Porsche GT Factory Motorsports Director Marco Ujhasi believes tire longevity will be the “biggest challenge” in this afternoon’s Six Hours of Circuit of The Americas, with the GTE-Pro team best able to successfully double stint tires likely to come out on top.
New-for-2017 tire restrictions, which limits GTE-Pro cars to only four sets, plus two additional tires, for qualifying and the race, is expected to play a major factor in the hottest FIA World Endurance Championship race so far this season.
The reduction from six sets last year effectively leaves teams to double stint at least twice in a six-hour race, with the 90-plus degree Fahrenheit temperatures and nature of the F1 circuit set to cause further challenges to all teams.
“It will be the first race where it will be really, really difficult to survive tire-wise,” Ujhasi told Sportscar365.
“I heard everyone is struggling a bit, so that could play the biggest challenge, to survive tire-wise.
“That could be a real game changer. We saw very quick laps already but if you have to survive for a minimum one stint, maybe two stints. That means 60 laps… That’s tough.”
Both Porsche and Aston Martin have opted to use its “joker” tire compound this weekend, a permitted change from its nominated compounds made at the start of the season.
The switch could pay dividends for the pair of mid-engined Porsche 911 RSRs, which are still searching for its first WEC class win of the season.
Richard Lietz and Fred Makowiecki currently sit second in the GTE title race, with three podium class finishes in five races this season, and only eight points away from championship leaders Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx, of Ford.
“For me, this is the first real test of the double-stint story with the new generation of rules, tires and everything you need to survive,” Ujhasi said. “It could be a crazy race.”
“Can’t Compare” Previous COTA Experience
Despite making the first repeat visit to a track with its radical mid-engined GTE car, Ujhasi said the experience gained from Porsche’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team here in May does not come as a huge benefit.
“IMSA raced here but there were a few different circumstances, so you really can’t compare,” he said.
“BoP is the easiest to sort out but the ride heights, for example are different, the tires are different, the regulations are different.
“For sure it’s better than nothing, but not really useful, to be honest.”
Ujhasi, however, has been pleased with the overall progress of the car’s first year in international competition, with success already achieved in the U.S. with a maiden class victory in the IMSA race at Lime Rock Park in July.
“We’ve learned a lot this year, though, especially in the U.S., where the season is almost finished,” Ujhasi said. “It’s quite good.
“We found some things to improve, but in general, it wasn’t too bad from the beginning, so we’re not unhappy to see where we are at the moment.
“Some tracks fit better, some not that good, but that’s quite good.
“For WEC, we will see the second half of the season how it’s working there. So far, I’m quite happy with the achievements we’ve made.”