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WEC: No. 2 Porsche wins COTA after No. 1 moves aside

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Porsche LMP Team dominated Saturday’s Six Hours of COTA at the Circuit of the America’s to finish 1-2, with the No. 2 919 Hybrid of Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley, and Earl Bamber taking victory over the No. 1 of Neel Jani, André Lotterer, and Nick Tandy.

The result was not without its controversy, however, with Tandy twice being forced to slow down and give way to the No. 2 machine, which is currently leading the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The first order came in the second-to-last stint, when Nick Tandy slowed and moved aside in Turn 15 to allow Earl Bamber through. Yet, the move was negated after the final pit stop sequence, which saw Tandy cycle back into the lead.

However, in the final minutes, Tandy was again ordered to slow and allow Bamber through into the lead, with the move getting completed on the front straight away.

Though controversial, the move does see Bernhard, Hartley, and Bamber extend their championship lead. Behind the two Porsches, the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid for Toyota Gazoo Racing finished third with drivers Sébastien Buemi, Stéphane Sarrazin, and Kaz Nakajima.

In LMP2, the No. 36 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 Gibson rolled to victory with drivers Nico Lapierre, Andre Negrao, and Gustavo Menezes. However, the final minutes were somewhat stressful as the team needed to pit for a damaged rear light.

Still, the car, in the hands of Menezes at the end, had a large enough lead over second-place that it maintained the lead. The victory is also the second in a row for Signatech Alpine Matmut.

In second was the No. 13 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson of Mathias Beche, David Heinemeier Hansson, and Nelson Piquet Jr. Their teammates Julien Canal, Bruno Senna, and Nico Prost finished third in the sister No. 31 entry.

In GTE-Pro, a thrilling battle saw the two AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE machines battle with the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR from Porsche GT Team and the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage from Aston Martin Racing. In the end, it was the No. 51 of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi taking victory over the No. 92 machine of Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre.

However, like LMP1 and LMP2, GTE-Pro saw late drama as the No. 51, in the hands of Pier Guidi, suffered a left-front tire puncture in the dying minutes. In fact, as he limped back to the pits, Pier Guidi nearly collected the eventual LMP2 winner Menezes in the process.

Pier Guidi exited the pits directly in front of Christensen, but was able to build the gap back up as they worked through traffic to eventually win by 5.6 seconds. The victory is also the first of the year for the AF Corsa team.

GTE-Am also saw its winner overcome drama, though this one occurred early on. The No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage, then in the hands of Paul Dalla Lana for Aston Martin Racing, suffered a spin after contact with the No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE of Francesco Castellacci in the early laps of the race. Though Dalla Lana quickly regrouped and continued on, the contact damaged the rear splitter of the Aston Martin, forcing it into the pits and briefly into the garage for repairs.

However, the team and driver trio of Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, and Mathias Lauda used the rest of the race to make up for lost time, eventually regaining the lead and winning by just over 50 seconds, their second victory of the 2017 season.

In second was the Clearwater Racing Ferrari of Weng Sun Mok, Keita Sawa, and Matt Griffin. Third place went to Spirit of Race, with drivers Castellacci, Thomas Flohr, and Miguel Molina.

A relatively clean racing was only slowed once by a safety car following a spin and wall contact from the No. 86 Gulf Racing Porsche of Mike Wainwright. Though he made it back to the pits, a safety car was needed to repair the barriers.

The next event for the FIA World Endurance Championship is the Six Hours of Fuji at Fuji Speedway in Japan in October 15.

RACE RESULTS: Overall, Class Results

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Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.