Felipe Nasr made the first statement in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi battle for the title, setting fast time for the first Motul Petit Le Mans practice session in the Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac shortly before halfway in the hour-long session. Only the next three cars were within a second of Nasr’s 1m09.508s lap of the 2.54-mile Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Well outside that margin, sixth in the DPi class, was the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 of Wayne Taylor Racing. Ricky Taylor set the quick time of 1m11.057s in the car he’s sharing with Filipe Albuquerque and Alexander Rossi. Taylor and Albuquerque are locked in a tight fight for the championship, leading Nasr and Pipo Derani by a scant 19 points. Pipo and Derani are joined by Mike Conway for Petit Le Mans.
Renger van der Zande was second in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Cadillac, a quarter-second behind. Dan Cameron was third in the quickest of the Acuras, 0.586s slower than Nasr in the No. 60, followed by Kamui Kobayashi in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (-0.903s) and Loic Duval in the No. 5 JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac (-1.251s). Jonathan Bomarito, whose No. 55 Mazda rolled to a halt off course at Turn 8 and brought out the first of three red flags 33 minutes into the session, brought up the rear of the DPi field, 1.783s off Nasr’s best.
Gabriel Aubry led the LMP2 class, turning a 1m11.718s in the No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA, followed by Wayne Boyd in the No. 22 United Autosports entry (-0.215s) and Tristan Nunez in the No. 11 WIN Autosport car (-0.403s).
Colin Braun topped LMP3 with a 1m15.916s in CORE Autosport’s Ligier, followed by Spencer Pigot in the Jr II Racing Ligier a scant 0.058s behind, and Felipe Fraga in the Riley Motorsports Ligier (-0.265s).
Porsche took the top two spots in GTLM, with factory pilots in the two WeatherTech Racing 911 RSRs setting the quick times. Fred Makowiecki in the PLM-only No. 97 was quickest at 1m16.726s with Mathieu Jaminet a close 0.158s behind in the No. 79 Porsche. The rest of the GTLM entries were in the 17s, separated by just over 0.4s, with Jesse Krohn turning a 1m17.562s lap in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW. The Corvette entries were next, Nick Tandy in the No. 04 leading Nicky Catsburg, with the No. 25 BMW last, Bruno Spengler setting the fastest time in that car.
The two cars leading the GTD championship and separated by only 50 points — the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 and the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan — were well down the time charts in the first session, with Bryan Sellers sixth in the Lamborghini and Zachary Robichon 11th in the Porsche. Instead, Bill Auberlen topped the time sheet in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 with a 1m19.197s. Frederick Schandorff set the second fast time in the No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S, making its first WeatherTech SportsCar Championship appearance, 0.169s behind. Jack Hawksworth completed the top three in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus (-0.367s), followed by Jaden Conwright in the No. 42 NTE Sport Audi R8 (-0.395s) and Patrick Long in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche (-0.624).
UP NEXT: The second practice session commences at 2:20 p.m. ET. That session and the night practice session could both be impacted by rain, making the sessions of questionable use in preparing for what is predicted to be dry qualifying Friday afternoon and the race on Saturday.