Timo Bernhard: A fantastic win in brutal conditions

Motorsport.com columnist Timo Bernhard reveals how Porsche beat Audi to FIA World Endurance Championship glory in Austin, Texas.

Timo Bernhard: A fantastic win in brutal conditions
Podium: race winners Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley, Porsche Team
#8 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro: Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval, Oliver Jarvis, #6 Toyota Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid: Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, #1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
Fireworks at the Circuit of the Americas
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
Race winners #1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
Podium: race winners Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley, Porsche Team

It was literally a hot race in Texas – not only as far as the temperatures were concerned but also in terms of the battle with Audi during the 6 Hours of COTA. Our third win in a row was a great reward but also hard work. 

I always look forward to racing in the U.S. I spent quite a lot of my career there with Porsche, and had a lot of success in the American Le Mans Series.

The Americans are huge sportscar racing fans, and they love big endurance events such as the 24 Hours of Daytona or the 12 Hours of Sebring, which I both won several times. I think the sportscar culture in the States is great, and I always enjoy my time there.

COTA is a nice modern circuit and has got a little bit of everything. The first sector is quite challenging as the first corner after the steep start-finish straight is a blind entry, then you go into some flowing esses. In the middle sector you’ve got some good opportunities for overtaking under braking, and in the last sector you have to position your car carefully.

As we’ve seen in the last two years it’s very challenging to race in Texas with extremely hot conditions during the day and a significant change in temperature once the sun sets.

Our 919 Hybrid ran well in the practice sessions and we managed to get through our program as planned. With the changing temperatures, the focus was mainly on testing various cooling options and to find out how the tyres cope with the circumstances as we had to get the balance right for the car’s setup right for the race.

From third practice to qualifying the track conditions had changed quite a lot as other racing series had been on the track and you could feel the different grip level.

P3 on the grid was the maximum Brendon [Hartley] and I could do. The result wasn’t what we had hoped for, but even though Audi had a very quick one lap speed we weren’t far behind.

Scorchingly-hot race

When the race got underway at 5pm it was scorching hot with tropical temperatures. Mark [Webber] was first in the car and managed to improve from P3 to P2, but then had to let the two leading Audis go, who were quicker than us at that point.

After Brendon’s stint it was my turn – but only for 20 laps as the team got me in early for a pit stop during a full-course yellow. At that point the sun was very low and blinding, which threw another challenge into the mix.

Mark also only did a short stint and handed over to Brendon after another full-course yellow. The #8 Audi had to do a longer pitstop which helped us improve our position from third to second.

I took over from Brendon after another full-course yellow, and came out in front after the stop. Mark defended our lead and then handed the car over to me for the final stint, and we brought home another victory.

At the beginning of the race Audi was quicker than us, but the cooler it became after the sunset the stronger our car became. Our whole team did a fantastic job in these brutal conditions.

We worked together seamlessly, timed our pitstops to perfection, the car ran without any issues – and that’s what got us the win in the end.

After the tricky start to the season we’ve had, it’s brilliant to have scored a hat-trick.

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