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COTA Post-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s post-race notebook from Sunday’s Lone Star Le Mans at COTA…

Photo: John Rourke/Adrenal Media

***Rebellion Racing scored its second overall victory on-the-road in the FIA World Endurance Championship and third-ever for the Swiss squad, in what could arguably be said was its best performance to date.

***Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon, however, believed that Rebellion wasn’t maximizing its stint length in the race. “I would have expected Rebellion to have done 25 laps,” he told Sportscar365. “I don’t know why they were at 23 or 24 [laps]. It seems like they were not maximizing what they had.”

***Gustavo Menezes became the first American driver to win a WEC race overall on home soil. The Los Angeles native claimed his third consecutive class victory at Circuit of The Americas in the process, after LMP2 wins with Signatech Alpine in 2016 and 2017.

***Toyota Gazoo Racing’s lead in the LMP1 World Endurance Championship teams’ standings has been reduced to 33 points ahead of next month’s 1000 Miles of Sebring, which will award 1.5x points.

***Meanwhile, only five points separate Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway from their No. 8 Toyota teammates Brendon Hartley, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi in the World Endurance Drivers’ Championship.

***This means the No. 7 Toyota will continue to run with the largest Success Handicap when the series next meets for the 1000 Miles of Sebring, although its main rivals are set to be made closer.

***Success Handicap, combined with the colder February conditions, meant the fastest LMP1 race lap was 2.5 seconds slower than the record set in September 2016. Norman Nato was quickest on Sunday, set a time of 1:49.503 for Rebellion, which compared to the 1:47.052 that Loic Duval posted in an Audi in 2016.

***However, lap records were set in the other three classes, courtesy of Nyck de Vries (LMP2), Nicki Thiim (GTE-Pro) and Matt Campbell (GTE-Am).

***Rebellion’s Menezes hit 300 km/h (186.4 mph) on the COTA back straight during the race, marking the highest speed trap figure of the weekend. The sports car speed record at the track is 305.9 km/h (190 mph) registered by Lucas di Grassi in an Audi R18 e-tron quattro in 2015.

***Phil Hanson said it was a “rollercoaster” kind of day for United Autosports, with its LMP2 class win being “much more difficult” than its breakthrough victory in Bahrain in December. “I managed to get us into the lead in both of my stints,” Hanson said. “I enjoyed my second one better but overall I felt I put in a strong and solid performance.”

***It marked the 100th win by an ORECA chassis in LMP2 competition.

***Hanson and co-driver Filipe Albuquerque now hold a four-point lead over Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Ho-Pin Tung, Will Stevens and Gabriel Aubry in the title race. 

***The No. 21 DragonSpeed Oreca was forced to make a late trip to the garage when Ben Hanley lost pressure in the front brakes in the closing ten minutes. A quick repair by the Elton Julian-led squad saw the car return to action although it finished ninth in class. 

***Jota Sport’s Anthony Davidson, who finished third in LMP2, admitted he thought he was battling for position with the United Oreca in the closing stages of the race. “I was surprised because I wasn’t told that he was coming up to lap me at the end!” he told Sportscar365. “I was really surprised when they told me that they had won.”

***GTE-Pro and GTE-Am class victories for Aston Martin on Sunday have given the British manufacturer six out the possible ten wins in the production-based ranks so far this season.

***Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorenensen’s GTE-Pro win gave the Danish Aston pairing a 26-point lead in the GT drivers’ standings over Ferrari’s James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi, who finished third.

***Aston customer TF Sport, meanwhile, closed the gap in the GTE-Am championship to two points. AF Corse’s Emmanuel Collard, Francois Perrodo and Nicklas Nielsen took over the sole lead of the championship by finishing fourth for the third race in a row.

***Paul Dalla Lana completed the opening 1 hour and 56 minutes in the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE while nursing an Achilles tendon injury to his left leg. The Canadian impressively ran inside the top-three in class for the duration of his double stint before handing over to co-drivers Ross Gunn and Darren Turner. “Paul’s double stint at the beginning of the race was epic,” said Turner.

***AMR got ahead of TF Sport at the final round of pit stops by changing its Aston’s left-side tires only, while TF opted for a full service. This led to Charlie Eastwood chasing down fellow works driver Gunn and making the pass for the win in the final stint. “It was a bit of a sinking feeling watching them drive past, but I knew that we were going to have a bit more pace with four brand new tires,” Eastwood told Sportscar365.

***The No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR was the only GTE-Pro car to hit trouble in the race when Gianmaria Bruni stopped on track with electrical-related shifting issues. The car was later taken to the garage to replace its battery in the final hour, relegating Bruni and Richard Lietz to a seventh-place class finish.

***Hopes of a victory on home soil for Ben Keating was dashed in the fourth hour when his Team Project 1 Porsche suffered gearshift issues in the fourth hour, requiring a ECU change. The Texan had 200 guests at COTA last weekend.

***High Class Racing team principal Peter Utoft told Sportscar365 that the signing of new race engineer Franck Larue was “part of the story” of the team’s switch to Michelin tires. The Danish LMP2 outfit finished seventh in its first race since switching from Goodyear.

***Sunday’s contest marked the fifth time that a WEC race has run without no retirements. The other instances were the 6 Hours of Spa and 6 Hours of Fuji last year, the 6 Hours of Bahrain in 2015 and the 6 Hours of COTA in 2013.

***An exception is the 2013 race at Fuji, which featured no retirements but also had no green flag laps because of poor weather.

***TVR decals were removed from the nose of the Rebellion prior to the start of the race on Sunday. Sportscar365 understands the team’s sponsorship contract with the British automaker expired at the end of the 2019 calendar year. The deal was initially announced in April 2018 at the WEC Prologue, prior to the start of the ‘Super Season’.

***WEC CEO Gerard Neveu said last weekend’s two-day event will be more of the “exception” than the norm moving forward, stating that the championship “had to adapt” due to the cancelation of the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo.

***COTA marked only the third two-day event for the series since its launch, with Spa having hosted the other two condensed weekends in 2013 and 2014.

***The WEC reported an attendance of 22,000 spectators over the weekend.

***Seth Thompson, a 23-year-old WEC fan from the Dallas area (pictured below), was randomly selected as the event’s Grand Marshal. Thompson waved the green flag that signaled the cars off the grid.

Photo: John Rourke/Adrenal Media

Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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