Heavy rain held off long enough for the teams preparing for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta to gain some valuable information on how their setups will perform at night. That will be critical as the 2021 edition of the race, occurring about a month later in the year than its usual early October date – and after the end of Daylight Savings Time – means more than an hour more of darkness, with four-and-a-half hours of dusk and nighttime running.
A light drizzle started a few minutes into the session, but it didn’t become heavy enough for teams to pull their cars in until about halfway through the practice scheduled for 90 minutes. As most teams had managed to get the running in for their drivers who were required to do nighttime laps – a prerequisite for racing in the dark on Saturday – and because there is no rain forecast for Saturday, the track was largely quiet by 7:20 p.m. with only a handful of GTD cars pounding around to get their required night laps.
The weather made times largely irrelevant, but No. 5 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac driver Tristan Vautier set the quick time in the session with a 1m10.796s, almost 1.5s off the times from this afternoon. Kevin Magnussen was close, only 0.026s off in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac. The rest of the DPi cars turned times in the 1m11s, Oliver Jarvis the quickest fo the rest in the No. 55 Mazda.
Vautier told IMSA Radio that the team has been better in the cold, which is good news for them, as Saturday is expected to be much cooler than today, with highs in the low 50s.
Mikkel Jensen was the quickest in LMP2, turning a 1m11.589s in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca; Jensen was also quickest in the afternoon session, and was quicker in the dark. Rasmus Lindh topped LMP3 with a 1m16.605s in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier. The No. 97 WeatherTech Racing Porsche was back on top of GTLM, once again with Fred Makowiecki turning the quick lap at 1m17.253s. Lexus headed the GTD times for the first time, with Jack Hawksworth running 1m20.342s.
Of Note: The No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R of Patrick Long, Jan Heylen and Trent Hindman that crashed during the afternoon practice session reportedly will not be returning to the track this weekend. Wright Motorsports is working on logistics, with one option being retrieving another chassis from its home base in Ohio, but it’s likely that chassis will need some parts from the crashed car in order to run.
The three drivers are in contention for the Michelin Endurance Cup, and because Long is stepping down from driving after this race, it’s expected that the team will make every effort to put a car on track for the race.
UP NEXT: Qualifying for the Motul Petit Le Mans starts at 3:45 p.m. ET tomorrow, the only time the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be on track on Friday. Qualifying can be viewed on IMSA TV or followed on IMSA Radio.