Audi #2 Pips Resurgent Toyota to Texas Victory

The 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship looks increasingly one sided after the #2 Audi R18 e-tron Quattro of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval took a well-earned win in the inaugural 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas.

COTA Audi 2

But in a twist to the format it wasn’t their sister car that pushed them to the end as a resurgent Toyota Racing put in an impressive performance to finish just 23 seconds behind, in the process reviving hopes of a competitive end to the championship. The fortunes of the #1 were lowered early on by a stop to replace bodywork before being dashed through a series of driver errors and penalties, as the 2012 championship winners Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer faded back into ‘laps behind’ territory.

The eventual winners and the chasing TS030 were always close, and in the end it came down to a stunning series of drives from all three Audi drivers (but Duval in particular) just pipping the Toyota’s faster pit strategy. The race lit up as the Audi was repeatedly asked to overtake the competition, leading to a number of risky moments and some heart-stopping overtaking manoeuvres worthy of a proper endurance race.

Rebellion Racing, the only other entry in the top LMP1 class, had a brief moment of excitement when it looked like the #1 might be so stricken with issues that they’d end up on the podium, but some rapid (and erratic) driving from the Audi team allowed them to outstrip their repeated trips to the pits to avoid an embarrassing end to the race.

LMP2 was the usual tense affair, and first to blink was the otherwise rather imperious performance of Oak Racing. While G-Drive had a poor start from pole, dropping down the order after some dodgy pit stops, the two lead Oaks battled for hours between themselves for the class lead. Quick and fair racing was on offer, notably from Brits Alex Brundle and Martin Plowman, and it seemed as though the fight would go to the close. But all good battles must come to an end, in this case when the #35 tried an ill-judged dive down the inside, bounced off the kerb and effectively elbow dropped the #24, leading to both dropping out of contention.

G-Drive rescued their race expertly, the team of Roman Rusinov, John Martin and Mike Conway crossing the line a full lap ahead of second placed Pecom Racing and just nine behind the leaders. Third place went to a chuffed Lotus team who had initially looked as uncompetitive as usual when on the first corner at the start of the race their #31 spun and couldn’t restart, bringing out a safety car. But their #32 carried on plodding round at the hands of Thomas Holzer, Dominik Kraihamer and Jan Charouz to take the bronze medal position, their first podium.

COTA Astons Pack

G-Drive’s team mate Delta-ADR finished fourth in class five laps down with Greaves Motorsport coming through one lap later. The two Oaks were eventually brought back into service but didn’t have time to make their way up the order, the #24 rightly beating the #35 to tenth overall. The Oak art car fell prey to a catalogue of driver errors, finishing 25th and only completing 39 laps.

Yet again the GTE fields provided a healthy chunk of the action, mostly at the hands of the doubly-victorious Aston Martin Racing team. In GTE Pro the three Vantage V8s were slimmed down to just one running entry, as the #98 suffered from electrical problems after looking thoroughly impressive at the hands of Richie Stanaway and the #97 suffered suspension damage over a high kerb. But leave it to Bruno Senna and Fred Makowiecki to thrill, weathering a ferocious Ferrari storm to set purple times aplenty and take the win by just 15 seconds.

The twin AF Corse entries of Bruni/Fisichella and Kobayashi/Vilander took second and third after having a cracking battle of their own, while the factory Porsche #92 wasn’t quite up to the pace and eventually took class fourth. The #91 911 RSR had a hairy moment early in the race when a fire broke out in the front left corner of the car during refuelling, which burned on for some time before being quelled. The car was wheeled back into the garage before being sent out again four laps later to circle the Austin track into fifth place.

LM GTE Am was an all Aston fight to the finish as the #95 of Thiim, Nygaard and Poulsen tried to hold off the searching attacks of the #96’s Stuart Hall and Jamie Campbell-Walter. In the final hour of the race the fight came to a head; the #95 first swinging past the #96 before being repassed soon after. The ROFGO car, without amateur driver Roald Goethe for the second race in succession, finally took the flag a scant 1.8s ahead of their all-Danish Young Driver team mates.

COTA Toyota Rear

Third place went to the IMSA Matmut Porsche, quietly but competently driven by Raymond Narac and Jean-Karl Vernay, while fourth went to class pole sitters 8 Star Motorsports, followed by Proton and Larbre Competitions and the single Am AF Corse entry. Krohn Racing brought up the rear at their home event after some baffling electrical issues, but the roar that greeted their re-emergence from the garage will go some way to lifting their spirits tonight.

The championship is beginning to look rather good for the #2 Audi team; only a dramatic failure can stop them from taking the crown from their teammates in 2013. Join us in Japan in a month’s time for Round 6 of the FIA World Endurance Championship, where Toyota will return to a two car entry in order to try and win their local race. With their return to form in Austin it’s sure to be another classically exciting WEC contest.