Thursday 15 September 2016

FIA WEC - 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas: Preview

After a highly entertaining 6 Hours of Mexico, which at a certain moment could have been anyones race to win, the World Endurance Championship now heads to Texas and the Circuit of the Americas.

This will be the fourth visit of the WEC championship to the Texas track. The 6 Hour race in Austin is the first one in the WEC season which goes into the night (except for Le Mans off course). The start will be given at 17.00h local time, with sunset at 19.32 h. The American track is 5,513 kilometers long and features 20 corners, it's one of the few tracks that goes anti clockwise.

31 cars will be on the grid in Texas this weekend. One car less than the grid in Mexico as the Greaves Motorsport Gibson was a one-off entry. 8 cars in the LMP1 class, the same grid we saw in Mexico, with 2 regular drivers making their return after injuries set them back in the past 2 races.

No changes at Porsche where the #1 919 Hybrid of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber & Brendon Hartley will be eager to win again at COTA, after crossing the line first in Mexico 2 weeks ago.

At Audi, Benoit Tréluyer is expected to get back at the wheel of the #7 Audi R18 together with André Lotterer and Marcel Fässler who drove the last 2 races as a duo. Tréluyer drove during the first practice sessions in Mexico, but didn't take part in qualifying and the race.

Anthony Davidson will return to Toyota's Gazoo Racing's #5 TS050 after missing out the last race. He'll join Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima again.  Pierre Kaffer won't race the #4 ByKolles CLMP1/01 this weekend, as he'll be racing in the IMSA championship. Up untill now, the team hasn't appointed a replacement driver. As announced before, Rebellion will complete the season with just one car: the #13 R-One.

10 cars will race in the LMP2 class; the usual full season contenders except the second Manor Oreca05 and the Greaves Gibson 015S which had a one off appearance in Mexico.

Roberto Merhi, who raced in the #45 Manor before the car was withdrawn ahead of the last race, will now race in the #44 Manor Oreca05, joining Richard Bradley and Matt Rao. At SMP Racing, the #27 BR-01 will be driven by Nicolas Minassian and Maurizio Mediani. Devi Markozov will be absent in Texas this weekend.

The #36 Signatech Alpine comes to the USA as leaders in the championship, winning 3 races and one second place in the past 5 races. For the Tequila Patron ESM team, this is their home race. Can their quickest team in the #26 shine under the Texan sun ? 

As announced after the 6 hour race of the Nürburgring, Lewis Williamson will remain at Strakka for the remainder of the season. After 2 strong performances in the Gibson and finishing fourth in class in Mexico, a podium finish might be possible at COTA this weekend.

After winning their home race 2 weeks ago in front of a very enthousiastic crowd, Ricardo Gonzalez' RGR will be on a high and eager to repeat that victory this weekend. With Bruno Senna and Felipe Albuquerque at his side, Gonzalez will certainly have a go for their third class victory of the season.

Unlucky in the last 2 races with a gearbox failure in Germany and an exploded brake disc late in the race in Mexico, the G-Drive squad will be out for revenge and try to get up in the championship standings. G-Drive isn't the only team with brake issues in their Oreca05 this season. Manor have also already had part in brake problems earlier this season, one of the reasons the second car has been withdrawn from the flyaway races so far. According to Dailysportscar, a solution might be on hand from this weekend on, with rumours going round of Oreca switching from Brembo to AP Racing brakes.

In LMGTE-Pro the 7 “usual suspects” will be at the start this weekend. Aston Martin dominated the GTE class on the high altitude track in Mexico and left central America with the lead in the drivers and manufacturers standings. Will they be able to keep that momentum at COTA or will the turbo engined Ferrari's of AF Corse get on top again ?

Richie Stanaway won't race the #97 Aston Martin Vantage this weekend, due to his driving duties in the Australian Supercars championship in Sandown. He will be replaced by Fernando Rees, who makes his return to the WEC, alongside Darren Turner. The #97 will also race again in the blue/yellow Valero livery this weekend.

Ford will be eager to get a good result in their home race, but – aside from Le Mans – haven't been able to really threaten the Ferrari's and Aston Martins. Can they throw themselves into the mix and aim for a podium finish ?  Dempsey-Proton Racing was on the COTA podium last year, given their results so far, it could be high unlikely to match that again this weekend.

GTE-Am saw the first win of the #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche in their WEC career. The winning team will have a different driver line-up this weekend though. Patrick Long has to race in the Pirelli World Challenge at Sonoma and will be replaced by Frenchman Kevin Estre who will drive the car alongside Khaled Al Qubaisi and David Henemeier Hansson.

No other changes in the Am-class, but the #50 Larbre Corvette might have an advantage up their sleeve for the COTA race with Ricky Taylor joining in again. Having the Corvette factory in their team on an American track might give them a shot for the podium, or why not for victory in class.

6 cars will race in the class this weekend, the #83 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia leading the championship with a 35 point lead over the #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Porsche.

Practice starts this afternoon at 14.45h local time, night practice this evening at 20.00h local time. 

Useful links :

Entry list
Timetable (local times)

Kristof Vermeulen.