The first of three practice sessions Thursday at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta marked the beginning of the end of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season and was paced by Felipe Nasr in Action Express Racing’s championship-contending Cadillac DPi-V.R.
- Results: 2019 Motul Petit Le Mans Practice 1
Chasing the DPi championship with season-long co-driver Pipo Derani this weekend, Nasr executed a 1:09.093 lap on the eighth of just nine trips around Road Atlanta Thursday morning for the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi.
Nasr went 1.344 seconds quicker than the standing prototype record at the circuit, set by Derani in a Ligier Nissan DPi from Tequila Patron ESM a year ago.
Despite turning fewer than 10 laps while most of its DPi competition went around nearly 30 times, the red and white Action Express machine was a significant 0.642 seconds quicker than the second-quickest prototype in the session. That gap of well over half a second was the difference between Nasr and Team Penske’s Ricky Taylor on their quickest tours as the weekend got underway.
After Taylor in the No. 7 Acura ARX-05, championship co-leader Dane Cameron set the third-fastest time in the sister No. 6 Acura DPi from Penske. Entering Saturday’s 10-hour race with a 12-point lead over the No. 31 Cadillac, the car driven all year long by Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya was 0.880 seconds off Nasr in Practice 1.
Colin Braun and Matthieu Vaxiviere completed the top five for CORE autosport and Wayne Taylor Racing. The Mazda Team Joest cars placed sixth and 10th in the 11-car class with the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P lapping slower than Juncos Racing’s returning Cadillac, which ended up ninth.
The No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac turned only five laps and landed at the bottom of the overall field of 34, nearly 14 seconds off the leading DPi pace.
A lap record was unofficially established in the new-for-2019 LMP2 class by Gabriel Aubry in the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA 07 while Richard Westbrook and Bill Auberlen dipped under the GT Le Mans and GT Daytona records in their Ford- and BMW-powered cars.
Westbrook and the No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT led GTLM with a 1:16.810, going 0.196 seconds under the category’s Road Atlanta record but just 0.092 seconds quicker than James Calado in Risi Competizione’s Ferrari 488 GTE, which hasn’t seen WeatherTech Championship action since the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Also including the second Ford GT and the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR, the top four in GTLM was under John Edwards’ 2018 record set in his BMW Team RLL car.
IMSA veteran Auberlen was the only GTD pilot under the division’s Road Atlanta record with his 1:19.306 in Turner Motorsport’s BMW M6 GT3. Jack Hawksworth, Bryan Sellers, Christopher Mies and Jeroen Bleekemolen comprised the remainder of the top five in Lexus, Lamborghini, Audi and Mercedes-AMG machinery. Down to Scuderia Corsa’s Ferrari in sixth, the top six featured no repeating manufacturers and was split by less than half a second.
The session was extended by five minutes when Marco Seefried caused a late red flag by stopping at Turn 5 in Paul Miller Racing’s Lamborghini Huracan GT3, which still placed third. Earlier on, a tire puncture at Turn 2 for Jack Hawksworth within the first 10 minutes of the session made his AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 the cause of the session’s other red-flag period.
A second WeatherTech Championship practice will begin at 2:50 p.m. EDT Thursday. Later, a night practice will run from 7:30–9 p.m.