Thursday (Jan. 28) saw IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams practice for more than four hours in preparation for Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. After all of that time, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Renger van der Zande was quickest in two of the three sessions. His quickest lap of the day at 136.129 mph was set during the night session.
Practice No. 1
In the opening practice session, Chip Ganassi Racing showed that they’re in it to win it. Van der Zande was quickest overall in his Cadillac DPi-V.R. with a lap at 135.406 mph.
Van der Zande’s lap was eight-hundredths of a second faster than Action Express Racing’s Mike Conway. Mazda Motorsports’ Harry Tincknell was third, followed by the Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing’s Ricky Taylor. JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Loic Duval was fifth. The top six drivers were separated by less than half a second on the watch.
LMP2 saw Nicolas Lapierre go fastest with a lap at 133.288 mph in his ORECA 07-Gibson for PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports. Lapierre’s lap was a quarter of a second faster than DragonSpeed’s Ben Hanley. Racing Team Nederland’s Job van Uitert was third fastest, followed by the Dallara of Cetilar Racing’s Antonio Fuoco. High Class Racing’s Robert Kubica was fifth.
RWR Eurasia’s Sven Mueller, in his first chance to drive the team’s Ligier JS P217-Gibson, ended up at the back of the class. Later on, Cody Ware spun the Nurtec ODT-sponsored No. 51 in the bus stop chicane and made slight contact with the wall. Ware was able to drive his Ligier back to the pits, but IMSA still put out the red flag so that the safety crews could inspect the barrier.
Riley Motorsports’ Jeroen Bleekemolen was fastest in LMP3 with a lap at 125.137 mph, good for 18th overall. Bleekemolen’s lap was three-sevenths of a second faster than CORE autosport’s Colin Braun. Muehlner Motorsports America’s Kenton Koch was third, then Gabby Chaves and Oliver Askew.
Corvette Racing continued to show off their speed Thursday as Tommy Milner was fastest in GT Le Mans with a lap at 124.711 mph. Milner’s lap was three-tenths of a second faster than Antonio Garcia in the second Corvette. Risi Competizione’s Jules Gounon was third in the Ferrari, while WeatherTech Racing’s Richard Lietz and BMW Team RLL’s Bruno Spengler were fourth and fifth, respectively.
Alegra Motorsports’ Billy Johnson was fastest in GT Daytona with a lap at 121.109 mph in his Mercedes-AMG GT3. Johnson’s lap was four-hundredths of a second faster than Team Hardpoint/EBM’s Earl Bamber. PFAFF Motorsports’ Matt Campbell was third in his Porsche, then Magnus with Archangel’s Andy Lally in the Acura. Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth was fifth in the No. 14 Lexus.
GRT Grasser Racing Team’s Albert Costa was sixth in the best Lamborghini, followed by Wright Motorsports’ Patrick Long and SunEnergy1 Racing’s Mikael Grenier. HTP Winward Motorsport’s Indy Dontje and Turner Motorsport’s Bill Auberlen rounded out the top 10.
GRT Grasser Racing Team’s second entry, driven by Mirko Bortolotti, creeped to a stop on the apron of turn 2 of the tri-oval early in the session. This drew a brief flag in order to retrieve the car. The team was unable to return to the track and ended up at the bottom of the speed chart.
Practice No. 2
In the 90-minute second session, Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s AJ Allmendinger turned in the fastest lap at 135.925 mph in the closing minutes in the session. This lap was nearly a quarter of a second faster than Action Express Racing’s Kamui Kobayashi. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon was third in his Cadillac, while JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Sebastien Bourdais was fourth. Mazda Motorsports’ Jonathan Bomarito was fifth in his Mazda.
PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ Wynn’s-sponsored No. 52 remained at the top in LMP2. This time, it was Mikkel Jensen who was fastest with a lap at 133.529 mph. Jensen was one-sixth of a second faster than Tower Motorsport by Starworks’ Matthieu Vaxiviere. Kubica was third, then Racing Team Nederland’s Giedo van der Garde and Rinus VeeKay for DragonSpeed.
