It always looked like pole would be Porsche’s to lose at Austin, but the German marque almost lost a front row start until a startling recovery from Nick Tandy saw both 919 Hybrid’s lock out the front row for the 6 Hours of COTA.
The Porsche’s would head out first, but a wide run from Jani saw him miss the first apex and cost him dearly on his first run. Meanwhile, both Toyota’s would wait until Porsche finished their first runs. When the Toyota’s did venture out, a poor first run from Sebastien Buemi saw the Swiss driver lose six tenths in the middle sector alone.
The number 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid would again run wide, but this time with Nick Tandy at the wheel – falling foul of the track limits at turn 19 and having his time deleted in the process. Bamber, Kazuki Nakajima and Mike Conway were the top three runners with three minutes left on the clock.
A stunning comeback from Nick Tandy however saw him finally achieve a clean run and snatch pole position from the sister Porsche by half a second.
The Vallainte Rebellion enties of Bruno Senna and Matthias Beche weren’t messing about on their warm-up laps and would hit the top of the timesheets immediately. TDS’s Racing’s Matthieu Vaxiviere would fight the final podium spot out with the number 24 G-Drive entry of Jean-Eric Vergne.
Nicolas Lapierre was on a flyer but would be half a second shy of the time required to get the overall best time but was enough to put Signatech Alpine in P1 ahead of the number 13 Vallainte Rebellion of David Heinemeier Hansson and the number 38 DC Jackie Chan Racing entry of Thomas Laurent.
In GTE Pro, Michael Christensen immediately showed more pace for Porsche by going provisional quickest in the number 91 machine, but would immediately be usurped by the GT Fords of Priaulx and Pla – who in turn were pipped by the 488 Ferrari of Davide Rigon.
With much time to be lost after fresh tyres lost their best after one run, it would be crucial for the second drivers to get the best out of their used sets. Harry Tincknell and in particular AF Corse’s Sam Bird found something in the final sector to go first and second for Ferrari and Ford. Marco Sorensen would finish third for Aston Martin in the number 95 car.
In GTE Am Pedro Lamy was the first to set about preparing for a qualifying lap but found himself compromised behind the Clearwater Ferrari? A poor last sector from Aston team-mate Nicki Thiim would see the Ferrari jump ahead. Seeing an opportunity, the number 77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche decided a tyre change would be advantageous and a wise move given both Thiim and Porsche’s Fred Makoweicki could not improve overall lap time despite purple first sectors.
Paul Dalla Lana would back up Matthias Lauda to eventually top GTE Am ahead of the Clearwater Ferrari of Thomas Flohr and Matt Griffin.
Image: Richard Washbrooke Photography, Adrenal Media/FIAWEC
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