On Friday, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams had two practice sessions on the 1.968-mile street course in Long Beach, Calif. Acura Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya was fastest overall with a lap of 73.160 seconds (96.840 mph). The lap is nearly four-tenths of a second faster than last year’s pole time.
Practice No. 1
Over the two hour early morning practice session, times dropped off as teams put down rubber on the cool track. Unlike last year, when the opening practice session started with a wet track, the track was 100 percent dry. Action Express Racing’s Felipe Nasr was one of the quickest drivers on track from the drop of the green flag, along with teammate Jõao Barbosa. Acura Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves was also right there.
On his third to last lap, Nasr took the top spot away from Castroneves. The next time around, Nasr set a lap of 73.582 seconds (96.284 mph). The lap was nine-hundredths of a second faster than Filipe Albuquerque in Action Express Racing’s No. 5 Cadillac DPi-V.R.
The pace of the DPi cars was quite evident in the session. All nine DPi cars entered were quicker than the LMP2 cars. The fastest LMP2 driver, JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Misha Goikhberg, was more than a second off of Nasr in 10th.
The session had a number of off-course excursions as the track was completely green prior to practice. However, the session was brought to a halt just after the halfway point when CORE autosport’s Colin Braun slid the No. 54 ORECA 07-Gibson into the tires at turn 8. Luckily, the damage was minor.
— CORE autosport (@COREautosport) April 13, 2018
Braun returned to the track and ultimately posted the 13th fastest time in the session. Braun’s best lap came after the crash.
In GT Le Mans, the session was a back and forth affair between Ford Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA’s Ryan Briscoe and the Porsche GT Team. Similar to the Prototypes, the best laps came towards the very end of the session. With nine minutes remaining, Briscoe turned in a lap of 77.898 seconds (90.950 mph) to top the class in 15th overall.
Briscoe’s time was roughly one-tenth of a second faster than Dirk Müller in the No. 66 Ford. Porsche GT Team’s Earl Bamber was third quickest in the No. 912 Porsche, followed by Nick Tandy in the No. 911 Porsche. Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin was fifth quickest.
Tandy was every bit the equal of Briscoe early in the session. Unfortunately, Tandy went off-course at the end of Seaside Way, then spun again after rejoining. The result of his adventure was damage to the rear diffuser and some extra work for the Porsche GT Team crew.
Practice No. 2
Happy hour was not so happy for a number of drivers. Eric Curran, driving the No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R., was hit from behind by Tequila Patron ESM’s Johannes van Overbeek, damaging the right rear corner of the car. Earlier, Curran had had slight contact with the wall.
For JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Robert Alon, things were a little more dire. Alon went off-course at turn 1 and came to a halt, drawing a red flag. The issues ended the No. 85 team’s day.
In the final minute of the session, Montoya set the fastest time of all of practice. The lap was a half a tenth faster than Nasr in the Cadillac. Castroneves was third quickest, just seven-thousandths of a second behind Nasr. Albuquerque was fourth quickest, followed by Mazda Team Joest’s Jonathan Bomarito in the No. 55 Mazda.
Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin, despite having four separate lap times deleted due to track limit violations, was fastest in GT Le Mans with a lap of 77.571 seconds (91.333 mph). That lap was a quarter of a tenth of a second faster than Porsche GT Team’s Laurens Vanthoor. Teammate Patrick Pilet was another one-hundredth of a second back in third. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA’s Joey Hand was fourth, followed by BMW Team RLL’s Connor de Phillippi.