2015 FIA WEC: Six Hours of COTA race report
After bitter disappointment earlier in the day for the factory Porsche 911 RSRs during the Tudor USCC race, Porsche Team Manthey ensured that Weissach left Austin, Texas atop the podium after taking a dominant one-two finish in the Six Hours of COTA, the fifth round of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship.
Last time out at the Nürburgring – Porsche’s home race – the two 911 RSRs secured a popular victory and, just three weeks (and 5,000 miles) later, the Manthey-run neunelfers repeated the feat at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
The no. 91 Porsche 911 RSR of Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz qualified second, giving the German manufacturer its first front row start in the GTE-Pro class of 2015, while Frédéric Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet (the latter on double USCC/FIA WEC duty) could only manage fifth.
At the start of the six-hour event on Saturday evening, the two Porsches immediately surged forward. Within three laps, Makowiecki had taken the lead in the GTE-Pro field, narrowly ahead of Lietz – who led the drivers’ standings after victory at the Nürburgring – in the no. 91 car.
Swapping positions lap after lap, the Weissach duo stretched their advantage over the chasing pack of Ferraris and Aston Martins across the duration of the race, with Christensen and Lietz eventually winning the inter-house battle to take their second consecutive FIA WEC victory.
Makowiecki and Pilet had to settle for second but the result moved Porsche to within just two points of Ferrari in the manufacturers’ championship with just three rounds remaining.
Victory allowed Lietz to strengthen his lead atop the drivers’ standings, with the Austrian’s advantage now sitting at 11 points ahead of the Six Hours of Fuji on 9-11 October.
In the battle for overall honours, Porsche Team took its third consecutive LMP1 victory as Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard used their pace advantage to overcome a penalty and take the no. 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid’s second WEC win in a row.
It looked as if the pole-sitting no. 18 919 Hybrid of Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas would take the chequered flag for Weissach. However, an electrical issue with just 35 minutes left to run, left the luckless trio out of the reckoning in 12th place.
This paved the way for Webber, Hartley and Bernhard to take their second victory of 2015. Yet, things did not run smoothly for the no. 17 crew after Webber overshot his pit box while leading comfortably.
With Bernhard at the wheel, the no. 17 Porsche’s advantage over the sister car had been reduced to just ten seconds, which was completely eroded when the former was called into the pits for a one-minute stop-go penalty for Webber’s earlier error.
Webber, Bernhard and Hartley were forced to rally during the race’s second half, coming back passed the Audi R18s to take second before the no. 18 919 suffered its aforementioned electronic glitch in sight of the flag.
Heading to Fuji, Webber, Bernhard and Hartley sit just 10 points behind Audi racers, Marcel Fässler, Benoît Tréluyer and André Lotterer in the drivers’ standings with Porsche strengthening its grip on the manufacturers’ championship by a further two points.
The final three-race run in for the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship begins at Fuji in Japan on 9-11 October before heading to Shanghai and Bahrain in November.
If Porsche were to win the manufacturers’ title, it would be Weissach’s first World Championship victory since Brun Motorsport took the 1986 crown with their customer 962 Group C racers.
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