(Credit: Phil Allaway)

Michael Shank Racing Completes Practice Sweep at Road Atlanta

Once the sun set at Road Atlanta on Thursday evening, it was time for the lights to come on and for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams to press their luck on the 2.54-mile road course in the dark.  Ok, it wasn’t completely dark as some of the corners have floodlights, but it was still pretty dark out there.  Despite the darkness, not a whole lot changed from the daytime.

In the Prototype class, a good chunk of the class showed good pace during the session.  Early on, when there was still just a hint of sunlight remaining, Mazda Motorsports appeared to be the class of the field.  Tom Long took the No. 70 to the top of the charts before being overtaken by teammate Jonathan Bomarito in the No. 55.

As the track continued to cool, the Daytona Prototypes came into their own.  Once again, it was Action Express Racing‘s Christian Fittipaldi setting fast laps and trading off with the Mazdas.

However, when the session came to an end, it was once again Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian on top.  With 18 minutes remaining in the 90-minute session, Olivier Pla put down a lap of 73.541 seconds (124.339 mph).  That lap, which is a new IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship track record for Road Atlanta, held up to top the charts.  For the Shank team, it gives them a sweep of all three Thursday practice sessions.

Pla’s best time was nearly a half-second quicker than Bomarito in second.  Action Express’ Jõao Barbosa was third fastest in the Mustang Sampling-sponsored No. 5, followed by teammate Dane Cameron in the Whelen-sponsored No. 31.  Tequila Patron ESM‘s Pipo Derani was fifth.

In Prototype Challenge, it was once again Starworks Motorsport that was fastest.  However, it was not the championship-contending No. 8 like in the morning hours.  Instead, it was the part-time No. 7 that came out to play later in the session.  European Le Mans Series regular Stefano Coletti topped the charts with a lap of 76.580 seconds (119.405 mph) in the No. 7 ORECA FLM09-Chevrolet, good enough for tenth overall.

Coletti’s lap was nearly seven-tenths of a second faster than PR1/Mathiasen MotorsportsTom Kimber-Smith in second.  Kimber-Smith set his best time on the fifth lap of the session while Coletti did his on lap 25.  Renger van der Zande was third quickest in the No. 8, followed by Richard Bradley in the third Starworks entry.  BAR1 MotorsportsJohnny Mowlem was fifth quickest.

GT Le Mans saw Corvette Racing, Risi Competizione, BMW Team RLL and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing posting competitive lap times all through the session.  The fast times swapped back and forth no less then ten times in the first 20 minutes.  The fast times were set by IMSA regulars such as Jan Magnussen and John Edwards, invaders from Europe such as James Calado, and even those who aren’t regulars in sports car like Verizon IndyCar Series regular Sebastien Bourdais.

However, at the two-thirds mark of the session, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dirk Müller set a class-record time of 78.240 seconds (116.871 mph), which held up to be fastest.  Scuderia Corsa‘s Alessandro Pier Guidi was six-hundredths of a second slower in the No. 68 Ferrari 488 GTE.  Richard Westbrook was third quickest in the second Ford GT, followed by BMW’s Augusto Farfus.  Risi Competizione‘s Calado was third quickest.  The entire class was separated by a little over eight-tenths of a second.

In GT Daytona, it was all about the V10 engined cars.  Both the Audi R8 LMS GT3’s and Lamborghin Huracan GT3’s were on pace.  Paul Miller Racing‘s Bryan Sellers was very fast early on, setting multiple quick times.  However, 56 minutes into the session, Magnus Racing‘s Marco Seefried turned in a lap of 81.187 seconds (112.629 mph) that held up to top the session.

Seefried’s lap was less than a tenth of a second quicker than the No. 9 Audi from Stevenson Motorsports driven by Lawson Aschenbach.  Alex Job Racing-Team Seattle‘s Alex Riberas was third quickest, followed by the No. 96 BMW of Jens Klingmann.  Sellers rounded out the top 5.

One team, the No. 85 JDC/Miller MotorSports ORECA FLM09-Chevrolet in the Prototype Challenge, did not register a time in the session.

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams have one more practice session on Saturday morning starting at 10:15 a.m.  It will be 60 minutes in length.

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About Phil Allaway

Phil Allaway
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor. Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as Tony Stewart's Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions.

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