The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, will be the venue for the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) on 20th September. The six-hour race will start at 5pm with the sun setting at 7.43pm.
This schedule makes it the maiden night race for COTA, while the six Porsche 919 Hybrid works drivers have all the experience from Le Mans in how to deal with twilight and darkness. The circuit in the US poses quite a variety of challenges: The start-finish-straight leads steeply up the hill and into a left-hand hairpin. Other exciting sections of the circuit are borrowed from famous racetracks of all over the world. They are reminiscent, for example, of the Esses at Suzuka, Maggots-Beckets at Silverstone and the Hockenheim Motodrom. The back straight is an impressive 1.2 kilometre stretch.
With its hybrid powered Le Mans Prototype (LMP1), the Porsche Team enters the most innovative race car in the entire field and has set itself high targets for the remaining five rounds of the World Championship. To recall what has happened so far: At the Porsche 919 Hybrid’s race debut in Silverstone (Great Britain), the team was instantly rewarded with a podium finish. It was the trio in car number 20 who came third – Timo Bernhard (Germany), Brendon Hartley (New Zealand) and Mark Webber (Australia). At the second WEC round in Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium), again a six-hour race, the crew of the sister number 14 car got into the limelight by taking the first pole position. Number 14 is driven by Romain Dumas (France), Neel Jani (Switzerland) and Marc Lieb (Germany).
At the third and most famous WEC race, the Le Mans 24-Hours, the team put in a strong performance, but only car number 14 finished the race – in 11th place overall after time consuming gearbox repairs in the final hours. For Bernhard/Hartley/Webber it was even harder: car number 20 had been leading for 37 laps and was well on track for a second place finish when Mark Webber had to retire the car two hours before the end, because of an engine failure.
Since that day, 15th of June, the Porsche Team has used the break well for development work at the headquarters in Weissach and for testing in Paul Ricard (France), at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz in Germany and, again in France, at Magny-Cours. A new aero package has been introduced to provide a higher downforce level for the remaining rounds in Austin, Fuji, Shanghai, Sakhir and Sao Paulo. Furthermore a lot of details have been improved, which wasn’t possible before Le Mans as the team had to focus on reliability and had to freeze the car’s specification.
Racing in Austin will be a first for Timo as he's never raced there before:
“I’m the only driver of car number 20 who hasn’t raced in Austin yet. But I know the track from the simulator in Weissach and, of course, I spoke with Mark and Brendon. It is a varied and demanding circuit. I can’t wait to take the car with a decent downforce level through the fast corners. Driving at night puts extra excitement into the race. I love racing in the dark and I hope to get the opportunity to do so again in Austin. The tricky time is before sunset when the sun is really low. You have got to be extra careful in the twilight before darkness, and your windscreen should be clean. Since Le Mans we are even more of a team than before, we are very close now – and highly motivated.”