Friday morning dawned sunny, but relatively cool at Lime Rock Park. However, by the time that the Prototype Challenge and GT-Daytona teams hit the track for their first practice session, temperatures had warmed to 74 degrees with sunny skies and low humidity. Those are great conditions for fast laps, and both types of cars followed through with speedy performances as this weekend’s racing activities got underway.
Compared to 2014, the season’s been a little tougher for core Autosport and lead driver Colin Braun. However, they’re still leading the PC points and they’re still potent. Braun showed that potency by turning in the quickest lap of the first session. Braun’s lap of 48.862 seconds (108.600 mph) was an eighth of a second quicker than Performance Tech Motorsports’ James French in second. PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ Tom Kimber-Smith was third quickest.
In GTD, Park Place Motorsports’ Patrick Lindsey was fastest with a lap of 53.805 seconds (98.623 mph) in his No. 73 Porsche 911 GT America. Lindsey’s lap was almost a tenth and a half faster than Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 33 Viper Exchange SRT Viper GT3-R. John Potter, driver/owner of the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche, was third fastest.
The session was not without incident. Michael Marsal spun Turner Motorsport’s No. 97 BMW Z4 early on in turn 7 and hit the tires. Marsal was OK, even managing to drive the Z4 back to the pits. However, the car suffered significant damage to the rear and will be difficult to fix.
After a hard hit in the downhill in practice the No. 97 is off to the body shop to try and repair for tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/yetjukWhTV
— Turner Motorsport (@Turnermotrsport) July 24, 2015
If the team can make it back to the track with the repaired No. 97, they’ll likely have to start at the rear of the field for Saturday’s Northeast Grand Prix.
Braun’s teammate, team owner Jon Bennett, spun out the PC-class leading No. 54 in the chicane that bypasses the Climbing Turn on the back side of the course. Bennett was able to continue without an issue. However, the team was forced to repaint the nose of the No. 54 following the off-course excursion.
In the second session, RSR Motorsports’ Bruno Junqueira was fastest with a lap of 48.919 seconds (108.473 mph). The lap was just three-hundredths of a second faster than Renger van der Zande in the Martini-sponsored No. 8 for Starworks Motorsport. Kimber-Smith once again was third. Braun was fourth, while Sean Rayhall for BAR1 Motorsports was fifth fastest.
GTD was topped by Andy Lally in the Magnus Porsche with a lap of 53.536 seconds (99.118 mph) around the 1.474-mile chicane version of the Lime Rock Park circuit. Lally was nearly half a second quicker than Christopher Haase in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS. Kuno Wittmer was third quickest in the lone Aston Martin V12 Vantage in the field. Ben Keating was fourth, while Mario Farnbacher was fifth.
There were no major accidents in the final session. There was a close encounter of the furry kind, though. Early in the session, a raccoon dashed across the track, narrowly avoiding being hit. The encounter elicited memories of the opossum (posthumously named “Ballast”) that Lally hit during the Rolex 24 at Daytona back in January.
Later on, there was contact entering turn 1 between French and Ray Mason, driving the No. 76 Audi R8 LMS for Compass360 Racing. French, who was battling with van der Zande at the time, was none too pleased with Mason, shaking his fist at the TUSC debutant. At the end of the session, Christina Nielsen got off course and swept up some dirt, but escaped without damage.