This weekend at COTA was possibly the hottest and muggiest time at the track I've ever experienced. We saw the thermometer rise well above 90 degrees, but the real killer was the 65% humidity. Many drivers, and even spectators, were struggling with the heat, and the mantra of the weekend was "stay hydrated"! The on-track action was just as hot, however, which more than made up for the sweat-soaked t-shirts and constant searches for air conditioning and water sources. This was one of the best weekends Porsche has had in a long time, so chances are they're pretty happy with the results as well.
Both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship ran on Saturday with a 2-hour 40 minute race and a 6-hour race respectively. Saturday began with the IMSA event and closed with the WEC race, and our stay at the track spanned about 13-hours. We spent as much time as humanly possible indoors, but we did venture out to see the sights from a few different corners. All in all, it was a great time, and well worth seeing. The WEC event is moving earlier in the year next season, so hopefully it'll be a little cooler.
Porsche in the GTLM category
Porsche's 911 RSRs in the GTLM category have not had the greatest of years in 2016, though they did win back at Long Beach with Pilet and Tandy. With some help from IMSA, and having a Porsche-favoring track like COTA, they were back in the GTLM victor's circle this weekend. Though their 2016 car is not exactly optimized to the GTE/GTLM specifications, they managed to have a really stout package for COTA this weekend, setting up the race from 3rd and 4th on the grid from qualifying.
From the start, it was the Ford GT that got freight trained by the Ferrari and both Porsches, jumping Patrick Pilet up into second. At the first pit stop, Nick Tandy took over driving duties and then went on to take the lead of the race on lap 27, while Earl Bamber kept 3rd relatively safe. At lap 35, Pilet lost the lead back to the Ferrari, but he kept the pressure on the back bumper of that Ferrari for the next stint. With only 25 minutes left in the race, the Ferrari was forced to make an unscheduled stop, and returned the lead to Porsche control. As the race came to a close, Earl Bamber drove past his teammate Pilet and managed to nab the GTLM victory for himself and Fred Mako. This was the first win of the season for the Bamber/Mako pairing.
Frédéric Makowiecki, Driver, Porsche 911 RSR #912 had this to say about the race,
“We didn’t necessarily have the fastest car today, but we could maintain a decent pace over the entire race distance. We’ve been working towards this win over the whole season. Finally everything came together. This is precisely the motivation we need heading to the season finale at Road Atlanta.”
Porsche in the GTD category
In GTD, the Team Seattle car put on a good show, as Alex Riberas started the race from pole position in the Alex Job Racing #23. A similarly strong starting position came from the returning Park Place Motorsports car, which started in third and quickly moved into second after the start. The AJR team of Riberas and Mario Farnbacher led the race for long stretches, but on the final lap, the car was left stranded on the track with an empty fuel tank. Farnbacher was running in second place at the time of his retirement. The Park Place car of Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey finished 5th in class.
World Endurance Championship
Porsche in the LMP1 Category
Coming into the race on Saturday afternoon, all of the advantage seemed to be shifted into the Audi corner. Audi had nabbed pole and outside pole, dominating qualifying by relatively big margins. Porsche appeared to be on equal footing with Toyota, losing several seconds in the opening stages of the race to Audi as they streaked off into the distance. Initially Mark Webber had moved into second position, but Audi's early-race pace was too much to keep at bay. During the pit stop sequence, Webber hands off to Brendon Hartley who rejoined in fourth and made a mad fight with Toyota's Anthony Davidson to get back into third. Pounding out laps, Hartley stays in 3rd and pits at lap 57 to pass off to Bernhard. A full course yellow period ends Bernhard's stint early, and the same happens to Webber on his next stint. A cycle through back to Hartley behind the wheel, Audi has a very slow pit stop and Brendon rejoins in second.
At lap 121 there is another full course yellow, and Porsche is in the perfect position to take full advantage. Hartley hands off to Bernhard, and Timo comes back out of the pits with the lead of the race. Just a dozen laps later, the #7 Audi in second position receives a hipcheck from a startled Ford GT as they enter the esses on the back side of the circuit, sending it sliding wide into the gravel traps. From then until the end, the #1 Porsche retained the lead with a relatively safe gap. Webber cycles back through the driver's seat and Bernhard takes the car to the flag. The track was so hot that the car was not able to double-stint tires or drivers.
The #2 car was plagued by disadvantageous yellow course periods, as well as a slow puncture requiring an additional pit stop. Dumas had an issue with traffic, smudging up the nose of his 919 Hybrid, requiring a change and an early pit stop. With 12 minutes remaining in the race, Romain Dumas is forced to pit again for a slow puncture, but does not lose any positions as a result of it. The team ultimately finished in 4th, maintaining a comfortable gap in their Driver's Championship lead.
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal -
“Congratulations and a big thank you to the entire crew for this great team effort. At the beginning of the race, when the tarmac was extremely hot, we didn’t have the pace of the Audis. But thanks to a strong and error free job by our drivers, the fastest pit stops of the field, dead right strategic decisions and flawless technology, we have earned and deserved this win. It was hard work. On car number 2 we lost front downforce early on in the race, and this prevented them from fighting for a top position. Nonetheless we have managed another step on our mission to win both championships again. We will use the next three weeks to prepare for the final three races.”
