Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval went one step closer to claiming the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship with victory at the inaugural Six Hours of Circuit of the Americas.
The Audi trio fought off the Toyota of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Stephane Sarrazin, who faded out of the picture in only the last half hour of the race while reigning champions Marcel Fassler, Benoit Treluyer and Andre Lotterer struggled in the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro.
Buemi made a fantastic getaway in the Toyota, storming around the outside of the #1 Audi and planting the TS030 firmly between the two favourites. The racing soon came to a stop however, with a spin for the #31 Lotus T128 bringing out the safety car early.
When racing returned, Duval stormed ahead from the rest of the field as Fassler struggled to make it past the Toyota, running wheel-to-wheel with Buemi. Fassler eventually took the position from Buemi, only to run out of room a couple of laps later while trying to pass a backmarker, causing the #1 Audi to fly through the air and land heavily back down on the tarmac. Luckily there was no major damage to the floor, but it was clear that the pace of the reigning champions was not as strong as it could be.
A thrilling battle ensued for the remainder of the race between the Toyota and the #2 Audi, switching the lead multiple times, including an incredible move from McNish to take the lead on the road from Buemi.
Victory seemed to be in doubt for the #2 Audi with just five minutes remaining when the car’s right hand side number panel was missing, prompting worried faces in the Audi garage that they may be required to enter the pits for repairs, which, fortunately for Audi, they were not. The #1 Audi completed the podium positions.
OAK Racing were looking strong in the opening half of the race, with Alex Brundle driving a stellar triple stint to cement the #24’s position at the top of the field. It would all go wrong, however, when the sister #35 car tried to dive down the inside of the #24, losing the rear end and side swiping its team-mate. There appeared to be no visible damage to the #24 but the #35 was sent to the garage to receive substantial repairs.
G-Drive Racing’s Mike Conway, John Martin and Roman Rusinov eventually took the flag, beating championship leaders Pecom Racing to the line, with the #32 Lotus T128 rounding out the P2 podium.
Aston Martin spent much of the first two thirds of the race in control of the GT classes, while the best battle coming in GTE Pro between two Porsche AG Team Manthey 911s and the AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia. The #91 Porsche got a little hot under the collar in the pits, though, as a fire erupted while receiving a service, dropping them down the order and ruining their chance for a podium finish.
With just 100 minutes left to run, the GTE Pro championship leading #97 Aston Martin V8 Vantage was backed in to the garage, retiring with suspension damage. Almost in unison, the #24 OAK Racing machine, a championship contender in the LMP2 class, was taken to its garage, with almost every body panel possible being removed to work on the car.
The british marque completed their clean sweep of the GT classes with the #99 Vantage of Bruno Senna and Fred Makowiecki taking the victory in the Pro class ahead of the #51 and #71 AF Corse Ferraris. The #96 Aston Martin of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall beat the all-Danish #95 machine in the closing minutes of the race, with the #76 Imsa Performance Matmut Porsche taking third in class.