Connor De Phillippi and Mike Skeen were the quickest drivers in the opening session for the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT classes.
De Phillippi topped GTD PRO and overall, with a 1m45.196s lap in the No.25 BMW M Team RLL M4 GT3. Skeen was 0.152s off De Phillippi’s time to head GTD in the No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG.
The times were close for the first practice around the 3.27-mile, 17-turn VIRginia International Raceway, with the top 14 cars overall in the 18-car field within a second. The GTD PRO entries were scattered throughout the field, with Matt Campbell making the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R the second-quickest GTD PRO entry at 1m45.492, Campbell was fifth overall, two places ahead of the third-place GTD PRO runner Jack Hawksworth in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, another 0.032s behind Campbell.
The top three in GTD were within 0.0051s, Jan Heylen second in GTD in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R at 1m45.390s, and Bryan Sellers only 0.009s slower in the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3. Philip Ellis in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG and Frankie Montecalvo in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F rounded out the top five.
While the first session of the weekend is a bit early to start talking about championship implications for the weekend, it’s worth noting that the top two teams in the GTD fight were the top two in the session. Skeen’s teammate, Stevan McAleer, leads the standings by 36 points over Heylen and Ryan Hardwick.
“VIR is an awesome racetrack,” said Heylen. “I love going to this circuit because of the people that run it. It’s always exciting to go back here. We’re in the final two races of the season, and currently second in the championship. We know what to do. It’s fun to be chasing the title and I hope we come away from VIR with some points as we did at the last race. I’m really excited to be here and hopefully have another good race with Ryan for the championship. ”
The session ran uninterrupted by cautions, with only two spins counted during the hour.
With the race at VIR being a GT-only weekend, drivers are expecting a quality race with lots of strategy coming into play.
“VIR delivers some of the best GT racing in IMSA,” said Madison Snow, driver of the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW with Sellers. “The track itself is the best maintained one we run at and the scenery around is amazing. Being a GT-only weekend means less traffic on track and usually a lot less full-course yellows. This changes strategy and the way in which you run a race like this. Bryan and I finished on the podium here last year and scored our first victory together here and I believe we have a solid chance at doing so again this weekend.”
UP NEXT: The one-and-a-half hour Practice 2 at 10:40 a.m. Eastern, which will be followed by qualifying.