The Alley

WEC is COTA bound

For the second of their two North American races, the FIA World Endurance Championship returns to Austin, Texas for the 6 Hours of Circuit of The Americas.

Last year’s race was won by No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber. The pair swept the North American swing, winning at the 6 Hours of Mexico as well.

This year, Bernhard and Hartley have the chance to repeat the feat with new teammate Earl Bamber in the No. 2 919.

Should the trio win at COTA, it would be their fourth win in a row, following Mexico, Nurburgring, and Le Mans.

Coupled with their runner-up finish at the season opener in Silverstone and third place at Spa-Francorchamps, it’s no surprise that the No. 2 team has amassed a commanding championship lead.

Even if they should not win, the team has the opportunity to continue their run of 11 consecutive podium finishes, stretching back to Nurburgring 2016.

“After three wins in a row, we head to Austin with confidence and a kick in our step,” Hartley said

“Austin is a great track and a city we all enjoy visiting.

“I expect Toyota will be closer than in Mexico and will put up a big fight.

“Our goal is clear, keep extending our championship lead.”

Behind the No. 2 Porsche in the championship standings runs the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, sitting on 93 points to the Porsche’s 134.

After winning the opening two rounds of the championship, the team’s results have fallen off slightly, with their best finish in the last three races coming at Mexico City where they rallied to finish third.

However, the team has been dealt a blow with Brit Anthony Davidson bowing out of the COTA weekend, citing personal reasons. The Brit will be replaced by experienced racer, and part-time Toyota driver, Stephane Sarrazin.

The No. 95 Aston Martin took victory at Circuit of The America’s in 2016 and, coming off their Mexico City win, will be hard to beat in Austin, but revised Balance of Performance for the Ford GT could put the No. 67 championship leading and sister No. 66 cars back at the front of the pack after spending the last two races off the podium.

Second place in the GTE-Pro championship, the No. 91 of Fred Makowiecki and Richard Lietz, sits just eight points behind the Ford of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell, but are still chasing their first win of the season.

“COTA is a track that I love,” Priaulx said.

“We were in with a chance of a podium last year and now we have a lot more experience behind us, which will help us with things like tyre management.

“I’m feeling very positive at the moment as we are heading into a run of tracks that are good for us: COTA, Fuji and Shanghai. Let’s hope we can start off a strong run at COTA.”

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