Cadillac went 1-2 in Friday’s lone IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship session, the final on-track activity prior to Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Loic Duval was quickest with a lap of 1m35.085s in the No. 5 JDC-Miller Motorsports Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R, with Kevin Magnussen stepping up to run second-fastest in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac (-0.012s). Coming to IMSA from Formula 1, Magnussen joined co-drivers Renger van der Zande and Scott Dixon in turning fast laps in the car this weekend.
Third-fastest with limited track time was Oliver Jarvis in the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P (-0.047s). Jarvis turned only five laps in the one-hour session, after turning a single installation lap in Thursday’s night session following an engine and gearbox change. Filipe Albuquerque was fourth-fastest in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 (-0.053s).
The overall victory is up to grabs, with each of the seven DPis a solid candidate for the win. In a departure from the four two-car teams of recent years, Action Express has the lone multi-car operation in 2021. Michael Shank Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing each field an Acura ARX-05; Mazda has cut back to a one-car operation; and Chip Ganassi Racing and JDC-Miller Motorsport join Action Express with the Cadillac contenders. Meyer Shank Racing returns to the Prototypes after racing in GT Daytona the past two years, winning the 2019 and 2020 championships.
Fastest in Thursday’s second session, NASCAR competitor and NBC commentator A.J. Allmendinger joins Olivier Pla and former IMSA champions Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron behind the wheel of the team’s new Acura Dpi.
“I’m not really sure where we stand here,” Allmendinger said. “I believe the Cadillacs and the Mazda have a lot of pace – they probably haven’t shown everything that they have. We’ve continued to make improvements from the test and the 100-minute race, and we’ve improved the car. But it’s a 24-hour race. I think the bigger deal is going to be traffic and making no mistakes. It’s going to be easy to get caught up in somebody else’s mess, and that’s what we have to focus on. I don’t think we’ll have the outright pace, but in a 24-hour race anything can happen. We’ve got to be smart and be there at the end.”
Allmendinger has led 13 of his 14 career starts in the event, finishing second in his debut in 2006 and winning the 50th Rolex 24 in 2012. He’s logged 8,692 competition laps in the event – all behind the wheel of a Shank machine. He joined Shank in a move to the GT Daytona class in 2018, finishing second in the class.
“It’s been very enjoyable getting back to the Prototype car,” Allmendinger said. “Compared to the last time I was in one, we’re running four or five seconds faster overall lap times. The cars have a lot of pace in them. It’s still tough to get used to the braking – you can be so late on the brakes and carry so much speed through the corners, the cars have so much downforce. Definitely a lot to learn compared to the last time I was in one. Fortunately, I have great teammates in Olivier, Dane and Juan. They’re really shown me what I need to learn as quick as possible.”
While the spotlight is on the DPi field, there are a number of LMP2 competitors that could challenge for overall given the rigors of the 24-hour grind. John Farano led Friday’s session, running 1m36.448s in the No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07-Gibson. Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen was second in the No. 20 High Class Racing ORECA (-0.124s), followed by Tristan Nunez in the No. 11 WIN Autosport ORECA (-0.423s).
Jeroen Bleekemolen paced LMP3, running 1m43.072s in the No. 91 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320. Rasmus Lindh was second in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier (-0.637s), followed by Moritz Kranz in the No. 6 Muehlner Motorsports Duqueine M30-D08 (-1.128s).
In GTLM, Ferrari led virtually the entire session based on a lap of 1m42.584s turned by Alessandro Pier Guidi in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE. Kevin Estre was second in the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 (-0.019s), with Tommy Milner third in the No. 4 Corvette C8.R (-0.142s).
The GRT Grasser Lamborghini Huracan GT3s ran 1-2 in GTD. Franck Perera led the class in the No. 19 Lamborghini, 1m45.583s, closely followed by teammate Mirko Bortolotti in the No. 111 (-0.154s). Third was Daniel Serra in the No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 (-0.404s).
In the opening minutes, Alan Metni had contact with barrier on his out lap in the No. 42 NTE Sport Audi R8 LMS GT3, but was able to limp back to the pits. The crew found major damage, and is scrambling to have the car repaired for tomorrow’s start. Later, the session was briefly red-flagged twice, for the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA of Nicolas Lapierre and the No. 12 VasserSullivan Lexus RC F GFT3 of Frankie Montecalvo.
UP NEXT: The 59th Rolex 24 is set to take the green flag at 3:40 p.m. on Saturday.