For the first time across the Roar and Rolex 24 week, Acura wasn’t at the top of the time sheets in a dry session, ceding the spot to the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-LMDh in the hands of Richard Westbrook with a 1m35.185s lap, a hair under 0.2s better than Tom Blomqvist’s time from the morning session.
“It’s nice to be at the top but I don’t really think you need to read too much into it because obviously [there are] big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels other people are running,” said Westbrook.
“But we had a good run. Car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago, to be quite honest about that. It really does feel good now. We’re finally working on performance, definitely unlocking some potential and that just gives us more confidence going into the race now.”
The Cadillacs held the top three spots for most of the session until Louis Deletraz posted a 1m35.423s time in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-06, besting Renger van der Zande in the No. 01 CGR Cadillac by a mere 0.004s. Pipo Derani was fourth in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac, followed by Felipe Nasr in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports 936.
The top 8 GTP cars were covered by three-quarters of a second. Only the No. 24 BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8 was outside the margin after turning just nine laps.
Continuing a trend established during the Roar, the fastest GTD driver was quicker than the GTD PRO runners. Mikael Grenier posted the top time in the No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG with a 1m46.282s lap. Fellow Mercedes pilot Maro Engel was at the top of GTD PRO, 0.118s behind Grenier’s time.
The next six GT cars were all GTD entrants. Ryan Briscoe was second in GTD at 1m46.418s in the No 93 Racers Edge with WTR Acura NSX Evo22. Kenny Habul posted a 1m46.642 in his No. 75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG, with Jaden Conwright (No. 42 NTE/SSR Lamborghini Huracan) and Nicki Thiim (No. 44 Magnus Racing Aston Martin Vantage) completing the top five.
Alex Riberas was second in GTD PRO, ninth overall, with a 1m46.871s in the No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin. Jordan Taylor put the No. 3 Corvette into the top three, 0.066s shy of Riberas’s best. Matt Plumb (No. 64 TGM/TF Sport Aston Martin) and Ben Barnicoat (No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F) rounded out the top five; Barnicoat 12th overall. Two cars behind Barnicoat was the last GT car covered by the first second.
PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports was at the front of LMP2 again; Nicolas Lapierre in the No. 52 ORECA doing the honors with a 1m38.615s lap. Job Van Uitert followed in the No. 35 TDS Racing ORECA, 0.421s behind and just edging Christian Rasmussen in the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA.
Felipe Fraga was on top of LMP3 again with 1 1m42.491s lap in the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier, a couple of tenths quicker than his morning session time. Nico Varrone followed in the No. 17 AWA Duqeuine, with Matthew Bell in the No. 13 sister car next.
Despite four red flags breaking the rhythm of the 1h45m session, there was only one serious incident. Francesco Pizzi got the No. 55 Proton Competition ORECA LMP2 car loose at the exit of the Le Mans Chicane and hit the wall. Pizzi was checked and released, but the car will require extensive repair.
UP NEXT: The only night practice session of the weekend, during which drivers will have to turn a minimum number of laps depending on their Rolex 24 at Daytona experience. The 1h45m session begins at 7:15 p.m. ET.