On Friday morning, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship took to the 1.968-mile street course in Long Beach for two hours of practice. Despite being slowed by Balance of Performance once again, it was one of the Cadillac DPi-V.R.’s on top of the timesheets. In the closing seconds of practice, Wayne Taylor Racing’s Jordan Taylor turned into the fastest lap of the session, a 74.982 second (94.487 mph) lap.
Taylor was nearly a half-second quicker than Tequila Patron ESM’s Ryan Dalziel in second. Christian Fittipaldi was third quickest in the No. 5 Cadillac for Action Express Racing. Jonathan Bomarito was fourth in the No. 55 Mazda, while Dane Cameron was fifth fastest.
The biggest incident of the session came 41 minutes in when Visit Florida Racing’s Renger van der Zande suffered some kind of a brake failure at the end of Shoreline Drive. Van der Zande slid into the tires at turn 1, then hit the concrete wall after coming to rest. Van der Zande walked away from the crash, but the No. 90 Riley Mk. 30-Gibson was significantly damaged. The car suffered tub damage in the crash which has forced the team to withdraw.
Team owner Troy Flis voiced his disappointment in a press release.
“[Van der Zande] had a brake issue going into turn 1 and the car just wouldn’t get slowed down,” Flis explained. “We are relieved that he is okay, but it looks like we are done for the weekend. The damage got into the tub, and with this race being out on the West Coast, we just don’t have the access to resources that we’d need to continue this weekend. It is a shame for VISIT FLORIDA, but we’ll go back and look at what happened and work on our plan to come back stronger.”
Later on, William Owen, making his series debut for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, locked up his brakes and slid into the tires at turn 1 to bring out the second red flag of the session. It was one of a number of excursions for the American rookie, who typically races LMP3-spec prototypes in Europe.
In GTLM, the manufacturers swapped the top spot early and often. Towards the beginning of the session, it was the Ford GT’s from Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and the Risi Competizione Ferarri 488 GTE swapping back and forth. However, by the end of the session, it was the Porsche GT Team on top. With 12 minutes remaining, Patrick Pilet put the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR on top for good with a lap of 78.670 seconds (90.057 mph).
Pilet’s lap was a tenth of a second quicker than teammate Kevin Estre. Despite his good pace, Estre had a couple of moments where he messed up his braking and went into the runoff. Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen was third quickest, followed by Risi Competizione’s Giancarlo Fisichella and Joey Hand in the No. 66 Ford.
Another aspect of the track is that there isn’t that much of a pace difference between GTLM and GTD teams. That will definitely come into play during the race on Saturday. GTD cars were right with the GTLM cars at certain points on the track. It will be difficult to lap them.
In GTD, Paul Miller Racing’s Bryan Sellers put the No. 48 Lamborghini at the top of the charts with a lap of 79.925 seconds (88.643 mph). This lap was only 1.255 seconds slower than Pilet.
Sellers’ lap was just six-hundredths of a second faster than Riley Motorsports’ Jeroen Bleekemolen in second. Alegra Motorsports was a late entry to Long Beach, but they do appear to have speed. Michael Christensen was third quickest in the No. 28 Porsche, while SunEnergy1 Racing’s Tristan Vautier was fourth fastest. Change Racing’s Jeroen Mul rounded out the top five.
3GT Racing’s 2017 season has been rather tough so far and opening practice Friday didn’t exactly help things. Sage Karam turned in the sixth fastest time in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 early in the session. However, Scott Pruett later crashed the car exiting turn 5 to bring out the third and final red flag of the session. Pruett was ok, but the car had to be towed.
Just before Pruett’s crash, Turner Motorsport’s Jens Klingmann got loose exiting turn 9 and smacked the wall. The impact blew the left rear tire on the No. 96 BMW M6 GT3 and broke the left rear suspension.
IMSA teams have 20-minute warm-up later Friday before qualifying gets underway at 8:15 p.m. EDT.