By Johan Laubscher
Three long months of waiting as come to an end as the FIA World Endurance Championship gets underway with round 4 at the Circuit of The Americas this weekend. The track action kicked off with two free practice sessions on Thursday.
The heavyweight factory LMP1 battle is resuming in Texas with all three manufacturers ready to hit the track following the Le Mans 24 Hours in June. Toyota, current championship leaders, has arrived in North America with two of their Toyota TS040 Hybrid cars, joined by two-car entries from Audi and Porsche. The Audi Sport Team Joest squad sees the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro being driven by Tom Kristensen, Lucas di Grassi and the returning Loïc Duval. The Le Mans winning squad of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer will again be behind the wheel of the #2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro.
Free practice 1 got proceedings underway at 14:45 and concluded with Audi topping the times. Marcel Fässler set the fastest time with a 1:51.136 in the #2 Audi. Tom Kristensen set the second fastest time, ensuring an Audi 1-2 at the top of the time sheets. Porsche #20 placed third, ahead of the two Toyotas and the second Porsche in sixth.
The second and final session on Friday saw dark and wet conditions. The #8 Toyota lead the way, followed by Audi #1, Toyota #7 and Audi #2 rounding out the top four. The Porsches placed fifth and eighth.
Track running will continue on Friday with the third and final free practice session, followed by qualifying during the early evening.