Porsche came into this event with momentum in both LMP1 and GT Pro classes. Porsche’s LMP1 team claimed a 1-2 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and its top finishing full-time car in that race, the #17, went on to win the following (and most recent) race at Nurburgring. The team leads the LMP1 manufacturers title chase, and Richard Lietz is on top in the GT drivers championship, having also won GTE Pro at Nurburgring. And as an extra bonus for the US round, Dempsey-Proton racing (#77 Porsche 911 RSR; Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Long) won its first WEC pole in GTE Am.
But Audi Sport Team Joest has done well here in its first two visits and seemed to have renewed resolve in discussions preceding the race. Aston Martin has also found a home away from home at COTA, and won pole this weekend over Lietz, with another Aston in third.
The two Porsches held down the front row, the #18 Porsche Team 919 Hybrid (Neel Jani, Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas) besting the #17 (Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley) with the #8 Audi R18 e-tron quattro (Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval, Oliver Jarvis) third quickest.
KCMG topped LMP2 qualifying, the #47 Oreca 05-Nissan (Matthew Howson, Richard Bradley, Nicolas Lapierre) outpacing both the #26 (Roman Rusinov, Julien Canal, Sam Bird) and #28 (Gustavo Yacaman, Luis Felipe Derani, Ricardo Gonzalez) G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2-Nissans.
The #99 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 (Alex MacDowall, Fernando Rees, Richie Stanaway) and its #97 sister car (Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke, Jonathan Adam) sandwiched the #91 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR (Lietz, Michael Christensen) in the first three spots on the GTE Pro grid.
GTE Am was led to start by the Dempsey-Proton Porche, the #96 Aston Martin (Francesco Castellacci, Roald Goethe, Stuart Hall), and the #83 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Itala (Francois Perrodo, Emmanual Collard, Rui Aguas).
Porsche held onto the Top 2 spots at the start, Webber passing Jani, Di Grassi running third and the #1 Toyota Racing TS040 Hybrid (Sebastien Buemi) moving into fourth. Turner drove the #97 Aston from third to first, with the #92 Porsche surging to second (Frederic Makowiecki), and Lietz in third.
Bird led LMP2 in the #26 G-Drive, followed by Yacaman in the #28, and Ryan Dalziel (#30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P2-Honda) for an all Ligier Top 3 in the early running. Patrick Long led GTE Am, passing the two pro factory Ferraris in the first few minutes. Hall was second in the #96 Aston, followed by Paolo Ruberti in the #50 Labre Competition Corvette C7.R.
Lotterer passed Buemi to take fourth back for Audi. In the meantime, Makowiecki and Lietz both drove past the Aston, putting Turner in third 10 min in. Dalziel passed Yacaman for second in LMP2 19 min into the race. The #50 Corvette ran second in GTE Am, with Viktor Shaytar (#72 SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia) moving into third as Hall slipped to P5.
Lapierre moved the #47 KCMG into third in LMP2 with 22 min gone and into second 15 min later, dropping Dalziel to third. Gianmaria Bruni (#51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia) ran third in GTE Pro, behind the two Porsches as Turner continued to fade. GTE Am ran Long, Shaytar, Ruberti 40 min into the race.
Bird pitted from the LMP2 lead at the 43-min mark, Dalziel and Yacaman following and leaving Lapierre in the KCMG out front. Jani pitted from overall second 49 min in, Lieb taking over. LMP2 ran Dalziel, Canal, and Oliver Webb (#43 Team Sard Morand Morgan Evo-SARD) after the first round of pit stops.
Webber pitted his Porsche the lap after Jani, handing off to Hartley. Once the LMP1 cycle was complete, Hartley led Lieb followed by Oliver Jarvis in the #8 Audi. GT stops started 58 min into the race, Lietz the first Pro driver to come in. Makowiecki came in from the Pro lead with 4:58 remaining. Canal began pressuring Dalziel for the LMP2 lead, with Bradley passing both at 4:53.
When the GT stops were completed Christensen led Pilet in the #91 and #92 Porsches, ahead of Toni Vilander in the #51 Ferrari. Dempsey topped GTE Am, leading Aleksey Basov in the #72 Ferrari and Castellacci in the #96 Aston.
With 4:47 left to run Hartley led Lieb by 19.975 sec and Jarvis by 29.354. Bradley was 11.949 sec in front of Dalziel in LMP2, Christensen 3.161 up on Pilet, and Basov running just 0.535 sec behind Dempsey.
Canal ran second in LMP2 behind Bradley at 4:28, Paul-Loup Chatin having moved into third in the #36 Signatech Alpine A450B-Nisssan. Basov passed Dempsey to take the GTE Am lead.
Hartley made his second stop with 4:14 to go, Webber getting back behind the wheel with Bernhard yet to drive. Dumas, meanwhile, took his first stint in the #18, with Jarvis going two straight in the #8 Audi. Bradley led Canal and Nelson Panciatici in the #36 Alpine.
The races first full-course caution came out at 4:02 when Ed Brown beached the #31 Extreme Speed Ligier after nearly rolling following hard contact with the inside curb. Any of the GT field that had not already done so made their second stop during the caution. The day also worsened for the #30 ESM machine, which was pulled into the garage with mechanical difficulties. Canal also completed his third stop under the yellow, Rusinov taking over.
GT Pro ran Makowiecki, Lietz, and Vilander once everyone had returned to the track. Seefried took over in the #77, retaining the GTE Am lead over the #96 Aston and the #83 Ferrari. The yellow was extended by barrier repair.