WeatherTech Racing’s Gianmaria Bruni was fastest in GT Le Mans with a lap at 124.912 mph, good for 18th overall. Bruni was a tenth and a half of a second faster than Risi Competizione’s James Calado. Garcia and Milner were third and fourth, while BMW Team RLL’s Philipp Eng was fifth.
Riley Motorsports’ No. 91 Ligier JS P320-Nissan was fastest once in the second session, this time with Dylan Murry at the wheel. Murry’s lap at 124.216 mph, good for 22nd overall, was nearly four-tenths of a second faster than teammate Scott Andrews. Performance Tech Motorsports’ Rasmus Lindh was third, then Joao Barbosa and Ryan Norman.
Bortolotti had issues with his car during the first session. In the afternoon, he put the No. 111 Lamborghini at the top of the GT Daytona charts with a lap at 121.260 mph. Bortolotti’s lap was a quarter of a second faster than the Porsche of TeamTGM’s Owen Trinkler. Team Hardpoint/EBM’s Katherine Legge was third fastest, then Laurens Vanthoor and Magnus with Archangel’s Spencer Pumpelly.
Paul Miller Racing’s Corey Lewis was sixth in his Lamborghini, while Scuderia Corsa’s Marcos Gomes was seventh. HTP Winward Motorsport’s Philip Ellis, Wright Motorsports’ Klaus Bachler and Costa rounded out the top 10.
Practice No. 3
Van der Zande’s quick lap of the day came two-thirds of the way through the 105-minute night practice session. The lap was three-tenths of a second faster than Ricky Taylor. Action Express Racing’s Felipe Nasr was third with Duval fourth. Simon Pagenaud was fifth, meaning that all four Cadillacs were in the top five. Mazda Motorsports’ Mazda RT24-P chose to sit out the session.
Jensen was once again fastest in LMP2 with a lap at 133.454 mph. Jensen’s lap was a quarter of a second faster than Vaxiviere. Kubica was third, then Racing Team Nederland’s Charles Milesi. Hanley ended up fifth quickest.
Bleekemolen once again was fastest in LMP3 at 125.044 mph, good for 17th overall. One-sixth of a second back was Muehlner Motorsports America’s Laurents Hoerr, followed by Sean Creech Motorsports’ Wayne Boyd. Askew and Braun were fourth and fifth.
Corvette Racing’s Nick Tandy was fastest in GT Le Mans with a lap at 124.929 mph, the fastest lap in class to this point. Tandy was eight-hundredths of a second faster than Garcia. Risi Competizione’s Davide Rigon was third, then Bruni and John Edwards.
GRT Grasser Racing Team’s No. 111 Lamborghini was once again fastest in GT Daytona. This time, it was Marco Mapelli who turned in a lap at 121.372 mph to lead the pack.
Mapelli was a mere three-thousandths of a second faster than Vasser Sullivan’s Aaron Telitz in his Lexus. Bamber was third, then Frankie Montecalvo in the second Vasser Sullivan Lexus. Turner Motorsport’s Aidan Read was fifth.
HTP Winward Motorsport’s Maro Engel was sixth, while AF Corse’s Matteo Cressoni and Lally actually tied for seventh. Cressoni turned the lap first, so he gets the position. TF Sport’s Charlie Eastwood was ninth and SunEnergy1 Racing’s Raffaele Marciello 10th.
There was one red flag period during the session. This occurred when Ed Jones stalled the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari near the entrance to pit road.
Pace-wise, while Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott are not the fastest drivers out there, they’ve both posted competitive times in the DPi class. They won’t be holding anyone up during the race. Austin Dillon has not had that much time on-track, completing only 20 laps between the three sessions. Of the 40 drivers in LMP2, Dillon’s best lap is the second slowest to this point.
WeatherTech teams have one more practice session Friday morning at 11:20 a.m. This will be 60 minutes in length.