Audi inched closer to locking up the FIA World Endurance Championship on Sunday, as the German manufacturer edged out rival Toyota for top honors in the Six Hours of the Circuit of The Americas.
Allan McNish took the No. 2 Audi R18-etron quattro to a narrow 23.617-second victory over Stephane Sarrazin’s No. 8 Toyota TS030 Hybrid, which battled the diesel-powered hyrbid and led overall at stages of the inaugural round in Texas.
The key of the race was tire durability, as McNish and co-drivers Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval managed to double stint their Michelins, whereas the Toyota struggled to do the same.
“We knew very quickly their pace and strategy advantages were going to give us a hard time,” McNish said of Toyota’s challenge. “It was clear we needed an advantage and clear if we could double stint at the end, when the circuit had the most grip, it was going to help us, which is what we did.
“It was a tough race throughout, much tougher than we expected from the performance from them.”
A final fuel-only stop for McNish with less than 40 minutes to go sealed the win for the trio, as the Sebastien Buemi relinquished controls of the Toyota in the final half-hour to Sarrazin, knowing their race was lost if the Audi had not taken tires.
“The objective was to fight as hard as possible because we didn’t know if they were going to change the tires or not,” Buemi said. “If they would have changed the tires, I would have stayed in the car because we would have been much closer and had the possibility to fight for the victory.”
Thanks to their third victory of the season, Kristensen, McNish and Duval extend their championship lead to 33 points over teammates Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler, who took the No. 1 Audi to a third place finish on Sunday after multiple issues.
It included a curb-hoping incident by Fassler in the opening hour which catapulted the diesel-powered hybrid prototype into the air. The rear legality panel was replaced but the car later developed electrical issues during Lotterer’s stint.
G-Drive Racing by Delta-ADR notched LMP2 honors for the second straight race. By the third hour, it was clear sailing for the class pole-sitting No. 26 Oreca 03 Nissan of John Martin, Mike Conway and Roman Rusinov after both contending OAK Racing Morgan-Nissans collided with each other.
An attempted overtake by the No. 35 OAK entry of Ricardo Gonzalez over teammate David Heinemier Hansson resulted in the Mexican’s LMP2 car jumping over a curb and slamming into the sister No. 24 car while battling for second.
While Gonzalez limped back to the pits with damage, Heinemeier Hansson continued. However, the No. 24 car later suffered suspension failure while in the hands of Olivier Pla. The French entries finished seventh and eighth in class.
The No. 49 Pecom Racing Oreca Nissan of Nicolas Minassian, Pierre Kaffer and Luis Perez Companc came home second in class, ahead of the No. 32 Lotus T128 of Jan Charouz, Thomas Holzer and Dominik Kraihamer, which gave the Kodewa squad its first podium finish of the year and first for the Adess-built prototype.
Aston Martin Racing earned a double victory, with the British manufacturer taking top honors in both GTE-Pro and GTE-Am.
Fred Makowiecki and Bruno Senna drove their No. 99 Aston Martin Vantage V8 to a 15-second victory over the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia of Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella in second.
It came despite a late stop for a splash of fuel with 10 minutes remaining as well as a brake issue for the V8-powered beast in the final hour.
“The Ferrari was very quick in the end and the Porsche was very quick. Today, we were just a bit more consistent than those guys,” Senna said. “We took more risks in the race, that’s why we managed to win.”
While it marked the parings first class win of the season, it came after the two other GTE-Pro Astons retired due to damage after running over curbing. It included the championship-leading No. 97 car of Darren Turner and Stefan Mucke, who were joined by Corvette Racing factory driver Oliver Gavin this weekend.
Aston’s misfortunes for two of its cars handed AF Corse a double podium finish, with the Italian squad’s No. 71 entry of Toni Vilander and Kamui Kobayashi finishing third.
Bruni and Fisichella, meanwhile, take over the GTE drivers’ championship lead, three points ahead of the No. 92 Porsche AG Team Manthey pairing of Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz, which came home fourth on Sunday.
GTE-Am class honors came down to the wire between the pair of Aston Martins, with a late pass by Jamie Campbell-Walter on Kristian Poulsen being rewarded in a second straight victory for he and Stuart Hall in the No. 95 car.
It was another Aston Martin 1-2 in class, with the No. 76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche of Raymond Narac and JK Vernay completing the class podium in third, despite a late charge by the pole-sitting No. 81 8Star Motorsports Ferrari of Matteo Malucelli, which had to settle for fourth in class.
Audi Sport Team Joest, COTA, Sports Cars, WEC