Friday 15 September 2017

FIA WEC 2017: 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas - Porsche continues to dominate the field

Porsche continued to dominate Toyota in the first two practice sessions at the Circuit of the Americas on Thursday afternoon. After 2 uneventful sessions without any full course yellows, the Porsches evenly split the top times today ahead of both Toyota's. 

Earl Bamber set the fastest time in the first session in his #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid, going round the Texas track in 1.48.124. Bamber beat Nick Tandy in the #1 sister car with 0.145 seconds, and his teammate Timo Bernhard who was the third fastest driver overall.  The Toyota's seem to be closer to Porsche than in Mexico though. Sebastian Buemi was by far the fastest man in a Toyota in the first session, 0.315 seconds behind Tandy in second place. Mike Conway was the quickest of the #7 crew, but already more than 0.7 seconds behind Buemi and 1.190 seconds behind Bamber. 

In the second 90 minute practice session, both Porsches switched places on top of the leaderboard.  Neel Jani now was fastest overall in the #1 Porsche in a 1.45.860. Bamber now came in second fastest in 1.46.401, which was just a bit slower than his best time in the morning.  Kamui Kobayashi was the fastest Toyota driver in the #7, 0.950 seconds behind Jani. 

G-Drive Racing had the best start of the weekend in the LMP2 class with Alex Lynn clocking the best time in class in the first session. Lynn put in a time of 1.55.399 which was 0.309 seconds faster than Matthieu Vaxiviere in the #28 TDS Racing Oreca. Gustavo Menezes completed the top 3 in his #36 Signatech Alpine, with the #13 Vaillante Rebellion of Mathias Beche and the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing finishing fourth and fifth after 90 minutes.

Bruno Senna, who won the LMP2 class in Mexico with Nicolas Prost and Julien Canal, set the #31 Vaillante Rebellion on top of the second practice session in 1.54.601. The Brazilian outpaced Mathias Beche in the #13 sister car with 0.169 seconds. Alex Lynn was fastest in the #26 G-Drive Oreca again, coming home in third place. The top 5 was completed by the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut and the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing.  

Both Fords lead the GTE Pro class by the end of the first session, Stefan Mücke putting his #66 Ford GT (2.04.939) ahead of Andy Priaulx in the #67 (+ 0.247 seconds). Behind both Fords, it were the Ferrari's who took third and fourth place with Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 and Davide Rigon in the #71. Bad luck in the first session for Kevin Estre and Michael Chistensen who hardly got any valuable tracktime when the engine of the #92 Porsche 911 RSR had to be replaced during the session. 

The #95 Aston Martin Vantage of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen rose to the top in Free Practice 2, Nicki Thiim being fastest overall in 2.04.023. Sorensen was just 0.017 seconds behind his teammate late in the afternoon. Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx were chasing both Aston Martin drivers, putting their #67 Ford GT on second place, only 0.074 seconds slower.After their engine switch in the first session and the lack of running, Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen drive most l  aps of all contenders. By the end of the session they were up to third place in 2.05.208. 

In GTE Am, the #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda was outright fastest in both practice sessions. Lamy set the fastest time in both sessions: 2:06.989 in session 1 and 2:05.935 in the second. The Porsches of Dempsey Proton Racing (#77 – Matteo Cairoli) and Gulf Racing UK (Ben Barker) completed the top 3 in the first session. In the second session Matt Griffin was second fastest but already 1.568 seconds behind Lamy. Completing the top 3 in the afternoon session was Matteo Cairoli again in the #77 Porsche. 

The third free practice session is planned for Friday 10.00h local time, qualifying is bound to start in the afternoon. 

Kristof Vermeulen.