It was better late than never for the Ford Chip Ganassi GT team during the first practice session at Virginia International Raceway for IMSA’s Michelin GT Challenge event. Porsche GT Team’s Earl Bamber took charge of the one-hour run and was poised to end the session on top, but Ford’s Richard Westbrook knocked the New Zealander from P1 on the final lap – after the checkered flag had waved.
The Briton’s Ford GT (1m42.627s) edged Bamber’s Porsche 911 RSR (+0.134s) and had Joey Hand in the sister Ford (+0.166s) close behind in third during a hot and humid opening to the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s last GT-only round of the year.
If the GT Le Mans times were close at VIR, GT Daytona kept things closer as the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F of Jack Hawksworth (1m45.160s) had minimal breathing room in front of the Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Jeroen Bleekemolen (+0.030s). Magnus Racing’s Andy Lally, making the team’s first start at VIR since 2016, was third in his Audi R8 LMS GT3 (+0.280s).
GTD also accounted for a few pieces of drama as Bleekemolen’s teammate Ben Keating ended the session stranded on course in the V8-powered coupe, and earlier in the procession, a lengthy red flag was required to mop up the oil left behind by Paul Miller Racing’s championship-leading Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
Following a blown engine that set the team back at Lime Rock – prior to authoring an impressive comeback win – a similar fate likely befell the Italian machine while Bryan Sellers was behind the wheel. Sellers and the car were transported back to the pits where more intensive recovery work was anticipated by the team.
UP NEXT: Free Practice 2, 4:25 p.m. ET