***Team orders came into play at Porsche for the third consecutive FIA World Endurance Championship race, which essentially handed the the win to the title-leading No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Brendon Hartley, Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard for the fourth time this season.
***It marked Bernhard and Hartley’s third straight win at Circuit of The Americas, in the WEC’s final appearance at the Texan track, and extends their and Bamber’s lead in the Drivers’ World Championship to 51 points over Toyota’s Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. Porsche, meanwhile, now has a nearly insurmountable 73.5-point lead in the Manufacturers’ World Championship with three races to go.
***Bernhard admitted in the post-race press conference that the late-race swap was a decision that was “clear from the beginning” although Hartley indicated that team orders could go the other way once they lock up the Drivers’ Championship. “There’s a high chance there will be reversed roles at the end of the year when we try and help them go second in the championship,” the Kiwi said.
***Reigning World Champion Neel Jani, who was again relegated to a runner-up finish, added: “We knew it would be the policy. Hopefully we seal it up quickly and then by the end of the year, we can race also the last six minutes!”
***After a dreadful qualifying, Toyota Gazoo Racing showed improved pace on Saturday, with the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid finishing within 25 seconds of the winning Porsche, in the closest-fought race since the Six Hours of Spa in May.
***The pair Toyotas held an advantage over double stinting its Michelin tires, with the No. 7 car starting the race on the hard compound and the No. 8 car on the new ‘Hard+’ alternative. Porsche elected to switch to the Hard+ tires after its first stints.
“That’s how we kept Porsche under control in the beginning because we had a very good second stint,” Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon told Sportscar365. “So it’s thanks to tire management that we could stay in contact.”
***While being “a few tenths” off on sheer pace to Porsche, Sebastien Buemi admitted they had to take risks on track in an attempt to keep up. “If you look at Kamui’s [Kobayashi] maneuvers in the race, we had to take so much more risk to make sure we could follow them,” said Buemi. “On worn tires, I think we were a bit more competitive but when they really needed to put the gap in, they were quicker than us.”
***The No. 7 Toyota was given a ten-second post-race time penalty for contact between Kobayashi and the No. 24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing Oreca 07 Gibson of Jean-Eric Vergne earlier in the race. The penalty was not declared until after the Toyota’s final pit stop.
***With their championship hopes virtually now over, Vasselon said their focus will shift to winning races, but did not rule out using team orders, if necessary.
***The No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR of Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre was handed a 20-second post-race time penalty due to the car’s refueling time being under the 35-second minimum for GTE-Pro. According to stewards, the refueling time was measured twice in the race and found to be “no less than 1 second” faster than the permitted time.
***The stewards determined a time penalty equivalent to the 1-second gained in each stop, multiplied by the number of stops completed (five), and then multiplied by four. Despite the penalty, the Porsche retained its second place finish in class.
***It is the first time a refueling time penalty was given, with the rule being introduced in principle at Le Mans, prior to an official bulletin having been distributed to competitors prior to this weekend.
***Nearly all drivers were forced to complete only single stints in the race, due to a maximum 80-minute continuous drive time rule enacted because of the heat. Drivers from both of the Ford GTs and factory Porsche 911 RSRs, however, managed to log nearly two-hour stints as their cockpit temperatures did not exceed the perceived ambient temperature, a loophole in the regulations that allowed longer drive times.
***A bulletin clarifying the regulation was distributed to teams on Thursday, which outlined changes made to the 80-minute rule since the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it nearly came into use.
“It is interesting to note that the LMP1 prototypes successfully double stinted [tires], even though the drivers themselves only completed one stint at a time due to the rule that restricts driving time in hot weather. This could be a pointer to a solution that could be seen in the future,” said Michelin Endurance Racing Program Manager Jerome Mondain.
***It was an up-and-down day for Signatech Alpine Matmut, which claimed its first LMP2 class win of the season, despite losing nearly two minutes on the track. The race’s only safety car period essentially eliminated their 40-second lead at the time, with a late-race pit stop to replace the car’s rear deck, due to a non-functioning left taillight, cutting Gustavo Menezes’ one-minute lead cut in half.
***A number of other LMP2 cars hit mechanical or electrical trouble, likely contributed to the heat. It included both TDS Racing-run entires, with power issues forcing the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca to the garage in the final hour, along with the team’s No. 28 entry.
***The No. 25 Manor Oreca, meanwhile, retired with electrical issues, having completed only 51 laps in the race. It came after the replacement of the wiring loom overnight. A power supply issue, which rendered the timing beacon useless, was among the issues the car faced in the race.
***Manor’s entry was one of two retirements, with the No. 86 Gulf Racing UK Porsche 911 RSR dropping out after a series of accidents from Mike Wainright, including an impact with the wall that required a brief safety car period for barrier repair.
***Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell saw their lead in the GT Drivers’ World Championship reduced to only six points following a season-low 7th place class finish, after getting hit by a Porsche at the start and struggling for grip. “Unfortunately the hard tire didn’t work for us, as the grip was not there, so we changed our strategy to the soft which meant more time in the pits as we could only do single stints,” Priaulx explained.
***The class-winning No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi ran on medium compounds, with the Porsches opting to use its “joker” for Michelin’s new hard option that is expected to be used for the remainder of the season, particularly in the highly abrasive circuits at Shanghai and Bahrain.
***The GTE-Am class-winning No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE lost more than a minute in the garage undergoing rear diffuser repairs after Paul Dalla Lana was hit by the No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE of Francesco Castellacci in the opening hour. The Canadian said he had to complete his opening stint without power steering, also as a result of the contact.
***There were also issues for the GTE-Am championship-leading No. 77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche in the race, with smoke from the left-rear detected prior to a lengthy trip to the garage in the final hour. Matteo Cairoli, Marvin Dienst and Christian Ried salvaged 4th place points.