Porsche Domination At COTA

Victory for Porsche. [Photo by Porsche Motorsport]

Victory for Porsche. [Photo by Porsche Motorsport]

by Eddie LePine

I left the destruction of hurricane Irma behind in Orlando when I made my way to Austin and the Circuit of the Americas for the FIA-WEC race there. My flight was delayed a day due to the storm, so I arrived at the circuit on Thursday and immediately got to work.

From the start, it looked to me to be Porsche’s race, as both 919 Hybrids were at the top of the charts in all the practice sessions and qualifying, except for free practice session 3, where Nakajima had the best time in the Toyota.

In the race, the Porsches set the pace and were never seriously challenged for the overall victory by Toyota, although they were in the hunt and kept Porsche honest. The Porsches, however, did challenge one another until once again team orders dictated the result of the race.

For the third time in as many races, the leading Porsche of Nick Tandy, Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani were ordered to slow down and let their teammates Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard take the win, and a substantial lead in the driver’s world championship.

Nick Tandy, who had almost a ten second lead with under ten minutes to go, was told to let Earl Bamber go by, which he did, right in front of everybody on the main straight. Following team orders, the two cars then ran in tandem until the finish, with Bamber taking the win by .276 seconds.

Porsche now has a commanding lead in both the driver’s and manufacturer’s championship, and with only three races remaining in the FIA-WEC series, looks to go out a winner, as they have announced their withdraw from FIA-WEC competition at the end of this season.

In the sweltering heat of Texas, almost all the teams elected to run their drivers just single stints, as due to the temperatures, FIA imposed an 80-minute maximum driver stint. I, along with many others, wondered why the race was run in the heat of the day from noon to 6pm. Perhaps it would have made more sense and been a bit easier on the crews and drivers to run from 3pm to 9pm, but then, I don’t make the rules.

This was likely the last FIA-WEC race to be held in Austin, as the 2018-2019 schedule has the series heading to Sebring for a 12-hour race to be held after the traditional IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring in March of 2019.

Now that Porsche has announced their exit, Toyota is now faced with some tough decisions going forward as well.

Whatever form the FIA-WEC takes going forward, one thing is for sure.

I will be at Sebring to see what they have to offer.

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