Porsche still hold an advantage over Toyota Gazoo Racing as the World Endurance Championship grid takes on the 6 Hours of the Circuit of the Americas. Earl Bamber set the fastest time of the session in the current championship-leading #2 Porsche. G-Drive Racing and the sister car that runs under the TDS Racing banner lead the way in the LMP2 class. Alex Lynn set a time that could not be matched by the other cars in class to keep the #26 at the top of the class. It looks to be a better weekend for GT Endurance Championship leading duo Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx. The #67 Ford was leading the pro class until the end of the session, where the sister car jumped ahead to take a one-two for Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK. Aston Martin Racing‘s #99 took the honours in the Am class.
Although Porsche had the advantage, only four tenths separated the fastest Toyota from the fastest Porsche. Bamber laid the marker with a 1:48.124 whilst Stephane Sarrazin set the fastest time in the #7 Toyota, on his return to the team and the WEC, with a 1:48.584. Toyota May not have shown the same strong pace that Porsche did but they are close so far. Nick Tandy set the fastest time for the #1 Porsche 0.145 seconds off Bamber’s time for second place on the timing sheet.
The focus of the first practice session was on how the tyres acted in the heat of the Austin circuit. With a midday start local time on Saturday, the track temperature will be at its hottest at the start of the race. FP1 started at the same time the race will start on the weekend, so it is the best session to try to achieve representative data ahead of the six-hour race.
G-Drive achieved an unofficial one-two with Lynn leading home the #28 TDS Racing car as the chequered flag fell. The best time set by Lynn in the #26 G-Drive was a 1:55.399. But neither car ran away with an uncatchable pace as the top four were covered by under a second. LMP2 has been super competitive this year, with every team running the exact same chassis/engine combination. It looks like, from the first round of track action, that the 6 Hours of COTA will reflect a similar sort of race.
It was not so good for championship leading #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing. After a not so good race last time out for the 6 Hours of Mexico, Ho-Pin Tung, Thomas Laurent and Oliver Jarvis have had their title advantage broken into. From the looks of the first practice session it could be another difficult weekend for the #38 crew who finished the session over a second off the leading pace.
The teams to watch in LM GTE look to be Ferrari and Ford if the first results are anything to go by. Ford led the way with championship-leading Tincknell and Priaulx but finished with a one-two fastest with #66 team Stefan Mucke and Olivier Pla leading the cars. AF Corse‘s duo of cars filled third and fourth spots on the timing board, giving early indications that it will be a battle of the two manufacturers come Saturday’s race. The top four cars were covered by four-tenths of a second.
On a mission to return to the top of the LM GTE Am Endurance Trophy Championship, Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda lead the Am field in free practice one. Lamy set a time of 2:06.989 to keep the Aston Martin Racing #99 at the top of the timing board. Hot on their heels were new championship leaders #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing. Mattero Cairoli set the #77 car’s fastest time which was just four-tenths off the fastest lap of the class.