The #8 Audi’s pit stop was under investigation when racing resumed. Aguas passed the #96 to take second in GTE Am at with just under 3:36 left. Rusinov led LMP2 over Gonzalez in the #28 G-Drive sister car. Scott Sharp had the #30 ESM back in the fray, running third with 3:10 to go. GTE Am saw a Proton 1-2, with Seefried leading Earl Bamber—doing double duty after racing for Porsche North America in the Tudor event--in the #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton machine. Aguas ran third.
A local yellow flew at Turn 11A right before the halfway point when Mike Conway spun and hit the guardrail hard in the #2 Toyota. Full-course yellow followed minutes later. Bernhard led Jani and Duval in the #8 Audi. Howson had moved up to second in LMP2 in the KCMG, between Rusinov in the lead the Alpine in third. Pilet led Christiansen in a Porsche 1-2 atop GT Pro, with Vilander third.
Green-flag racing resumed with 2:47 left. The #8 Audi, still running third, received a 1-min stop/go penalty from the earlier pit-infraction investigation. Duval brought the car in to serve it at 2:40. The penalty moved Marcel Fassler in the #7 into third, but 1:12.554 behind the second-place Porsche. Collard drove the #83 Ferrari past Christian Ried in the #88 Proton Porsche to take second in GTE Am.
The #17 race-leading Porsche was given a 1-min stop/go penalty with 2:14 to go in the race for a pit stop infringement. The penalty put Jani in the #18 sister car in the lead. The #17 took its fifth pit stop 12 min later, allowing the #7 Audi driven by Fassler to move into P2. The #7, however, came in for its fifth stop at 1:58. Bernhard moved back into second and the #8 Audi into third.
With 1:56 left in the race, Jani led Bernhard by 1:07.919 and Duval by nearly one lap. But Jani had only stopped four times. Meanwhile, Matt Howson was driving the #47 KCMG at the front of LMP2, 15.770 sec ahead of Sam Bird in the #26 G-Drive. GTE Pro remained tight. Pilet led Christensen by 2.992 sec, Vilander by 24.548 sec, and James Calado in the #71 AF Corse by 37.152. Patrick Long led GTE Am by 9.881 sec over Collard in the Ferrari.
Bird and the KCMG flipped spots, with the G-Drive building a nearly one-lap lead in LMP2 by the 90-min mark. The Porsches also traded spots at the top of GTE Pro, the #91 piloted by Leitz now leading the #92 with Makowiecki driving. And GTE Am also saw a 1-2 swap Perrodo passing Dempsey to take the lead; Ferrari over Porsche.
Jani came in for his fifth stop with 1:13 remaining, with Dumas getting behind the wheel and the #17 moving to the front. Bird pitted from the LMP2 lead and retained the spot. The #17 then pitted, Hartley taking over as the #18 returned to the front. The SMP #72 Ferrari also made it past Dempsey to take second in GTE Am.
With 60 min of competition left, Hartley had trimmed his sister car’s lead to 59.827 sec and himself led Di Grassi by 53.806. Bird led Lapierre in the KCMG by 41.683 sec. Lietz’s lead over Makowiecki was 1.011 sec. He held a 29.784-sec advantage over Davide Rigon in the #71 Ferrari. Dempsey returned to the lead in GTE Am, by 19.884 sec over Matthias Lauda in the #98 Aston Martin and 37.898 over Shaytar in the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari. He had, however, only pitted 4 times, as compared with 6 for Lauda and 5 for Shaytar.
With just more than 30 min remaining the #18 Porsche pitted and was rolled back into the garage, crews cooling the front brakes. Its in-lap was 2:04.254. Dumas remained in the car, which had fallen to P5. The Top 4 were now Hartley, Lotterer, Di Grassi, and Kaz Nakajima in the #1 Toyota. Bird continued to lead Lapierre in LMP2; Christensen, Pilet in GTE Pro. Shaytar was on top of Bamber, Aguas, and Seefried in GTE Am.
Dumas got out with 20 min left in the race, the car experiencing electrical problems. The #47 KCMG was given stop/go penalty with 17 min for a pit stop infraction. Hartley set a new fastest lap at 1:47.412.
The #18 retook the track in P12 overall, but the final lap had already been called.
#17 Porsche Team 919 Hybrid; Timo Bernard (Germany), Mark Webber (Australia), Brendon Hartley (New Zealand)
#7 Audi Sport Team Joest R18 e-tron quattro; Marcel Fassler (Switzerland), Andre Lotterer (Germany), Benoit Treluyer (France)
#8 Audi; Lucas di Grassi (Brazil), Loic Duval (France), Oliver Jarvis (Great Britain)
#26 G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2-Nissan; Roman Rusinov (Russia), Julien Canal (France), Sam Bird (Great Britain)
#47 KCMG Oreca 05-Nissan; Matthew Howson (Great Britain), Richard Bradley (Great Britain), Nicolas Lapierre (France)
#28 G-Drive; Gustavo Yacaman (Colombia), Luis Felipe Derani (Brazil), Ricardo Gonzalez (Mexico)
#91 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR; Richard Lietz (Austria), Michael Christensen (Denmark)
#92 Porsche; Patrick Pilet (France), Frederic Makowiecki (France)
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia; Davide Rigon (Italy), James Calado (Great Britain)
#72 SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia; Victor Shaytar (Russia), Andrea Bertolini (Italy), Aleksey Basov (Russia)
#88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR; Christian Ried (Germany), Khaled Al Qubaisi (United Arab Emirates), Earl Bamber (New Zealand)
#83 AF Corse Ferrari; Francois Perrodo (France), Emmanuel Collard (France), Rui Aguas (Portugal)