6 team of Stephane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, and Kamui Kabayashi finishing third.
A strong late-race surge would see the two AF Corse Ferrari take the two remaining steps of the LMGTE Pro podium. James Calado and Gianmaria Bruni led teammates Davide Rigon and Sam Bird at the wave of the checkered flag.
Both KCMG and Larbre Competition were rewarded for clean races with second and third places in class. Christian Reid, Wolf Henzler, and Joel Camathias finished second while Pierre Ragues, Ricky Taylor and Lars Viljoen celebrated on the third step of the podium.
The next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship is the 6 Hours of Fuji at Fuji Speedway in Japan on October 16. Last year Porsche won the event overall and will look to continue their strong 2016 season.