Austin, Texas: Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing will start from the first row in class LMGTE Am after Khaled Al Qubaisi powered the team to second place in qualifying for Round 6 of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), the 6 Hours of Circuit of The Americas (COTA), in Austin, Texas.
Al Qubaisi is sharing driving duties with David Heinemeier Hansson of Denmark and Kevin Estre of France behind the wheel of the No. 88 Porsche 911 RSR.
Regular driver Patrick Long of the US has been replaced as he is doing duty in the Pirelli World Challenge, where he is currently leading in the championship; hence the need to bring in Frenchman Estre as his replacement.
With track temperatures higher than the ones prevalent in Free Practices earlier, the conditions became tricky and challenging where tyre strategy came into play. The team had to choose been running on one set of tyres and going for pole position.
Eventually, Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing decided to sacrifice pole position and save their second set of tyres for the main race and try and go for the win when the 6 Hours of COTA gets underway in Austin.
“The track temperature during qualifying was higher than the morning session’s Free Practice. Everyone was much slower and many opted for two sets of tyres.
“We had to decide between going for pole and focusing on the race win and we chose the race win; we felt it was better to keep the second set of tyres for the main race and try for full points,” said Khaled Al Qubaisi adding, “This decision was taken keeping in mind that tyre wear here at COTA is high, so starting on new tyres in the main race will make a huge difference where we can gain an advantage of between 10 to 15 seconds over the stint.”
Team Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing are currently second overall in the LMGTE Am class, just 35 points behind the leader, but with four races to go, including the round in Austin, there is all to play for. And though the primary focus will be to protect the second place in the championship, the team will nevertheless look to catching up with the leader in class. Abu Dhabi-Proton has previously raced at COTA and is familiar with the 5.513km track configuration, the team finished third in class in 2014 and 2nd last year.