Action Express Racing’s pair of Cadillac-powered prototypes sped to the top of the timesheet in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s night practice outing at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
- Results: 2019 Motul Petit Le Mans Practice 3
Simulating the critical nighttime period of Saturday’s 10-hour endurance contest, Thursday’s third session didn’t produce the fastest lap of the weekend thus far but did confirm the competitiveness of a certain few cars.
After his season-long co-driver Felipe Nasr set the mark to beat in morning practice to kick off the weekend, Pipo Derani executed the fastest lap of Road Atlanta in the dark and returned the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R to the forefront of the field.
At 1:09.455, Derani’s pace was 0.36 seconds off the day’s top time but still enough to gap the No. 5 Action Express Cadillac DPi by a comfortable two-tenths of a second. Filipe Albuquerque was fastest in that car, which turned 58 laps during the 90-minute period — 10 more than the No. 31.
After the Action Express duo, Ricky Taylor was Team Penske fastest pilot as he placed third after a session-high 60 laps for the No. 7 Acura ARX-05. Taylor was marginally quicker than Tristan Vautier and Oliver Jarvis who completed the top five in their JDC-Miller Motorsports and Mazda Team Joest cars and were the final drivers within half a second of Derani.
Onboard audio and video from the points-leading No. 6 Acura DPi led IMSA Radio’s commentators to conclude that Juan Pablo Montoya was practicing saving fuel, perhaps explaining the car’s position of ninth out of 11 in DPi after an hour and a half.
Juncos Racing’s Rene Binder caused the only red flag when he went off course at Turn 10 roughly halfway through the session’s duration.
Gabriel Aubry and PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports went quicker than their only competition in LMP2 for the third time of the day while GT Le Mans saw a new top car and driver combination thanks to Dirk Mueller’s chart-topping 1:16.552 lap in the No. 66 Ford GT.
Unlike in the flagship prototype class, the fastest GTLM lap was also the category’s fastest of the day. Mueller went 0.156 seconds quicker than the time Daniel Serra took to the top in the previous session in Risi Competizione’s Ferrari 488 GTE.
BMW Team RLL had its best showing of the day with Tom Blomqvist landing second in the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE, 0.237 seconds slower than Mueller. Just 0.019, 0.061 and 0.067 seconds split the Ford, Corvette and Ferrari machines that comprised the remainder of the top 10.
Bill Auberlen claimed the fastest GT Daytona lap for the second time Thursday with a lap slightly slower but on par with the two other session-leading laps of the day. After the veteran pilot in the Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Spencer Pumpelly, Bryan Sellers and Christopher Mies filled the top five with Mercedes-AMG, Lamborghini and Audi cars.
Two days before wrapping up the GTD championship, barring unforeseen circumstances, Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 was eighth out of 12 GTD cars in night practice.
Practice 4 will kick off Saturday’s WeatherTech Championship action at 11:15 a.m. EDT as the final opportunity to turn laps before the final qualifying of 2019 commences at 3:55 p.m.