Last weekend the Ferrari 488 GTE cars hit the track at the Circuit of the Americas. After a succesful qualifying the #71 AF Corse car secured pole, wich put Ferrari in a great position to fight for the win in the GTE-Pro class.
The GTE-Pro class race was difficult and complex right from the start, when Davide Rigon ceded first place to the Aston Martin #95. In the second part of his stint, the Ferrari 488 began to catch up on the leading car despite its higher top speed. James Calado, in car #51, overtook his teammate and sped off in pursuit of the Aston Martin passing it just before the first pit stop. At that point it was decided to pursue different strategies for the two Ferraris with Rigon’s car using hard tyres. This would not have been detrimental were it not for the Safety Car coming on track at midrace to allow repairs to the barriers at Turn 11 after Mike Wainwright had spun off in the Porsche. The safety car thus wiped out the Ferrari’s lead over Porsche #92 and Aston Martin #95 (respectively 37 seconds for the #51 and 20 for car #71). At the restart Calado quickly regained the lead but a change strategy was decided for car #71, abandoning the hards and trying to push to the limit over the last two hours. The Ferrari of Sam Bird returned to the track in sixth place but fought back to third at the finish thanks to a very gritty double stint by the British driver who in the end had to manage the tyres at their wear limit. Everything looked rosy for Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51. After the final pit stop it enjoyed a 36-second lead over Porsche #92 but with 11 minutes to go a puncture threatened to thwart a deserved victory. In the end, Alessandro Pier Guidi and the guys in the AF Corse pit performed a perfect tyre change allowing the Italian to set off again ahead of the Porsche with a minimal lead, which he managed down to the chequered flag.
In GTE-Am class the two Ferrari 488 GTEs finished in second and third although with a bitter taste left by a win that eluded the car of Clearwater Racing. In fact, Mok Weng Sun, Matt Griffin and Keita Sawa had enjoyed a clear lead over the Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda. However, the neutralisation with the entry of the Safety Car undid all the good work done early on. The cars restarted from scratch and in the end Matt Griffin, Keita Sawa and Weng Sun Mok had to settle for second place behind the Aston Martin. The race was initially exhilarating for Spirit Of Race no. 54 crewed by Thomas Flohr, Miguel Molina and Francesco Castellacci but then it was penalised by a minute’s Stop & Go for having refuelled with the Safety Car on track. The 488 GTE of the Swiss team still finished third. The overall victory went to the Porsche of Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley.
The result of the 6 Hours of COTA leaves Ferrari with a big lead in the Constructors’ standings, on 203 points ahead of Ford on 163 and Aston Martin on 162. The Drivers’ championship is now open again with Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell (Ford) still in the lead on 102 points followed by Rigon on 95.5 and Bird, Calado and Pier Guidi on 95. The next round is on 15 October in Japan, with the 6 Hours of Fuji.