eRacing Magazine Vol 2. Issue 9 - Page 28

Imagine the German landscape for a moment. One might picture the snowy Bavarian Alps or the merciless, rainy, “green hell” of the Nordschleife. There, cars are built to handle treacherous conditions and manufacturers have excelled in creating new technologies to address this type of challenging terrain. An esteemed auto industry (with the exception of “Dieselgate”) is a point of pride in Germany and the top LMP1 contenders of Porsche, Toyota, and Audi have factories in the country.

Now imagine Texas in September. This is a stark contrast, no doubt. The desert like conditions are so scalding that even native Austinites refuse to leave the comfort of air conditioning. Car engines suffer as cooling systems are strained. WEC man and machines are seriously tested in this heat. “I think the 2 worst times to come to Texas are in the winter and in the summer,” says ESM Racing’s Ryan Dalziel. “Once you start dehydrating and seeing stars, it’s not fun.”

This was certainly the theme at the fifth round of the World Endurance Championship at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Hot steamy weather throughout WEC’s day-through-dark race made it extremely difficult for drivers to survive through the grueling six hours. Second to weather was the threat of defeat to the indomitable Porsche team. While Toyota’s drivers Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin admitting they were already focusing on strategy for the 2016 season, Audi was confident that they had a chance to win. “Porsche is a strong team - we’ve known each other for a long time. Audi has been in endurance for many years now, and we have strong, good drivers. Most importantly, we need to make a perfect weekend,” said #8 Audi R18 e-tron Quattro driver Loïc Duval. “I do think both teams are equal now in terms of background, engineers, and drivers.”

Another sore point for drivers in the LMGTE class were the ‘Balance of Performance’ penalties, in which WEC can reduce performance of the faster cars in favor of endurance and reliability. Aston Martin Racing’s Fernando Rees made no secret of his dislike for these handicaps. “The penalties change our perspective when going in to the race. We’re forced to take more risks - for example, when we’re under full course yellows, to take a pit stop when it’s out of the ideal window. If we’re conservative in the strategy, there’s no chance for us to win,” he explained. “What bothers me is that it’s kind of random. We were not faster in the straight-line speed than the Ferraris and Porsches, however the BoP penalty we had, affected our top speed which was already our weak point. I don’t see the logic.”

Overall, it was a positive weekend for the Circuit and the FIA WEC, with few race incidents and a decent attendance. The hot weather, sprawling track layout and relatively nascent state of the series may have kept more fans from attending. The drivers however, had nothing but good things to say about the city of Austin and its culture. Fernando Rees contributed to this subject by saying; “It feels special to race here. I like the city, the style, the people. I think the championship needs to do a little better to promote it but I’ve already seen more signs and posters here, so hopefully it’s going in the right direction.”