FIA WEC

FIA WEC: Six Hours of the Circuit of the Americas Preview

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AUSTIN, Texas — Usually the term “party crasher,” is used in a very negative way. This weekend at the Circuit of the Americas, the term will be used in a positive manner as four competitors from the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship will fly the flag for the up and coming unified series against the best from the rest of the world for six hours on Saturday afternoon and into the early evening hours.

For Extreme Speed Motorsports, Corvette Racing, Krohn Racing, and 8Star Motorsports their presence in this race adds some spice to an event that was a bit watered down when compared to its counterparts from the then split up Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series. While the event provides the one and only chance for American fans to see the best cars from the 24 Hours of Le Mans, due to the fact that LMP 1 eligible cars are not eligible to participate in the TUSCC with the exception of the DeltaWing DWC13 coupe, the lack for the most part of American teams in the event has perhaps led to a smaller interest in the event as opposed to the national tours.

That could change however for 2015, as Extreme Speed Motorsports and Paul Gentilozzi’s RSR Racing teams have both showed some interest in joining the FIA World Endurance Championship full-time, whilst focusing only on a handful of events if any in next year’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. While the race for ESM is perhaps a toes in the water test run for next year, for Corvette Racing it is a chance to prepare for battle in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans while also putting some miles on its test car in a race mode situation. Such feedback from this run could be used by the team for the upcoming 2014 season finale at Petit Le Mans in Atlanta, and for next season as well. Krohn and 8Star meanwhile, are regulars in the FIA WEC and are looking for glory in what is essentially their home race, especially for Tracy Krohn’s Ferrari 458 team who call Texas their home state.

While the Stars and Stripes representatives are the main draw at CoTA, the rest of the competitors on the entrant list have their own focus as most return to racing action for the first time since this past June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans race itself.

While Audi Sport Team Joest’s R18 diesel coupe claimed yet another victory at Circuit de la Sarthe, their grip on sports car racing domination that has lasted for nearly 15 years is in some jeopardy thanks to the breakthrough efforts from Toyota’s TS040 Hybrid coupe. In the third year of their current operations, Toyota started the 2014 FIA WEC campaign with a pair of victories at Silverstone and Spa-Francochamps, and while unable to stop Audi at Le Mans, the Japanese manufacturer still managed to reach the podium for the first time, claiming a third place result. For now, Toyota’s top entry driven by Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre, and Sebastian Buemi hold a twenty point cushion on the top Audi of Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer, and Marcel Fassler. As Audi and Toyota continue their battle, a third challenger Porsche has so far yet to make a major impact in the LMP-1 Hybrid class, claiming only a single podium in the season opener at Silverstone.

For the LMP-1 Lights division, Rebellion Racing’s solo races against itself will come to an end in Texas. Finally, after multiple delays Lotus’ new T129 coupe finally takes on competition this weekend. In terms of Lotus, it has been a rough two years since the start of their program last season. After failing to make a major dent in LMP2 in 2013, the manufacturer made an interesting move up to LMP-1 Lights for this season. However, the Romanian-based squad started late on development and was forced to skip the first two rounds of the FIA WEC and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. While a victory against the already proven in battle Oreca-Rebellion R-One Toyota is unlikely, it will be interesting to see how much work Lotus will have in front of them to get within a challenging position in the future.

For Extreme Speed Motorsports, only four challengers stand between them and a FIA WEC LMP2 class win. Facing the Honda ARX-03b are four Nissan-powered open topped prototypes, three ORECAs and one Morgan, the latter being similar to the one entered by OAK Racing in the TUSCC. Of those entries, G-Drive Racing (who is actually backed by OAK) and SMP Racing appear to be the biggest threats to ESM as the former won the first two rounds of the the FIA WEC and SMP was best among the Austin LMP2 entries at Le Mans. A few things will be new to ESM in this event however, the team will compete on Dunlop tires instead of the regular Continentals they are required to use in the TUSCC and the car will also run with less weight than it has in the same series. ESM lead driver Ryan Dalziel knows what it takes to win in the FIA WEC after leading Starworks Motorsports to the FIA WEC LMP2 series championship two years ago with essentially the same car he drives for ESM.

On paper, Corvette Racing’s task against the top dogs in the GTE-Pro category should be a much taller task. As is almost the case in the TUSCC, all of the GTE-Pro entries are factory supported and feature all of the technology quirks that General Motors exposes to the Corvette program. As for rivals, AF Corse’s fleet of Ferrari 458s appears to be the biggest challenger. The Italian squad has multiple finishes ahead of the Chevrolet Corvettes of the past and present at Circuit de la Sarthe and has been a common front runner in the FIA WEC. Also potent is the Porsche Team Manthey squad, which claimed a 1-2 result last year at Le Mans. While Ferrari and Porsche are a current proven commodity, the challenge of the Gulf Oil-liveried Aston Martin V8 Vantages has slowly regressed in 2014. After withdrawing from the TUSCC following a lackluster effort at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the team has continued to plummet in the FIA WEC, including an equally puzzling performance at Circuit de la Sarthe where a lack of straight-line speed was partly to blame. As for Corvette’s entry at CoTA, the team is not necessarily the same one that is often recognized in the TUSCC. Jordan Taylor and Ricky Taylor along with regular Corvette Racing driver Tommy Milner will handle the driving duties at CoTA. Jordan has only driven the C7.R once in his career to date, with that coming at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this past June, while his brother Ricky has yet to run a competitive lap in the machine.

For Krohn Racing and 8Star Motorsports, the GTE-Amateur class could allow for a possible victory. That is if Aston Martin falters. While the Pro category teams have struggled, the Amateur teams have claimed wins at both Silverstone and Le Mans this year. AF Corse also is a force in this division as well with a pair of Ferraris, having claimed the win earlier this year in the Amateur race at Spa-Francochamps.

While as mentioned the tasks will be difficult, it is certainly not out of the question that as many as three teams with TUSCC ties could grab the brass ring this weekend in the Six Hours of the Circuit of the Americas race.

Stay tuned to Rubbings Racing (@RubbingsRacing) and Matt Embury (@Matt Embury) on Twitter for complete coverage of the Six Hours of the Circuit of the Americas on Saturday afternoon and evening.

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About Matt Embury

Matt Embury is the Senior SportsCar Writer at Rubbings Racing and can be followed on Twitter (@MattEmbury) for the latest sports car news and opinions. A native of Mishawaka, Indiana, he has been following sports car racing for nearly 20 years.

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