Mark Webber, Driver, Porsche 919 Hybrid #1 -
“It was tough racing with fair battles today and Timo’s and Brendon’s drives were awesome. After the start we got into a rhythm. In the middle of the race the situation looked stable. The Audis in front were extremely quick in the heat, but this was no surprise. We knew we had to do a clean race and if they had stayed that strong we would have pushed them over the line. But then Audi had a problem and we have been lucky when the timing of a Full Course Yellow played into our hands. Despite the heat, our guys in the garage did a great job again in the pit stops.”
Romain Dumas, Driver, Porsche 919 Hybrid #2 -
“I drove at the start and on my first stint in the afternoon’s heat the car felt like driving on slicks in the wet. On my second stint I was unlucky with traffic. In total two slow punctures plus the nose change were time consuming. The result is good for the championship and for Porsche, but for us the race wasn’t nice. In Le Mans we were very lucky to win. Perhaps it is pay back time for this. But I think now that should be enough.”
Porsche in the GTE Pro Category
If Porsche's IMSA GTLM balance of performance is poor, their IMSA GTE-Pro balance is abysmal. Without the full advantage of the deep rear diffuser that Aston and Ford and Ferrari all implemented this year (Porsche can't as they have an engine in the rear of the car), they just don't have any chance of being competitive. The Dempsey/Proton car of Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz finished in 6th in class, a full two laps in arrears of the class winning Aston Martin.
Porsche in the GTE Am Category
Having started this race with a very strong qualifying result of Porsche 1-2-3 on the grid, hopes were high that they could pull off an Am category win with one of their partner customer teams. Sadly that would not be the case, as the Aston Martins were again too tough to overcome in the GTE Am running. The KCMG Porsche of Christian Reid, Joel Camathias, and Wolf Henzler did manage to pull off an excellent second-place finish. The Gulf Racing UK Porsche finished in fourth, while the best the Abu Dhabi Proton Racing car (with Kevin Estre sitting in for Patrick Long) could do was fifth in class.
Wolf Henzler, Driver, KCMG Porsche 911 RSR #78 -
“We were incredibly consistent from the first to the last lap and we made virtually no mistakes. Third in Mexico, second in the USA – obviously I’d now like to continue this logical progression in Japan.”
Kévin Estre, Driver, Abu Dhabi Proton Porsche 911 RSR #88 -
“Our start was good and we were running in the lead for a long time. But then we had a minor fire during a pit stop, and later we got a puncture. This cost us a lot of time. It’s a shame because the pace of our 911 RSR was really good, especially towards the end of the race. Without these problems we would definitely have finished higher up the ranks.”
Michael Christensen, Driver, Dempsey Proton Porsche 911 RSR #77 -
“The main priority for us was to get over the line safely and not damage the car. It’s tough when you do your very best in every lap and it’s still not enough to fight for top places. But we have to think positively and hope that things go better for us at the next race.”
IMSA Race Results
1. Bamber/Makowiecki (NZ/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 74 laps
2. Pilet/Tandy (F/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, 74
3. Magnussen/Garcia (DK/E), Chevrolet Corvette, 74
4. Auberlen/Werner (USA/D), BMW M6, 74
5. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA) Chevrolet Corvette, 73
6. Hand/Müller (USA/D), Ford GT, 73
7. Edwards/Luhr (USA/D), BMW M6, 73
8. Fisichella/Vilander (I/SF), Ferrari 488 GTE, 73
9. Briscoe/Westbrook (AUS/GB), Ford GT, 61
1. Curtis/Klingmann (USA/D), BMW M6, 71 laps
2. Sellers/Snow (USA/USA), Lamborghini GT3, 71
3. Nielsen/Balzan (DK/I), Ferrari 488, 71
4. Potter/Lally (USA/USA), Audi R8, 71
5. Bergmeister/Lindsey (D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 R, 71
6. Barker/Calvert-Jones (GB/USA), Aston Martin, 71
WEC Race Results
1. Bernhard/Webber/Hartley, Porsche 919 Hybrid, 186 laps
2. Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis, Audi R18, 186
3. Sarrazin/Conway/Kobayashi, Toyota TS050 - Hybrid, 186
4. Dumas/Jani/Lieb, Porsche 919 Hybrid, 185
5. Davidson/Buemi/Nakajima, Toyota TS0505 - Hybrid, 184
6. Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer, Audi R18, 180
1. Sörensen/Thiim (DK/DK), Aston Martin, 163 laps
2. Bruni/Calado (I/GB), Ferrari 488 GTE, 163
3. Rigon/Bird (I/GB), Ferrari 488 GTE, 162
4. Franchitti/Priaulx/Tincknell (USA/GB/GB), Ford GT, 162
5. Turner/Rees (GB/BRA), Aston Martin, 162
6. Christensen/Lietz (D/A), Porsche 911 RSR, 161
7. Mücke/Pla (D/F), Ford GT, 144
1. Lamy/Dalla Lana/Lauda (P/CAN/A), Aston Martin, 158 laps
2. Ried/Henzler/Camathias (D/D/CH), Porsche 911 RSR, 158
3. Yamagishi/Ragues/Taylor (J/F/USA), Chevrolet Corvette, 157
4. Wainwright/Carroll/Barker (GB/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, 153
5. Al Qubaisi/Estre/Heinemeier Hansson (UAE/F/DK), Porsche 911 RSR, 153
6. Collard/Perrodo/Aguas (F/F/P), Ferrari F458 Italia, 147
[Lead Image ©2016 FLATSIXES.com/Bradley C. Brownell, All Rights Reserved. All other photos provided by Porsche.]