On Thursday, the 3.4-mile Circuit of the Americas opened up for two free practice sessions ahead of Saturday’s 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas. Porsche put their stamp of approval on the opening sessions. In the afternoon session, Neel Jani turned in a lap at 105.860 seconds (116.509 mph) around the 3.426-mile road course to top the charts.
Practice No. 1
In the morning session, times were slower as the teams adjusted to the new surroundings. Porsche LMP Team’s Earl Bamber put the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid on top with a lap of 108.124 seconds (114.069 mph). That lap was a tenth and a half faster than Nick Tandy in the No. 1 Porsche. The best of the Toyotas was Sébastien Buemi in the No. 8. Buemi’s lap of 108.584 seconds (113.586 mph) was good for third quickest, nearly a half-second off of Bamber. Mike Conway was fastest of those drivers in the No. 7, nearly 1.2 seconds off Bamber.
In LMP2, G-Drive Racing’s Alex Lynn was fastest with a lap of 115.399 seconds (106.879 mph), good enough for fifth overall. Lynn’s best lap was three-tenths of a second faster than TDS Racing’s Matthieu Vaxiviere. Gustavo Menezes, the sole American in the field, was third fastest in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine. Mathias Beche was fourth fastest in the Valliante REBELLION No. 13, while Oliver Jarvis in the Jackie Chan DC Racing No. 38 was fifth.
GTE-Pro saw the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK squad on top of the chart. Stefan Mücke put the No. 66 Ford GT at the top with a lap of 124.939 seconds (98.717 mph). Mücke’s lap was the only GTE lap under 2:05 in the opening session. Teammate Andy Priaulx in the No. 67 Ford was more than a quarter of a second back in second. Alessandro Pier Guidi was the fastest non-Ford driver in third, nearly two-thirds of a second behind in his Ferrari 488 GTE. Davide Rigon in the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari was fourth quickest, followed by Marco Sørensen in the “Dane Train” Aston Martin.
In GTE-Am, Aston Martin Racing’s Pedro Lamy was fastest with a lap of 126.989 seconds (97.123 mph). Lamy’s lap was more than three-eighths of a second faster than Dempsey-Proton Racing’s Matteo Cairoli. Gulf Racing UK’s Ben Barker was third fastest.
Practice No. 2
In the afternoon, the Porsches continued to show their superior pace. However, the entire field was much faster. As noted above, Jani was fastest overall, but he was quite a bit faster than everyone else. Bamber, who fastest in the morning, was more than half a second behind his teammate. Kamui Kobayashi was third quickest in the No. 7 Toyota, but he was nearly a full second off of Jani’s pace. The best lap for the No. 8 Toyota, turned in by Kazuki Nakajima, was nearly three seconds off the pace.
Valliante REBELLION dominated the top of the LMP2 charts Thursday afternoon. Bruno Senna was fastest in the No. 31 with a time of 114.601 seconds (107.622 mph), approximately one-sixth of a second faster than Beche in the No. 13 ORECA 07-Gibson. Lynn was third quickest, followed by Nicolas Lapierre in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine Matmut entry. Alex Brundle was fifth fastest in the No. 37 ORECA 07-Gibson from Jackie Chan DC Racing.
GTE-Pro saw Aston Martin flex their muscles. Nicki Thiim turned in the fastest GTE lap of the day at 124.023 seconds (99.446 mph). The form was clearly repeatable as Thiim’s teammate Sørensen turned a lap just 17 thousandths of a second slower. However, one car cannot be first and second in the same session.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK’s Harry Tincknell was just seven-hundredths of a second slower than Thiim, good enough for second fastest. Porsche GT Team’s Kevin Estre was nearly 1.2 seconds off the pace in third, followed by Richard Lietz in the No. 91 Porsche. James Calado in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari was fifth quickest.
In GTE-Am, Lamy was once again fastest with a lap of 125.935 seconds (97.936 mph). This lap was a full 1.568 seconds faster than Clearwater Racing’s Matt Griffin. Cairoli was third quickest.
Overall, the two sessions on Thursday were very clean. There were no incidents of note.
Free Practice No. 3 from Circuit of the Americas is ongoing right now. Qualifying is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. EDT Friday afternoon.