As the drivers had their first taste of driving into darkness at Daytona International Speedway, Helio Castroneves had the fortune to be the last driver to go into the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-06 in the second session of the Roar Before the 24. With cooler temperatures and less traffic, Castroneves set the quick time of the second session – and the second quick time of the day for MSR – as the teams and drivers prepare for next weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, the opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
“This is all about team Acura to be honest, especially Meyer Shank Racing,” said Castroneves. “These guys basically did everything. It’s been a long process and I think everyone here in the paddock, especially the GTP boys probably understand what I’m saying because everyone has been, you know, trying and pushing and understanding. For me it was just go out there and luck of a draw to be the last one here so… But hey, I’ll take it! It was a good lap, but we need to keep working hard.”
Castroneves admitted the car was a far cry from the last time he drove it in testing.
“To be honest, it was the first time I felt good in the car. Acura did a lot of work behind the scenes that people don’t understand. When I was here testing the last time, there was no way I was happy. There were question marks, big time. But at the end of the day, everyone did a great job and now let’s just keep it going,” he said.
Castroneves pipped Wayne Taylor Racing’s Filipe Albuquerque as the two Acuras led the session, the No. 10 WTR car 0.110s shy of Castroneves’s 1m35.120s lap. Scott Dixon put the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-LMDh in third with 1m35.585s, followed by Michael Christensen in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963, Earl Bamber in the No. 02 CGR Cadillac and Sheldon van der Linde in the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8. The top six were covered by less than a second, and all four GTP manufacturers were represented in that group. The No. 6 Porsche struggled with issues and completed only nine laps, and the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac was off the pace, nearly two seconds off the top time.
Mikkel Jensen was the quickest in LMP2 in the No. 11 TDS Racing ORECA-Gibson at 1m38.730s. He was followed by Matthieu Vaxiviere (No. 88 AF Corse) and Ben Keating (No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports). Gabby Chaves put the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier on top of LMP3 with a 1m42.926s lap. Joao Barbosa was once again quick, but had to settle for the second best time in the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier, while Felipe Fraga was third for Riley Motorsports.
The GT charts were topped by a GTD car for the second time today, Fabian Schiller taking the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG to the top with 1 1m47.020s, just besting the top GTD PRO car, the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 driven by Ben Barnicoat with a 1m47.040s lap.
Alex Riberas was second-quickest in GTD PRO, more than half a second off Barnicoat’s best, and Mirko Bortolotti was third in the No. 63 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracán. Several GTD PRO cars that had difficulties in the first session turned a solid number of laps in the second, including the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG setting the fourth-fastest time (Maro Engel) and the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 in fifth (Davide Rigon).
Vasser Sullivan was second in GTD as well as GTD PRO, Parker Thompson turning a 1m47.096s lap to put the No. third overall among the GT cars. Nicki Thiim lapped at 1m47.166s in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Aston Martin Vantage that Andy Lally had put on top of the GT time sheets in the first session.
UP NEXT: The first of three sessions on Saturday, a 90-minute run beginning at 11:15 a.m. ET.