Anthony Davidson has admitted that Jota Sport “never had an advantage” over its class rivals in the 6 Hours of Circuit of The Americas.
Davidson, Antonio Felix da Costa and Roberto Gonzalez earned their third straight LMP2 class podium to remain in the title hunt and were regulars in the top three, but didn’t feel as though they had a shot at winning the fifth round of the 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship season.
Their car and the other Jota-run Oreca, under the Jackie Chan DC Racing banner, were both compromised by their need to save fuel throughout the race.
The victory ultimately went to United Autosports’ Oreca of Paul di Resta, Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque, who moved into the lead of the drivers’ championship.
The United trio went off-strategy early on which enabled the two Jota-run cars and Racing Team Nederland to come to the fore, but Davidson reckoned their time at the front wasn’t reflective of the general pace.
“On our car we were saving fuel to hit our targets, just sticking to the plan,” Davidson told Sportscar365.
“We didn’t have the ultimate pace to do anything today. In terms of pace alone, we really didn’t deserve a podium, but our driver combination made it work.
“With Roberto doing a good job as our Silver driver he really made the podium result today.
“We really struggled with the balance at certain points in the race and all the way through the weekend.”
Davidson went as far as describing the Jota Oreca at COTA as one of the trickiest cars he’s ever driven.
Part of the difficulty came down to the intermittent track surface which contained new sections of repaved asphalt laid down in the weeks leading up to the WEC race.
“It was pretty bumpy and we were touching the ground a lot,” said Davidson.
“That was part of our problem all week, lots of touching and bouncing. Every time we tried to rectify that it made the actual balance of the car and the grip worse.
“It was, honestly speaking, one of the hardest cars I’ve driven in my career.
“We were really struggling and were way off our practice times. We were doing 1:54s consistently in practice and we were doing 1:56 and 57s in the race.
“We never had an advantage, that’s for sure. I tried to limit the wear in the first stint in the hope of making the second stint better and it didn’t really materialize.”
Davidson suggested that the class-winning United Autosports Oreca was the strongest LMP2 car despite it running on an alternative strategy for most of the six hours.
“They were in trouble in the second stint at the start of the race,” said Davidson.
“I overtook Paul [di Resta] at that point and pulled away, but then they started to come back and their pace was very strong all the way through the race.
“They were consistently the fastest team again, and all three of their drivers combined to do the best job.”
United “Surprised” at Win after Early Setback
Albuquerque admitted that United did not expect to recover from its early tire selection mishap to claim a second consecutive class victory.
The team started out using Michelin’s soft compound tires on which Albuquerque and Hanson qualified, but this backfired when di Resta started struggling with extreme wear.
It resulted in the Scot bringing the car into the pits 11 laps early, which sent it off-sequence for the remainder of the race.
“We were surprised that we came back from our turbulent first two hours,” said Albuquerque. “But we were able to sit back and see what was going on with the others’ strategies.
“Some of them needed to do another pit stop so we came back on that and it was just brilliant in the end.
“It was surprising to see what the pace of everyone was. You could see that some guys were struggling with their tires on their second stints.”
Di Resta added that United’s second win of the season provides it with a significant boost heading into the final three rounds at Sebring, Spa and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“Fortunately, we left all the strong points in terms of strategy to the end, which made a difference,” he said.
“To get back to back wins is key for our championship. Momentum is on our side going into Sebring and hopefully this combination can go there and complete the hat-trick.”