(Photo: Phil Allaway)

Acura Team Penske Sweeps Mid-Ohio Practices on Tricky Friday

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams had to deal with wild weather on Friday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.  Before the rains descended on the 2.258-mile road course, Team Penske’s Ricky Taylor turned in the fastest lap of the day.

Practice No. 1

Taylor’s quick time was a lap of 73.601 seconds (110.444 mph) in his Acura ARX-05.  That time was nearly a half a second faster than teammate Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 6 Acura.  Action Express Racing’s Filipe Albuquerque was third fastest in the first of the Cadillacs, followed by JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Simon Trummer in the best of the ORECA 07s.  Felipe Nasr was fifth fastest in the second Action Express Cadillac.

Porsche GT Team’s Earl Bamber was quickest in the GT Le Mans class with a lap of 80.148 seconds (101.422 mph), good enough for 15th overall.  Bamber’s lap was three-tenths of a second faster than Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen.  BMW Team RLL’s Jesse Krohn was third quickest, another quarter of a second back.  Patrick Pilet in the No. 911 Porsche was fourth quickest, while Ford Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA’s Joey Hand was fifth.

The times between the two GT classes were unusually close.  Bill Auberlen, making his return to Turner Motorsport, led the GT Daytona class with a lap of 80.803 seconds (100.600 mph).  That lap was less than two-thirds of a second than Bamber and faster than all but the top three GTLM cars in 18th overall.

Even more unusual is that Auberlen’s lap was only two-hundredths of a second faster than Meyer Shank Racing’s Lawson Aschenbach in the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3.  The 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3s were third and fourth with Jack Hawksworth in No. 15 faster than Dominik Baumann in the No. 14.  Paul Miller Racing’s Bryan Sellers was fifth quickest in the No. 48 Lamborghini.

The session was completely clean with no red flags or on-track incidents.

IMSA WEATHERTECH SPORTSCAR CHAMPIONSHIP ACURA SPORTS CAR CHALLENGE AT MID-OHIO PRACTICE NO. 1 RESULTS

Practice No. 2

In the afternoon, heavy rains and high winds descended upon Ohio.  The start of the second session was delayed by five minutes due to the conditions.  Later on, lightning was sighted in the distance, leading to a red flag for safety that lasted for 22 minutes.

Conditions were very wet for the roughly 30 minutes of green flag running.  Times were more than 20 seconds off of what was possible in the morning.  Montoya was ultimately fastest with a lap of 96.867 seconds (83.917 mph).  That lap was one-eighth of a second faster than Helio Castroneves in the No. 7 Acura.  Wayne Taylor Racing’s Jordan Taylor was third quickest, followed by Albuquerque.  Mazda Team Joest’s Oliver Jarvis was fifth fastest.

GT Le Mans was led by Porsche GT Team’s Laurens Vanthoor with a lap of 100.461 seconds (80.915 mph).  Even with the improvements to Continental’s rain tires over the past three years, the Michelins used by GTLM teams are still better.  Vanthoor’s time was good enough for seventh overall, beating five Prototypes that set times in the session.

Vanthoor’s lap was a half a second faster than Corvette Racing’s Antonio GarciaOliver Gavin in the No. 4 Corvette was third in class, followed by Alexander Sims in the No. 25 BMW.  Pilet was fifth fastest.

Riley Motorsports’ Jeroen Bleekemolen was fastest in GT Daytona with a lap of 104.420 seconds (77.847 mph), good for 17th overall.  That time was three-hundredths of a second faster than SunEnergy1 Racing’s Maro Engel.  The SunEnergy1 No. 75 Mercedes has a different look this weekend.  The team has ditched the colors from Daytona in favor of the paint scheme they ran in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour back in February.

Meyer Shank Racing’s Justin Marks was third quickest in the No. 93 Acura, followed by Scuderia Corsa’s Alessandro Balzan.  Magnus Racing’s Andy Lally was fifth quickest in his Audi.

The session definitely did not pass without incident.  Early on, Wright Motorsports’ Christina Nielsen spun off at turn 5 and damaged the right rear of her Porsche.  Later on, Nasr went off at turn 6, bringing out another red flag.  He was ok, but his Cadillac ended up with front end damage.  Finally, Ryan Briscoe spun the No. 67 Ford late in the session right in front of the pits.  Luckily, Briscoe did not hit anything and continued on his merry way.

Given the conditions, three Prototype teams chose to skip the second session.  Nielsen’s No. 58 Porsche also did not set a time, but that was because her incident occurred before an official time was set.

IMSA WEATHERTECH SPORTSCAR CHAMPIONSHIP ACURA SPORTS CAR CHALLENGE AT MID-OHIO PRACTICE NO. 2 RESULTS

The teams are scheduled to head back out onto the 2.258-mile course Saturday morning bright and early at 8:35 a.m. EDT for the final practice session of the weekend.  It is scheduled for 60 minutes and should be held in dry conditions.

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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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