(Photo: Mazda Motorsports)

Mazda Motorsports Gets Their Groove Back on Roar Day No. 2

Overnight thunderstorms and lingering rains made the early morning session No. 3 a complete toss-up for teams in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.  A couple of stories did come out of the session.  First, Continental’s rain tires are still not as good as Michelin’s, and the margins between the DPi and LMP2 Prototypes can change at any time.  Second, much like last year during the Rolex 24 weekend, a lot of teams didn’t want to chance their cars in the wet.  In the afternoon, the form from Friday continued.

Session No. 3

Unlike Friday’s dominance of the speed charts by REBELLION Racing, the wet weather in Session No. 3 saw Wayne Taylor Racing’s Cadillac DPi-V.R. shoot to the top of the sheet.  Ricky Taylor was fastest in the wet with a time of 111.854 seconds (114.578 mph), roughly 12.5 seconds slower than the best times set on Friday.  Taylor’s lap was one-tenth of a second quickest than Joao Barbosa in the No. 5 Cadillac DPi-V.R. for Action Express Racing.

DragonSpeed’s Nicolas Lapierre was the best of the LMP2-spec entries in third with a lap of 112.636 seconds, roughly eight-tenths off of Taylor.  JDC/Miller MotorSports’ Misha Goikhberg was fourth quickest.  Only these four prototypes ventured onto the track during the session as a full two-fifths of the teams gathered in Daytona chose to sit out the session.

Over the past couple of years, the GT Le Mans class has shined in the wet, thanks to having free choice in tire manufacturers (in practice, everyone races Michelins since Team Falken Tire pulled out).  Saturday was no exception.  Normally, the GT Le Mans class is supposed to the be slower than the Prototype Challenge class.  Saturday morning saw six GTLM teams turn in faster laps than the fastest driver in PC.

The fastest soul in GTLM was Billy Johnson in the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK No. 68 F ord GT.  Johnson’s lap of 114.376 seconds (112.051 mph) was good enough for fifth overall, just 2.522 seconds slower than Taylor and three-eights of a second slower than Goikhberg.  Johnson’s lap was nearly a full second ahead of Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette.  Another half-second back were the two mid-engined Porsche 911 RSR’s from Porsche North America.  Patrick Pilet put the No. 911 in third while Richard Lietz was fourth in the No. 912.  Sebastien Bourdais was fifth in the No. 66 Ford GT.

In GT Daytona, Manthey Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Harald Proczyk was quickest with a lap of 116.898 seconds (109.634 mph), just off of the pace of the mid-pack GTLM teams.  The lap, which was 11th overall, was more than a quarter of a second faster than Boris Said in second.  Marco Mapelli was third in the Konrad Motorsport Lamborghini, followed by Dream Racing’s Raffaele Giammaria.  Michael Shank Racing’s Andy Lally was fifth quickest.

In Prototype Challenge, only the two entries from BAR1 Motorsports ventured onto the road course. The No. 26 with Trent Hindman at the wheel was fastest with a lap of 117.107 seconds (109.438 mph), good for 12th overall.  The No. 20 with Mark Kvamme driving was more than six seconds off the pace in 30th.  In addition, the car stopped on-course and drew a red flag so that the Gas Monkey-sponsored entry could be retrieved.

Session No. 4

In the afternoon, the winds kicked up, the temperature dropped and the skies cleared.  With good weather, the LMP2’s were back on top.

REBELLION Racing’s Neel Jani topped his third session of the weekend with a lap of 99.017 seconds (129.432 mph), the fastest lap of the weekend to date.  Given the team’s pace on Friday, that wasn’t particularly surprising.  What was a surprise given their pace during the Roar and prior to it was that the Mazdas were right on Jani’s heels.

Mazda Motorsports’ Tristan Nunez was second fastest in the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P.  DragonSpeed’s Ben Hanley was third quickest, three-tenths of a second off Jani.  Joel Miller was fourth in the No. 70 Mazda, while Christian Fittipaldi was fifth in the first of the Cadillac DPi-V.R.’s.

Tequila Patron ESM’s No. 2 entry was the only prototype to skip Session No. 4.  The team has changed the engine in the Nissan DPi and will be ready to go for the night session later on.

Prototype Challenge was once again light, but Performance Tech Motorsports did manage to get their No. 38 back on track after Clark Toppe‘s crash on Friday.  Patricio O’Ward was fastest with a lap of 104.191 seconds (123.005 mph) to top the charts in 12th overall.  That lap was more than 1.8 seconds faster than Nick Boulle in the No. 26 for BAR1 Motorsports.

The times in GT Le Mans were very similar to Friday.  Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon was fastest with a lap of 104.558 seconds (122.573 mph).  Dixon was a quarter of a second faster than Stefan Mücke in the UK-based No. 68 Ford.  Dirk Müller completed a 1-2-3 sweep for Ford.  Pilet was fourth quickest in the Porsche, while Harry Tincknell was fifth in the No. 69 Ford.

GT Daytona saw a surprise on top of the timesheet as EBIMOTORS’ Emanuele Busnelli was quickest with a lap of 108.484 seconds (118.137 mph).  The No. 46 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 was a tenth and a half faster than Jeff Segal in the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3.  Reinhold Renger in Manthey Racing’s No. 59 Porsche was third fastest, followed by Camping World Truck Series regular Austin Cindric in the 3GT Racing Lexus.  Katherine Legge in the No. 93 Acura was fifth fastest.

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams have one more practice session today.  That is a 90-minute night session that runs until 8 p.m. EST.

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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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