Porsche drivers Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber claimed a fourth consecutive World Endurance Championship victory in Austin Saturday, but it needed another display of team orders from the German manufacturer for its championship leaders to take the win.
Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Nick Tandy had the edge on their teammates around the Circuit of the Americas and it was only with eight minutes of the six hours to go that Bamber sealed the win when Tandy slowed and moved over. The Briton then tailed the sister Porsche 919 Hybrid to the flag, taking the checkered flag just two tenths behind.
Tandy had earlier moved over to let Bamber past for a first time with just over one hour to go, only to retake the lead when the No. 1 Porsche needed less fuel at its final splash-and-dash pitstop.
"Congratulations to the number one car," said Bamber. "They drove a great race and would have deserved victory. And Toyota kept us on our toes, too."
Porsche might have taken a third consecutive one-two, but it was put under pressure by Toyota. The Japanese manufacturer's TS050 Hybrid was a much more competitive proposition than it had been in Mexico City last month – and much more of a force than it had been in qualifying.
The two Toyotas, started by Sebastien Buemi and Mike Conway, got between the two Porsches on the opening lap. And when they didn't change tires and the Porsches did at the first round of pitstops, they moved into the lead.
Toyota ultimately couldn't sustain its challenge for the full duration of the race. Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Stephane Sarrazin, who was subbing for Anthony Davidson, ultimately finished third, just over 20 seconds back from the winning car. The sister TS050, in which Conway was joined by Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez, was a further 20s in arrears at the finish.Reigning LMP2 champion team Signatech Alpine finally chalked up its first class victory of the season despite a late-race scare.
Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Andre Negrao dominated the P2 on the way to a 20 second victory aboard their Alpine-badged ORECA-Gibson 07. They had been nearly a minute up until stopping to change the rear bodywork to fix faulty brake lights with nine minutes to go.
Signatech ran only on the hard Dunlop tire, while their rivals tried and failed to make the soft compound work at the beginning of the race.
Second and third positions were taken by the two Rebellion. Nelson Piquet Jr, Mathias Beche and David Heinemeier Hansson took second, while Bruno Senna, Nicolas Prost and Julien Canal were third just 3s in areas after losing the better part of half a minute when the car was dropped off its jacks before its tire change was complete.
James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi held on to take GTE Pro honors for the AF Corse Ferrari team despite twice losing a lead of more than half a minute. They lost their advantage with the safety car only to rebuild it before a late-race rear puncture brought the Ferrari 488 GTE into the pits.
Pier Guidi rejoined right in front of the second-place Porsche of Michael Christensen, but Pier Guidi was to pull away to a five-second victory over the 911 RSR the Dane shared with Kevin Estre.
The second factory Ferrari took third in the hands of Sam Bird and Davide Rigon. They had battled with the sister car during the opening hours, but ultimately lost time with a different tire strategy that didn't pay off.
GT championship leader Ford had a disaster on home ground. The Ganassi team couldn't make the Ford GT work on either of the two Michelin compounds available to it, its two cars ending up at the back of the class field in seventh and eighth positions.
Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy came back from an early delay to notch up their second GTE Am win of the season for Aston Martin Racing. The car needed a short trip into the garage to repair the rear diffuser after Dalla Lana was hit by Francesco Castellacci in the AF-run Spirit of Race Ferrari.
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