Hartley, Bamber and Bernhard do it again at WEC 6H of COTA

DailySportsCar.com

After six hours of racing at Circuit of The Americas the #2 Porsche finished on the top step of the podium, the 919 Hybrid of championship leaders Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber finishing the race ahead of the sister #1 car in the team’s third consecutive 1-2 finish.

Unlike the race at Mexico City last time out though, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Porsche and Toyota spent most of the race trading the lead on pitstop strategy but things became to lean ever more in the favor of Porsche, especially in the final two hours.

Towards the end it became a race between the two leading Porsches though, as Toyota faded – though not falling off the lead lap. The #1 led most of the race, letting the #2 Porsche past on two occasions to take the lead. The second of which came right at the end, when the final splash in the final half hour resulted in the #1 retaking the lead again. But Nick Tandy would let Earl Bamber through to score the #2 crew’s fourth straight win.

Behind, the #8 Toyota completed the podium, with the #7 coming home last in class.

In LMP2 it was all about the #36 Signatech Alpine of Gustavo Menezes, Nicolas Lapierre and Andre Negrao. The #36 ran off with it early on from pole position with Lapierre driving, before losing time due to a mid-race safety car. After the restart the crew continued to lead though, and looked set to cruise to the finish.

However, in a shocking turn of events, Menezes, who held a one-minute lead, had to pit to fix a broken rear light at an unscheduled stop. The team brought Menezes in with roughly ten minutes to go, the lead so large that even with a 46-second stop, the lead was still comfortable.

Just behind them were the two Vaillante Rebellion Orecas with the #13 leading the #31. The biggest competitor for those two cars were the pair of Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca who came home in fourth and fifth.

The GTE Pro victory went to the #51 AF Corse Ferrari driven by Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado. Calado was able to respond to a storming #92 Porsche, driven at the time by Kevin Estre after the safety car, who shared to the lead with just over two hours remaining. Following the lead of his teammate, the #71 Ferrari also caught and passed the Porsche later in the race to make it a 1-2 for the Italian team.

It was a 1-2 right until the final twenty minutes when Michael Christensen mounted a challenge to Sam Bird. Christensen was able to get by Bird with a pass on the inside of Turn 1, and hold off the Britain’s 488 through the esses.

Like LMP2, there was late drama for the leaders. The #51 suffered a puncture with ten minutes remaining, prompting a 33-second stop from the team, which caused Pier Guidi to rejoin less than a second ahead just a second ahead of the #92 Porsche of Christensen.

Christensen couldn’t get by though, he an Estre settling for second, ahead of the #71 Ferrari of Sam Bird and Davide Rigon who book-ended the top three for Ferrari.

For GTE Am it was another win for the #98 Aston Martin Vantage, the team’s second of the year. Pedro Lamy got past the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari with one hour and twenty eight minutes remaining, Weng Sun Mok unable to keep the Portuguese veteran behind at Turn 1.

There was however late drama for the #77 Dempsy-Proton Racing Porsche car, the championship leader had to come in for emergency repairs with just 28 minutes left to go. Smoke was coming from the left-rear corner when the team got the gear into the garage. The car eventually rejoined the race, conking out just after crossing the line, but crucially finishing fourth and scoring points.

The issue for the Porsche meant the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari joined the Aston boys on the podium.

Hartley, Bamber and Bernhard do it again at WEC 6H of COTA

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