KCMG retained its lead in the World Endurance Championship LMP2 standings despite a pre-race penalty that demoted the #47 ORECA 05 to the back of the class grid.
The Chinese team, comprising of Matthew Howson, Richard Bradley and guest driver Nicolas Lapierre, finished second in class at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas – the site of the team’s maiden FIA WEC race win 12 months ago.
Lapierre, who was re-introduced to the KCMG line-up after regular driver Nick Tandy became tied with United Sportscar duties , set the fastest lap of the quickfire qualifying session to provisionally put the sole WEC-entered ORECA 05 on pole for the third race in a row.
However, the race stewards soon demoted the team to the back of the LMP2 grid after Howson stalled the car at pit exit and rolled down the main straight incline, against the direction of traffic.
Despite race control’s decision Lapierre was quick to work his way through the class field during the opening laps of the six hour race, and by the time he handed the car over to Bradley the team was in a position to challenge championship rivals G-Drive Racing for the win.
But a full course caution put paid to KCMG’s chances of a third consecutive race victory, as G-Drive’s #26 Ligier JS P2 of Sam Bird, Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal was able to pit before the safety car made its appearance. This left the ORECA a green-flag pit stop in arrears to the G-Drive crew, and despite a clean final stint from Howson the seemingly inevitable result couldn’t be altered.
“We did quite well this weekend, the car was very competitive but in the end I think second was the best we could have achieved from the position we started,” said Lapierre, who set the fastest LMP2 lap of the race. “We had provisional pole position and also set the fastest race lap but in the end only finished second so, while we did what we could, it’s still a bit of a disappointment.”
“The Austin race was physically one of the toughest I’ve competed in, but credit to all of us because there was nothing more KCMG could have done to win from the back after our harsh post-qualifying penalty,” reflected Howson. “Respect to G-Drive for re-taking the lead but we’ll happily settle for second and the points that go towards our championship, and come back stronger at our home race in Fuji.”
G-Drive Racing’s victory means that the Russian squad has closed in on the championship-leading KCMG entry, but the gap remains significant at 14 points. The FIA World Endurance Championship will continue on October 11 when the teams travel to Japan for the 6 Hours of Fuji.