Felipe Nasr put Action Express Racing and hometown brand Cadillac on top as preparations began for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s annual event on Detroit’s Belle Isle.
The first laps for Michelin rubber around the Raceway at Belle Isle Park since the American Le Mans Series last visited in 2008 was also the first rubber laid down as the premier North American sports car racing championship kicked off the overall Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix weekend.
Returning to the Motor City with the new tires and no longer balanced against LMP2 cars, Nasr and the Whelen-branded No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R toppled the year-old circuit record of 1:21.637, set by the Brazilian driver himself during the 100-minute race in 2018.
This year, Nasr opened the weekend with a 1:20.583 lap to put the championship-leading Cadillac DPi back atop the running order in Detroit — where it concluded the event last year as the overall winner.
The top four in Practice 1 featured only two teams and two manufacturers as Helio Castroneves, Filipe Albuquerque and Dane Cameron of Action Express and Team Penske surfaced atop the 11-car DPi field. Ending with Cameron 0.901 seconds back from Nasr in fourth, this quartet turned in best laps within the same half second.
Jordan Taylor in fifth was 1.050 seconds off the leading pace in Wayne Taylor Racing’s Konica Minolta Cadillac. Colin Braun’s top lap in the Ligier Nissan DPi from CORE autosport was sixth, putting it clear of the Cadillacs of JDC-Miller Motorsports and Juncos Racing.
Both JDC-Miller machines experienced issues during the long session, including a heavy crash for the No. 85 and Compass Racing’s new McLaren 720S GT3 in Turn 1.
The session perhaps went worse for Mazda Team Joest, which accumulated just three laps with its No. 55 Mazda RT24-P while the sister No. 77 never left pit lane.
Legge Paces GTD
The GT Daytona field, competing only for WeatherTech Sprint Cup points in Detroit, took the track after 15 minutes of DPi-only running and was led by Meyer Shank Racing’s Katherine Legge.
Christina Nielsen ended the session in the No. 57 Acura NSX GT3 from the team but it was Legge’s lap that marked the best of the session for the Jackie Heinricher-affiliated entry.
At 1:30.304, Legge came within 1.281 seconds of the class record on Belle Isle and kept Bryan Sellers at bay by 0.243 seconds on the timesheet.
Beyond Sellers and the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Porsche, Lexus and BMW machinery filled the remainder of the top five for Park Place Motorsports, AIM Vasser Sullivan and Turner Motorsport.
The 12-car division was split by 1.593 seconds.
The second WeatherTech Championship practice is scheduled to run from 12:40–2:30 p.m. EDT Friday before qualifying begins at 5:20 p.m.