Acura tops Sebring IMSA testing

Acura tops Sebring IMSA testing


Acura tops Sebring IMSA testing


Ahead of next month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, many teams took advantage of an official IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship test session at Sebring International Raceway Wednesday and Thursday. Twenty-six teams took to the 3.74-mile circuit, including cars from all four GTP manufacturers, as well as LMP2, LMP3, GTD PRO and GTD teams. 

For many, it was the first real chance to test after the grueling Rolex 24 At Daytona. While Acura and Cadillac had few issues in that race, Porsche and BMW discovered some things that needed improving. Filipe Albuquerque set the quick time of the two days of testing with a 1m46.350s lap in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-06, with teammate Louis Deletraz setting the third-quick time. Albuquerque’s time is about two-tenths of a second off the DPi record at Sebring. In between the WTR teammates was the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsports 963 with Mathieu Jaminet at the wheel. The No. 01 Cadillac V-LMDh from Chip Ganassi Racing was the third-fastest car in the hands of Renger van der Zande.

“We had two really good days of testing,” said van der Zande. “I felt for the first time we could really work on the car and the car ran flawlessly. Building up to the Daytona race was something where we were going into the unknown, and now we’re starting to understand the car better and better, which is why we’re improving on the car setup-wise as well. It’s been a lot of kilometers in the car, working with the engineers and mechanics to make things better in Sebring specifically. I feel we have a very good base going there for the 12 hour.”

Porsche Penske Motorsports had run a 36-hour test at Sebring in preparation for the season, but still found some improvements during the last two days of running. 

“The test was really important for us,” declared Matt Campbell, the quickest driver in the No. 7 963. “We struggled a little bit on the first day, but the second day we made a lot of good changes overnight and I think we found a better direction for sure, and most importantly, more understanding of the car and the direction I think it needs to go for the race weekend. Really successful two days in the end, and we still know what we need to work on for the 12 Hour next month.”

The Daytona-winning Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian team had a less successful weekend, struggling with mechanical issues in the No. 60 Acura and missing the first of three Wednesday sessions entirely and logging only 15 laps in the third session. The team recovered for Tom Blomqvist to log a time within a second of Albuquerque’s best on Thursday.

BMW M Team RLL brought only one car to the test, the four drivers running the No. 25 M Hybrid V8 bringing up the rear on the time sheets, posting times in the 1m48s range.

Participation in LMP2, LMP3 and GTD PRO was light. Scott Huffaker was the quickest among the three LMP2 teams, with a 1m50.882s in the No. 11 TDS Racing ORECA. 4 Ave Motorsports was the lone LMP3 participant, and only Vasser Sullivan and Iron Lynx showed up with GTD PRO entries, Ben Barnicoat topping the time sheet in the No. 14 Lexus RC F for Vasser Sullivan at 2m01.743s.

GTD had a much wider range of participation, with cars from every participating manufacturer turning laps. Team Korthoff Motorsports was the class of the field in the test, its three drivers filling the top four slots on the time sheet. Mikael Grenier led the trio in the No. 32 Mercedes-AMG at 2m1.558s. Parker Thompson in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 was the only driver to interrupt the Korthoff party. Winward Racing’s Philip Ellis had the fifth fastest time, followed by Loris Spinelli in the No. 78 Forte Racing Powered by USRT Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo2.

Spinelli’s time, along with the Iron Dames’ Rahel Frey getting into the top 10, indicates that a 1mm increase in the Lamborghini’s restrictor may have helped. However, the teams running the new 992-generation Porsche 911 GT3 R continued to struggle despite also receiving a 1mm-larger restrictor. But for many of the teams, it was an opportunity to learn the new cars and continue to improve. All the GTD teams running the Porsche are new this season, and many of the drivers are continuing to come to grips with GT3 cars. 

“The objective always is we’ve got a new platform, we got a new team, we’ve got a driver that has not much experience in GT3 cars with David (Brule), my co-driver,” explained Alec Udell, driver of the No. 92 Kellymoss with Riley Porsche. “So the objective there is get him up to speed give us a good baseline platform to just be working on consistency and pace around the track.”

The Twelve Hours of Sebring weekend, which includes the World Endurance Championship season opener, the 1000 Miles of Sebring, is March 16-18.

News and notes:

• Applications for the 2024 IMSA Diverse Driver Development Scholarship are now open. This is the third year that IMSA is offering the scholarship worth more than $250,000. As in the past, benefits include a full-season premium prepaid entry fee for the first year to drive in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge or IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, and 50 percent of the prepaid entry fee for the second season in one of those series. Support for the scholarship also comes from IMSA partners Michelin, VP Racing Fuels, OMP, Bell, Recaro and LAT Images. Courtney Crone was the winner of this season’s scholarship and is participating in the VP Racing SportsCar Challenge in LMP3. 

• The 2023 Rolex 24 At Daytona not only attracted record in-person attendance, but the television audience increased significantly as well. NBC Sports reported that viewership was up 28 percent over the 2022 audience with an average of 360,000 TV-only viewers for the NBC and USA Network telecasts. All five TV windows on those two networks were up over the year before, with a peak viewership of 1.2 million.

• The second episode of “Win the Weekend,” IMSA’s new documentary series, is now available on YouTube. The episode, covering the Rolex 24 as the teams put the new GTP machinery to their first real test, includes commentary from RACER’s Marshall Pruett. 

• Pfaff Motorsports has been announced as an inductee into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame. The longtime WeatherTech Championship competitor and 2022 GTD PRO championship team known for its lumberjack-themed plaid livery on its Porsches joins notable Canadian racers Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve, Ron Fellows, Richard Spenard and engineering firm Multimatic Motorsports in the CMHF. The CMHF recognizes efforts, achievements and contributions made by Canadians in the country’s motorsports landscape, and will celebrate its 20th anniversary with an induction gala ceremony on Saturday, February 25.