On Thursday, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams took to the 3.4-mile course at Circuit of the Americas for what was originally scheduled as two one-hour sessions. The first session ultimately ended up being extended, though.
Session No. 1
No one was able to set a lap in the first session before trouble stuck the No. 55 Mazda of Jonathan Bomarito. A brake master cylinder broke on the Lola-built chassis on the pit straight just as Bomarito was starting his first timed lap. The car ground to a halt and locked down, bringing out the red flag. Normally, this would be a rather quick retrieval. However, retrieving the stranded No. 55 was not a normal retrieval as the rollback tow truck could not get low enough to pick up the car.
Ultimately, the session was stopped for 27 minutes as crews tried to properly remove the No. 55. Due to the long interruption, IMSA chose to add 15 minutes to the session to compensate for the lost time. The No. 55 did not set a time in the session.
Once the session resumed, Action Express Racing immediately went to the top of the charts. Jõao Barbosa set a lap of 119.605 seconds (102.337 mph) to go to the top of the charts. Two laps later, Barbosa lowered that time to 118.813 seconds (103.019 mph). That time held up to be fastest overall. Teammate Dane Cameron was second fastest, just a little more than a tenth of a second slower.
Jordan Taylor was third fastest in the Konica Minolta-sponsored No. 10 Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing, but he was more than a tenth of a second slower than Barbosa. Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian‘s Oswaldo Negri, Jr. was fourth quickest in his Ligier JS P2-Honda, the only non-DP in the top 5. VisitFlorida.com Racing‘s Ryan Dalziel was fifth quickest.
In Prototype Challenge, Starworks Motorsport‘s Renger van der Zande was quickest early on, but PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports‘ Tom Kimber-Smith put down a couple of quick laps shortly afterwards to eclipse the No. 8. Kimber-Smith’s lap of 121.131 seconds (101.048 mph) was ultimately seven-tenths of a second quicker than van der Zande. Richard Bradley in the No. 88 for Starworks Motorsport was third quickest, followed by JDC/Miller MotorSports‘ Stephen Simpson and BAR1 Motorsports‘ Bruno Junqueira.
GT Le Mans saw Ford Chip Ganassi Racing‘s two entries fight it out amongst themselves for much of the session. Both the Nos. 66 and 67 set quick times, but Dirk Müller eventually went fastest with a lap of 124.735 seconds (98.128 mph). This lap was a little more than a quarter second faster than Porsche North America‘s Patrick Pilet in the No. 911. Ryan Briscoe was third in the second Ford, followed by Risi Competizione‘s Toni Vilander and Corvette Racing‘s Tommy Milner.
Finally, GT Daytona saw a number of changes coming into the weekend. The Porsches have more power, while the Ferrari 488 GT3 for Scuderia Corsa got more boost. In practice, the No. 23 Porsche of Mario Farnbacher was quick early before being toppled by the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari and the two Dodge Viper GT3-R’s. However, at the end of the session, it was Turner Motorsport‘s No. 96 BMW M6 GT3 for Jens Klingmann that was fastest with a lap of 128.075 seconds (95.569 mph). That lap was only four-hundredths of a second quicker than Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 33 Viper for two-time defending race winner Riley Motorsports. Alessandro Balzan for Scuderia Corsa was third, followed by Bryan Sellers in the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini. Magnus Racing‘s Andy Lally was fifth quickest in his Audi despite lacking top-end speed.
Session No. 2
The second session was more of the same in the Prototype class. The quickest laps were turned in at the beginning of the session and Action Express Racing was responsible for the fastest laps of the day. This time, it was Cameron that was fastest in the No. 31 Whelen-sponsored Chevrolet Corvette DP Evo with a lap of 118.139 seconds (103.607 mph). That lap was more than six-tenths of a second faster than Jordan Taylor in second. Dalziel was third, followed by Negri. Panoz DeltaWing Racing‘s Sean Rayhall, fresh off an Indy Lights appearance last weekend, was fifth.
Prototype Challenge saw the cars slow down just a little bit. It was a back-and-forth battle at the top of the speed charts between a number of teams, but once the dust settled, it was Bradley in the No. 88 on top with a lap of 121.367 seconds (100.851 mph). Bradley’s lap was 13-hundredths of a second faster than Kimber-Smith in second, followed by Junqueira, van der Zande and Gustavo Yacaman. Nick Boulle, making his debut with Performance Tech Motorsports this weekend, had a brief spin in turn 20 (the last turn on course), but continued without issue.
GT Le Mans once again saw the Ford GT’s fight it out amongst themselves for the best time. With Richard Westbrook in the No. 67 as opposed to Briscoe, it was the No. 67 that topped the timesheets at the end of the session. Westbrook’s time of 124.107 seconds (98.625 mph) was four-tenths of a second faster than Risi Competizione’s Giancarlo Fisichella. Fisichella will have to walk on eggshells for the rest of the season since he’s been placed on probation for his post-race antics against Porsche North America’s Earl Bamber at VIR. Bamber was right behind Fisichella on the speed chart in third. The No. 911 of Nick Tandy and Müller rounded out the top 5.
In GT Daytona, Turner Motorsport’s BMW’s were once again pretty quick. Klingmann was up there, as was Markus Palttala in the No. 97. Paolo Ruberti, a late addition to Dream Racing‘s lineup, was right up there as well. In the end, Palttala was fastest with a lap of 128.174 seconds (95.495 mph). That lap was just a hundredth of a second faster than Balzan. Ruberti was third fastest, followed by Lone Star Racing‘s Mike Skeen and Bleekemolen.
For Riley Motorsports, the second session was not the easiest. When team owner/driver Ben Keating was in the car, the No. 33 developed a misfire in the V10 engine.
— Viper Exchange (@ViperExchange) September 15, 2016
The team had to spend time back in the paddock, scoping out the issue. Once it was fixed, Bleekemolen went back out there and set his best time.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams have one more practice session at 10:10 a.m. EDT on Friday morning. Qualifying is scheduled for Friday afternoon at 4:45 p.m. EDT.