Aston Martin Racing’s Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen extended their points lead in the FIA World Endurance GT drivers’ championship with victory in the 6 Hours of Circuit of The Americas.
The Danish pairing led most of the race in their class pole-sitting No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE and ultimately came away with their third win of the 2019-20 season.
Thiim took the checkered flag 4.210 seconds ahead of the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 driven by Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre, while Ferrari’s Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado completed the podium.
Aston Martin’s two works GTE-Pro cars ran first and second for large parts of Sunday’s race, but the No. 97 entry of Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin crossed the line in fourth.
Thiim and Lynn held a commanding 1-2 from the start until the early stages of the third hour, when the Manthey-run team released Christensen with a half set of Michelin tires in a move that wedged Porsche in between the two Astons.
Christensen emerged from the pits right on Thiim’s rear splitter but the Porsche driver faded and fell within striking range for Martin, who was in for Lynn, as the stint passed.
Martin overtook Christensen at the end of the hour to restore the Aston 1-2, but Porsche fought back courtesy of an on-track charge from Estre in Hour 4.
The Frenchman had been as low as fifth in the seven-car class but worked his way up to second and was running between the Vantages by the start of the fifth hour.
Porsche’s leading car remained in this spot through the final round of pit stops, during which the German manufacturer ate into Thiim’s advantage by opting for fuel only.
But despite the gap coming down from around ten seconds to three, Thiim was able to manage the length back to Christensen and secure the win for Aston Martin.
The Prodrive-run Aston squad had been aiming for a 1-2 finish, although Lynn couldn’t bridge the nine-second gap to Christensen in the final stint.
Instead, the Englishman came under pressure from Ferrari’s James Calado who made a pass around the outside at Turn 11 before drafting past on the back straight.
Prior to that, the AF Corse Ferrari team hadn’t been looking likely for a podium result. The No. 51 car ran most of the race locked in a battle for fourth with the No. 91 Porsche.
However, and electrical issue for the Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz-driven 911 RSR which caused the car to stop on track for the only Fully Course Yellow of the day effectively relieved Calado and Pier Guidi of their pressure.
Ferrari’s No. 71 car driven by Miguel Molina and Davide Rigon struggled to contend all afternoon and finished a minute and a half off the winners in fifth.
The new Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, which made its WEC debut, also lacked pace with Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller running trouble-free but finishing three laps down.
TF Sport on Top in Aston Martin GTE-Am 1-2
Charlie Eastwood, Salih Yoluc and Jonny Adam delivered TF Sport’s third GTE-Am class win of the season after a thrilling race-long battle with their Aston Martin counterparts Paul Dalla Lana, Ross Gunn and Darren Turner in the No. 98 AMR entry.
The TF Sport trio won after Eastwood made a pass on Gunn for the lead going into the Turn 13 right-hander with 20 minutes to go.
TF Sport’s Aston had led since midway through the fourth hour when Adam out-braked Egidio Perfetti’s No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR into the uphill Turn 1 left-hander.
Turner then overtook Perfetti and kept the No. 98 Aston on the TF car’s tail all the way through to the final round of pit stops when the two Vantages switched places.
Gunn, who had taken over from Turner at the penultimate stop, emerged with a marginal gap to fellow Aston Martin factory driver Eastwood and held this for about half an hour.
After making the move for the lead, Eastwood went on to eke out three seconds on Gunn by the checkered flag.
The first half of the race was dominated by the No. 56 Project 1 Porsche that Egidio Perfetti shared with Matteo Cairoli and Laurents Hörr.
This trio completed the podium after Cairoli held off Nicklas Nielsen in the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari that was also driven by Emmanuel Collard and Francois Perrodo.
Dempsey-Proton Racing’s No. 77 Porsche of Matt Campbell, Christian Ried and Riccardo Pera rounded out the top five.
RESULTS: 6H COTA