The 2014 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas “Lone Star Le Mans” saw Audi #2 (Marcel Fassler/Andre Lotterer/Benoit Treluyer) lead home a 1-2 Victory for Audi Sport Team Joest. Here’s how it happened.
The start and early stages of the race saw Toyota #8 head off into the distance with a strong battle between Audi, Porsche and Toyota #7 for the remaining LMP1 prototype places, the battle between them which was intensified by traffic looked as though Porsche had the upper hand and that Audi where going to have a fairly poor race, behind both it’s rival manufacturers.
Rain however played a major part in proceedings at COTA, with light rainfall turning within the space of a lap to heavy rain. Audi came in and changed the tyres, whilst Toyota took a gamble of staying out; it was a mistake that would ultimately cost them the race, which you could argue, is precisely the opposite to what happened at Silverstone for the WEC earlier in the season. The heavy rain resulted in several cars aquaplaning off the track including both Toyota’s, the #7 car having a number of slides and spins throughout the lap resulting in a red flag.
Due to the rain shaking up the grid somewhat. The whole issue brought about controversy, primarily due to the way in which the red flag procedure works in FIA WEC.
My understanding is that the controversy existed over whether an advantage was gained by being recovered from a trackside gravel trap and been able to then drive back to the starting grid, rather than pitting for suitable tyres and been stuck at the end of the pit-lane due to the pits been closed under a red flag.
Personally as technically by the rules it’s the correct procedure, to recover cars that are in an unsafe position back to the track, and therefore allowing them to return to the grid to prepare for the restart. I’m ok with the way the series handled the controversy but I do think it is something that needs to be addressed, if only for clarification for future reference, because I can see both sides of the argument.
From then on out, it was an interesting battle between Audi and Porsche for the final two hours in LMP1, with Audi restarting up front and Toyota spending much of the race on a recovery drive, car #7 recovering to Third by the end, whilst car #8 would finish several laps down in sixth overall.
Porsche passed Audi not long after the restart, and until late in the race it appeared that Porsche would claim victory in LMP1, however some late race issues, pushed the Porsche back behind the two Audi’s and Toyota’s #7 allowing Audi a 1-2 after a late race fuel dash.
In LMP2, KCMG’s Oreca 03R Nissan claimed class honours; the class also saw a fantastic debut for ESM in WEC competition, coming home third in class, with an especially strong drive from Ryan Dalziel.
The team also announced today, that instead of competing at the Tudor United Sportscar Championship finale of Petit Le Mans, the team would compete at the Shanghai, China round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. A decision however on which programme ESM run for next season is yet to be decided.
In the GTE classes, the battle in Pro was between Aston Martin and Porsche for the majority of the race, with some fantastic racing between Patrick Pillet and Darren Turner, eventually Aston Martin Racing would prevail, with the #97 entrant winning by 16 seconds over Porsche AG Team Manthey.
In Am, Aston Martin Racing completed the clean sweep of the GTE rankings, with a one-two class finish, the #98 leading the #95 home line-a-stern.
Overall the race, whilst frustrating for some, was a success. A good Prototype battle early on, came down to a strategy race for LMP1, with Audi been today’s unlikely winners. It does show how much can potentially happen, either through rules or on track races in a six hour race. The GT classes however I believe where the cars to watch today though, with some fantastic battles throughout.
It wasn’t all perfect this weekend, and COTA’s Astroturf took a heck of a beating in the TUSCC race earlier today, although the night racing in the wet conditions tonight made the circuit look absolutely spectacular and overall, I think “Lone Star Le Mans” in terms of on track action, away from the controversy was a success.