Juan Pablo Montoya turned in the fastest lap in Friday evening’s opening practice for the WeatherTech 240, the return to action for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Daytona International Speedway.
Three classes – DPi, GTLM and GTD – took to the famed roval for a one-hour session in preparation for Saturday evening’s two-hour, 40-minute race. The incident-free practice was the first IMSA session in more than five months, since the checkered flag waved for the Rolex 24 At Daytona in late January.
“I’m so excited to be back in the car,” said Montoya, driver of the No. 6 Team Penske Acura DPi. “We were lucky, with all of the rain and thunder through the day, to get the practice in. On lap one my time was pretty close to matching Dane (co-driver Cameron); when Dane came in he told me the car was really comfortable, I was going to like it. Talk about pressure! But it felt good, we’ve got a really good race car.”
Montoya toured the 3.56-mile circuit in 1m35.960s late in the session, bumping off Pipo Derani by 0.016s after the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi was on top for most of the hour. Derani has a new teammate for the weekend, with Gabby Chavez stepping in for Felipe Nasr after the latter tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.
Harry Tincknell was third, 0.137s back in the No. 55 Mazda DPi. The seven DPis that turned laps were within 0.0789s.
As Montoya said, the session was run in ideal 82-degree conditions. Tomorrow may be different, though.
“Weather looks kind of crazy for tomorrow, so we will see what that brings,” Montoya said. “But the forecast didn’t look great for today, and we got lucky. So we’ll have to wait and see – it’s Florida – we’ll have to wait and see what it brings. It’s going to be a long day, but I’m so excited to be back. It’s so cool driving this car.”
All but one of the 26 entries participated in the session. The Mazda Motorsports team worked on the No. 77 Mazda DPi of Tristan Nunez and Oliver Jarvis on pit road before pushing it behind the wall with 10 minutes remaining.
In GT Le Mans, the Porsche GT Team’s Laurens Vanthoor was fastest in the No. 912 911 RSR-19, 1m44.003s, 0.072s ahead of Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette Racing C8.R. Nick Tandy was third in the No. 911 Porsche, 0.121s back.
Toni Vilander paced GT Daytona in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa WeatherTech Ferrari 488 EVO, 1m47.481s. Townsend Bell was second, 0.207s back in the No. 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan, followed by Mario Farnbacher, 0.251s behind in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3.
All personnel were required to answer daily questionnaires and undergo temperature checks before entering the facility. Strict social distancing is also being enforced throughout the property – the media is limited to the press box atop the grandstands, with all interviews being conducted via Zoom.
Saturday opens with practice from 10:15 a.m.-11:30 a.m., with 15-minute qualifying sessions getting underway at 1:15 p.m. The two-hour, 40-minute race is set to take the green flag at 6:10 p.m.