On Thursday, Wayne Taylor Racing’s Ricky Taylor was the fastest of all in opening practice for Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown. The older of the Taylor brothers circulated around the 3.4-mile Circuit of the Americas course in 117.116 seconds (104.512 mph). The lap was seven-hundredths of a second faster than Joao Barbosa in Action Express Racing’s similar No. 5 Cadillac DPi-V.R.
Less than two-tenths of a second from the top of the chart was the No. 2 Nissan DPi for Tequila Patron ESM’s Ryan Dalziel in third. Mazda’s Jonathan Bomarito was fourth quickest, while Action Express Racing’s Dane Cameron rounded out the top five.
In Prototype Challenge, Performance Tech Motorsports continued their dominance of practice sessions. Patricio O’Ward‘s final lap of the session, a lap of 120.522 seconds (101.558 mph), was quickest. The lap was 10th overall, just 3.4 seconds off of Ricky Taylor’s fastest lap. It was a full 4.7 seconds quicker than IMSA debutante Stefan Wilson in BAR1 Motorsports’ No. 26. Buddy Rice in the No. 20 entry from BAR1 Motorsports was another 2.7 seconds back.
Starworks Motorsport’s No. 8 has still not nominated drivers for this weekend and did not venture onto the track during the session.
GT Le Mans was once again very close between the five manufacturers. However, it was once again Ford on top. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dirk Müller was fastest with a lap of 123.739 seconds (98.918 mph). This lap was a tenth and a half quicker than BMW Team RLL’s Martin Tomczyk. Ryan Briscoe in the No. 67 Ford was just five-thousandths of a second slower than Tomczyk in third.
Alexander Sims was fourth quickest in the No. 25 BMW, followed by Tommy Milner in the faster of the two Corvette Racing C7.R’s. The nine entries were separated by 1.236 seconds.
GT Daytona saw SunEnergy1 Racing’s Tristan Vautier continue a great run of luck for Mercedes with the fastest lap of the session. Vautier’s lap of 126.491 seconds (96.766 mph) was nearly six-tenths of a second faster than Riley Motorsports’ Jeroen Bleekemolen. Scuderia Corsa’s Alessandro Balzan was third quickest in the lone Ferrari 488 GT3, while Dan Knox impressed with the fourth best time in the first official session of the year for Lone Star Racing. Stevenson Motorsports’ Andrew Davis was fifth in the Audi R8.
There were no incidents of note during the one hour of practice. However, there was a lot of corner cutting going on. As a result, IMSA took the unusual step of throwing a red flag in the middle of the session to give teams and drivers the what for.
Race Control called a red flag to clearly remind competitors of track limit specifics due to penalties being handed out like candy.
— IMSA (@IMSA) May 4, 2017
This strategy by IMSA officials is in significant contrast to past years. As recently as two years ago, officials basically stated that there were no track limits. At the time, the reasoning given was that it was too difficult for officials to police it due to the wide-open spaces. It appears that won’t be the case this weekend.