PREVIEW: Best of both worlds at COTA

PREVIEW: Best of both worlds at COTA

ALMS

PREVIEW: Best of both worlds at COTA

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This weekend’s International Sports Car Weekend at Circuit of The Americas features Europe’s top sports car drivers and teams, and on its own, the World Endurance Championship event at COTA would make for a perfect excuse to catch a flight to Austin, Texas.

The $400 million facility is an unparalleled extravagance for racing circuits in North America, making the addition of the American Le Mans Series to the bill a doubling of sports car activities is a perfect fit for both series’ debut at the 3.4-mile, 20-turn complex.

Prototype fans have an embarrassment of riches at COTA with the factory Audi and Toyota teams set to do battle in Sunday’s six-hour WEC event. The privateer entry from Rebellion Racing adds to the P1 car count, and on the ALMS side, Saturday’s two-hour and 45-minute race will have the familiar Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARC-03C and Dyson Racing Lola B12/60-Mazda doing battle for P1 honors. They’ll be joined by the brand-new DeltaWing Coupe (BELOW), adding another interesting element to the weekend.

On the P2 front, the WEC offers the healthiest selection of second-tier prototypes on the planet. Lotus, ORECA, Morgan and Zytek chassis are all represented with V8 engines from Nissan and Judd proving to be the most popular, and in the ALMS, four twin-turbo V6 HPD ARX-03Bs fill the class.

The ALMS holds the upper hand in its GT class with factory efforts from BMW, Corvette and SRT Viper, and a series of semi-works programs that include Ferraris, Porsches. For Porschephiles, the WEC’s GT category has two prized possessionsthe only ACO-spec 991s in competition that won their class this year at Le Mans and are in Austin under the care of the factory Porsche team.

The WEC GT category has another manufacturer missing from the ALMS as Aston Martin has brought five of its rumbling Vantage V8s to Texas, with four falling into the Pro category and one in the Am division. Add in two more ALMS classes, PC for the spec ORECA-FLM09-Chevrolet V8s, and GTC, for the spec Porsche Cup cars, and 15 more entries will be in the field for Saturday’s race.

Together, 61 elite sports cars will headline the weekend, and with the Porsche GT3 Cup and IMSA Lites series filling the undercard, the inaugural International Sports Car event at COTA should serve as the blueprint for other series to follow.

The American Le Mans Series race on Saturday streams live on ESPN3 beginning at 4:30 p.m., and then airs on ESPN2 on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Although early reports of live TV coverage of the WEC race on Fox Sports were incorrect, the network plans to air a highlights program at a later date. But fans can watch the live stream of qualifying and the race at http://www.fiawec.com. The race starts at 11 a.m. Central Time.

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