Photo: Porsche

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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F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.