The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship took to the curves of Circuit of the Americas Friday morning for their third and final practice of the Lone Star Le Mans. Times continued to improve as drivers became more and more comfortable with the more lenient track boundaries of Race Control’s Beaux Barfield. Interesting to note, the track boundaries will be controlled differently between the FIA World Endurance Championship and the TUDOR Championship due to GPS based tracing technologies being different between the series.
Joey Hand and Scott Pruett repeated their performance from Practice 2 by topping timing and scoring in the Prototype class in their No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley DP. They managed to improve upon their time, ending the session with a best lap of 1:57.366.
Though Circuit of the Americas boasts one of the most patriotic “track liveries” with stars and stripes, a Union Jack has been near the top numerous times enough to look familiar, a tribute livery to Justin Wilson run on the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2. Ozz Negri Jr and John Pew drove their way to a time of 1:57.571, just 0.205s from the top spot. Reporting that they’ve taken big swings in setup since first practice, Ricky and Jordan Taylor continued their improvement throughout the week with a time of 1:57.868 for their No. 10 Corvette DP. The two Action Express Racing entries of Eric Curran/Dane Cameron and Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi, Nos. 31 and 5 respectively, filled out the top five. They scored times of 1:58.194 and 1:59.090 to fill out the top five in their Corvette DPs.
The PC class continued to show familiar faces at the top with Renger van der Zande and Mike Hedlund in the No. 88 Starworks Motorsport Entry finally breaching the 2:00 minute mark with a time of 1:59.609. They were followed closely by Ed Bennett and Colin Braun in the Core Autosport no. 54, 0.553s back. Mike Guasch and Tom Kimber-Smith drove their PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports No. 52 to a time of 2:01.359, good for third in class. The No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports entry of James French and Conor Daly ended the session in fourth with a time of 2:01.869. Despite making contact with the No. 16 BAR1 Motorsports entry, the sister Starworks No. 88 entry of Alex Popow and Sean Rayhall managed to finish the session in fifth place with a 2:02.204.
Last year’s qualifying record still stands for GTLM with a couple of new faces at the sharp end of the end for the Lone Star Le Mans in Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler with the beautiful Team Falken Tire liveried Porsche 911 RSR. They topped the charts with a time of 2:03.521. Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner chased the Porsche to second in their No. 25 BMW Z4 GTE with a time of 2:03.544. Third in timing and scoring when to Joerg Bergmeister and Earl Bamber in their No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR with a time of 2:03.587. The sister Porsche 911 with Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet finished out the session in fourth, 0.078s from the lead spot. The second half of BMW Team RLL, John Edwards and Lucas Luhr, finished out the top five in their No. 24 BMW Z4 GTE. Though the qualifying record still stands, the entire top five of GTLM during this session were all packed within 0.32s of each other.
The GTD class was equally as close with Christopher Haase and Dion von Moltke piloting their No. 48 Audi R8 LMS to the top of the charts with a lap of 2:09.365. Christina Nielsen and Kuno Wittmer showcased their No. 007 Aston Martin V12 Vantage for the first time in the top five with a lap time of 2:09.437. Ian James and Mario Farnbacher greatly improved their past times with a 2:09.534 in their No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America. The No. 97 BMW Z4 driven by Michael Marsal and Markus Palttala was fourth place at the end of the session with a 2:09.554. Cooper MacNeil and Leh Keen finished out the top five 0.395s back from the leader in their No. 22 Porsche 911 GT America.
Qualifying for the TUDOR Championship begins later today at 4:45 PM ET. We look to see some fast times as the field tries their best to lay down the fastest laps possible through the waving stripes of Circuit of the Americas. The Lone Star Le Mans starts at 12:35 PM ET on Saturday afternoon. The field will have two hours and 40 minutes to determine four winners amongst four different classes.