The pair of Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSRs enjoyed their second successive dominant outing in the FIA World Endurance Championship, completing a 1-2 finish in GTE-Pro in Saturday’s Six Hours of Circuit of The Americas.
As at the Nürburgring last month, the No. 91 Porsche driven by Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz took the win over the sister No. 92 car of Patrick Pilet and Fred Makowiecki.
The GTE-Pro race was relatively static for the majority of the race, with the key lead change between the two cars coming at the start of the fifth hour.
Following a pit stop sequence when Christensen handed to Lietz and Pilet to Makowiecki, the No. 91 car leapfrogged the No. 92 car.
Lietz made his final pit stop with 45 minutes remaining, handing back to Christensen. The No. 92 car made its final stop with 43 remaining with Pilet in to finish and Christensen regaining the lead for the final time, and winning by 7.768 seconds.
As at the Nürburgring, the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia of Davide Rigon and James Calado finished third, following a trouble-free drive.
The trio of GTE-Pro class Aston Martin Vantage V8s were never factors and ended fourth through sixth.
The No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia of Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni had its race end poorly in the fifth hour when its left side door came loose, and was issued a black and orange flag to pit to repair the damage. They made the finish, albeit last in seventh.
GTE-Am was a bit more entertaining with a three-way fight materializing late between the No. 72 SMP Racing and No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italias, and the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR for the win.
SMP Racing eventually prevailed for the third successive race following a particularly dynamic pair of stints by Andrea Bertolini and Victor Shaytar in the fifth and sixth hours.
In the fifth hour, Patrick Dempsey started his final stint with a 2.2 second lead over Francois Perrodo in the No. 83 Ferrari, but Perrodo quickly erased that gap and pulled out a lead of 23-plus seconds on his own.
Bertolini went from 28 back of AF Corse’s Bronze-rated driver to just 8.0 seconds back before their last scheduled stop.
The race changed there as Shaytar, who took over from Bertolini, exited with a smooth stop while Perrodo’s co-driver Rui Aguas was left delayed by an apparent battery issue, that cost that car upwards of 40 seconds.
It left Bertolini, Shaytar and Alexey Basov to pick up the spoils for the third straight race, and also score their fifth podium in as many races.
Aguas, who’d lost time, was then left to defend against Dempsey’s teammate Marco Seefried and the No. 88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR of Earl Bamber for the remaining podium positions.
Bamber passed Seefried for third with a half hour left, and got past Aguas for second shortly thereafter for second. Aguas held off Seefried for the final podium spot.
Bamber shared his car with Khalid Al Qubaisi and Christian Ried, while Aguas shared the car with Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard.
The change in position between the two GTE-Am Porsches cost the Dempsey-Proton team of Dempsey, Seefried and Patrick Long a podium on home soil. Fourth was a tough result to swallow as the No. 77 car led a majority of the opening four hours.
Lietz will extend his lead in the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers with this result, as will the SMP Racing trio in the FIA Endurance Trophy for GTE-Am Drivers.
RESULTS: Six Hours of Circuit of The Americas