It was a tale of dominant performances in the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of COTA, with success ballast being the talking point of lights-to-flag victories. Rebellion Racing took their second on-the-road victory in LMP1, with Toyota Gazoo Racing never able to summon a threat to the Swiss team.
With both Toyotas being slowed by over two seconds more per lap than the sole Rebellion car, it was always going to be a case of reliability dictating whether the team would take their second victory of the season. Bruno Senna, Gustavo Menezes and Norman Nato never looked in any danger of giving up the win, taking it by a competitive 51 seconds at the chequered flag.
With less of a success penalty, the #8 Toyota of Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima had a quiet race to second on the grid. Despite talk of getting stuck in a battle with the LMP2 cars, the #7 championship-leading car of Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi managed to take third overall, albeit two laps down on the leading duo.
The #7 still leads the championship, meaning they will feel a similar penalty in next month’s 1,000 Miles of Sebring. But the top three are now very close, with just 19 points separating them. Toyota are likely feeling irritated by the balance of performance system at this point, feeling that it is holding them back and severely affecting their season campaign.
With the change to a ‘ghost car’ dictating the penalty each race (meaning that the calculation works from the leading car backwards rather than the last-placed car forwards) Toyota have been suffering with this system a lot. It may not be the dominant season they had last year, but arguably is a manufactured championship any better than a dominant one?
United Autosports made a surge through the field to take back-to-back victories after a slow start to the race. Having started second on the grid, Paul di Resta dropped down the order in the early stages, forcing the team to pit early and swap drivers thus putting them out of sequence with the rest of the class. The consistent driving of di Resta and team mates Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson, however, saw the car slowly climb back into contention to take victory by 24 seconds.
Another strong performance came from the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing car after they lost a lot of time in an incident with the #29 Racing Team Nederland car in the first hour of the race. They too fought up the field to take a deserved second-place finish behind the home favourite United Autosports car. The sister JOTA Sport #38 rounded off the podium, finishing ahead of the pole-sitting #42 Cool Racing and the Dutch-backed JUMBO car. The latter duo spend the final half hour of the race battling for fourth on track.
Nothing could stop the Aston Martin Racing Dane Train who streamed to a breezy third victory of the season. Leading the points table, they extended their lead to 29 points with three rounds left to go. The manufacturer had been on for a strong one-two, retaining the positions for the majority of the race, but the last hour saw the #97 drop off the podium to fourth.
Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen found a boost of power in the last hour, managing to reel in the leading Aston Martin. It was close at the end, but the Dane Train crossed the line first, just four seconds up the road from the Porsche. The championship challenging #51 AF Corse also dispatched of the #97 in the final hour, making it three different manufacturers on the class podium.
It had looked like it was going to be a Porsche power hour in the final stages of the race, with both looking fast and in contention for a podium. Sadly a battery problem saw the #91 stopping out on track and losing any chance of a decent finish. It was classified seventh in class, but found itself losing to the Corvette Racing car that had a race to forget.
Aston Martin shone again in GTE Am, with their two cars fighting throughout the six-hours for class victory. The TF Sport and factory #98 came together in the early stages of the race, the #90 being spun round in the incident, but in the end it was the privately backed Aston Martin TF Sport that took the top step.
The pole-sitting #56 Team Project 1 took the last step of the podium, finishing about 16 seconds behind the duelling Aston Martin pair.