Porsche Closes On Title After Another Swap
Autosport|September 21,2017

Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Nick Tandy were the moral victors, but had to hand the lead over to their team-mates. Again.

Gary Watkins

Porsche was kept honest by Toyota in Austin. But not quite honest enough to prevent the German manufacturer being able to invoke team orders once again to reverse the positions of its two 919 Hybrids during the closing moments of last weekend’s US round of the World Endurance Championship.

That meant Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber swept through to take a fourth consecutive WEC victory as they continued their seemingly inexorable advance to the drivers’ title. This time, though, they were definitely in the shadow of team-mates Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Nick Tandy. There was no doubt who the moral winners were at the Circuit of the Americas.

Porsche realigned the cars’ order out on the track this time, not in the pits as at the Nurburgring in July. The #1 Porsche actually had to move over twice for the sister car. First, Tandy yielded to Bamber after he emerged from the pits following the penultimate round of stops with the #2 car right on his tail.

A shorter stop when the two Porsches came in for a final long splash put Tandy back ahead. While the threat from the best of the Toyotas was still real – although very much fading – he pushed on into a 10-second lead before backing off and moving aside for his team-mate with eight minutes to go.

It was pretty much plain sailing for the drivers of the #1 car before those fateful calls came from the pitwall. The biggest dramas came when Lotterer got involved in a dramatic scrap with Jose Maria Lopez in the #7 Toyota TS050 HYBRID during the second hour as he battled his way past on fresher rubber, and then again when he was tagged by Kamui Kobayashi, who was a lap down in the same car, later in the race.

“Congratulations to the #1 car – they drove a great race and would have deserved victory,” said Bamber. “And Toyota kept us on our toes too.”

Jani reckoned he had a blast out on track in Austin, even if he and his team-mates were always expecting a radio message sometime late in the race. “We knew that would be the policy,” he said. “Hopefully they can sew up the championship quickly, so we can race for the final minutes as well as the rest of the six hours. It was a fun race, because we really were fighting.”

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