Action Express Racing’s Pipo Derani was fastest overall in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice ahead of Saturday evening’s Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring. Derani’s lap in the final session at 125.902 mph is roughly a full mph slower than the best laps turned in last year.
Practice No. 1
The start of the first practice session Friday evening was delayed by 90 minutes due to heavy rains and lightning. This was the same system that resulted in the final 13 minutes of Friday’s Advent Health 120 being run under caution. The session was given the ok to start at 7:30 p.m. local time with the track still damp.
Early on, laps were well over two minutes due to the wet surface. As the track continued to dry, the laps continued to improve. The surface was dry enough that much of the second half of the session saw teams switch to slicks.
When the session was done, it was Wayne Taylor Racing’s Renger van der Zande who ended up fastest with a lap at 121.131 mph in his Cadillac DPi-V.R., a lap was that more than four seconds slower than Derani’s best lap Saturday morning. Van der Zande’s lap was two-tenths of a second faster than the similar Cadillac of JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Stephen Simpson. Derani was third fastest with the Acura Team Penske teammates Ricky Taylor and Dane Cameron fourth and fifth.
The session was effectively ended four minutes early due to the red flag coming out due to Joao Barbosa sliding into the runoff at Turn 7 and stopping. The team made repairs overnight.
The LMP2 class saw DragonSpeed’s Gustavo Menezes spend the majority of the session at the front of the class. When the session ended, he was fastest with a lap at 116.172 mph, a lap good enough for seventh overall, ahead of both of the Mazda DPis. Menezes’ lap was more than 13 seconds faster than Tower Motorsport by Starworks’ Ryan Dalziel with PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ Spencer Pigot in third. The substantial margin suggests that Menezes was the only driver in the class to complete laps at speed on slick tires.
GT Le Mans saw Porsche GT Team’s Laurens Vanthoor top the chart with a lap at 112.669 mph, good for 10th overall. Vanthoor was three-quarters of a second faster than Corvette Racing’s Jordan Taylor in the faster of the Corvette C8.Rs. Teammate Oliver Gavin was third, followed by Porsche’s Nick Tandy and BMW Team RLL’s John Edwards.
GT Daytona was led by Compass Racing’s Paul Holton with a lap at 106.847 mph, good for 15th overall in his McLaren 720S GT3. Holton was nearly half a second faster than AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth. GRT Magnus’ Andy Lally was third in his Lamborghini, while Riley Motorsports’ Gar Robinson was fourth. Frankie Montecalvo was fifth in class in the second Lexus.
Practice No. 2
Saturday morning brought sunny skies and South Florida humidity. That allowed teams to get a good idea of where they’ll be in dry conditions. Derani’s quick lap of the weekend ultimately came in the final 10 minutes of the session.
Derani’s lap was a quarter of a second faster than Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 5 Cadillac that Barbosa took off-course near the end of the first session Friday. Acura Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves was third quickest in his ARX-05, while teammate Juan Pablo Montoya was fourth. Mazda Motorsports’ Tristan Nunez was fifth quickest.
Menezes was once again the man to beat in LMP2. He set the fastest time in class 25 minutes into the session and continued to improve it from there. By the end of the session, he had set a lap at 122.740 mph to lead the class. This is an unofficial class lap record.
However, things aren’t all good for DragonSpeed. With 15 minutes remaining in the session, Menezes pulled his ORECA 07-Gibson off-course at the entrance to the auxiliary pit lane due to a mechanical issue.
Menezes’ lap was a half a second faster than Dalziel’s Tower Events-sponsored entry. Pigot was once again third quickest.
In GT Le Mans, it was Porsche GT Team that was fastest in class with Frederic Makowiecki in the No. 911 topping the charts with a lap at 115.319 mph set right at the end of the session. Makowiecki’s lap was eight-hundredths of a second faster than Vanthoor. Corvette Racing teammates Gavin and Jordan Taylor were third and fourth, while Jesse Krohn was fifth.
GT Daytona saw Scuderia Corsa’s Toni Vilander go fastest with a lap at 110.038 mph in the sole Ferrari 488 GT3 in the field. That lap was one-sixth of a second faster than AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Aaron Telitz in the No. 14 Lexus. Robinson was third quickest, followed by Spencer Pumpelly in the Hardpoint Motorsports Audi. Gradient Racing’s Marc Miller was fifth in the sole Acura on-site.
Qualifying for the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring is scheduled to begin at 1:55 p.m. Saturday afternoon. It will be streamed live at IMSA.com.
About the author
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 the Super DIRTcar Series.
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