The Tudor United SportsCar Championship took to the rolling Georgia-clay-packed hills of Road Atlanta to begin practice for the final round of the 2015 season, the Petit Le Mans.. Nestled in Braselton, GA, Road Atlanta is known as a drivers’ track; the pure nuance of the track laid upon the hills has created some of the most unique corners in the world.
Sodden at 66°F, the track surface produced a lack of grip for the drivers. Conor Daly brought out the first of three red flags for an off at Turn 1 that left his No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca, which promptly forced the team to retire. Despite the less-than-ideal weather conditions, times dropped to near-2014 qualifying times with the best time of the session being a 1:15.163, just 0.655s off last year’s pole time.
The top time of the session was established by Ozz Negri Jr. and his No. 60 Shank Racing Honda Powered Ligier P2. The team has put on quite a show this season when it comes to practice speeds as we’ve seen them at the sharp end of practice many times. The No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing entry, driven by Scott Pruett, followed up with the second fastest time of the session, 0.464s back from the leader. Katherine Legge put in a time of 1:15.757 with the No. 0 Delta Wing for third fastest of the session. The two Action Express entries filled out the top 5 with Dane Cameron and Joao Barbosa laying down times of 1:15.783 and 1:15.845, respectively.
Colin Braun managed to top the LMPC class with a time of 1:15.976 in his No. 54 CORE Autosport Oreca. Bruno Junqueira put his No. 11 RSR Racing machine up to second in class, just 0.367s second behind the leader. Tom Kimber-Smith put in a time of 1:16.775 to bring home third. The No. 8 Starworks Motorsport entry driven by Renger van der Zande managed a time of 1:16.973, but co-driver Mirco Schultis found himself in trouble later in the session. Rounding out the top five for LMPC was Sean Rayhall in the sister Starworks entry with a time of 1:17.499.
The LMPC times seen here are well below last year’s qualifying time of 1:16.210. This is due to a number of performance upgrades, such as an upgraded cam-shaft, the class has seen over the last year. The class is still under discussion moving into next year as the GT classes are expected to increase in performance.
Dirk Werner topped the GTLM category in his BMW Team RLL Z4 GTE. His time of 1:19.546 was 0.073s faster than second place and championship leader, Patrick Pilet. Pilet was the only driver for the Porsche 911 RSR fielded by Porsche North America. Tommy Milner’s No. 4 Corvette C7.R trailed the Porsche with a time of 1:19.821. The sister Porsche NA entry was piloted fastest by Earl Bamber, in fourth, with a time of 1:19.848. A third Porsche, the fan favorite Team Falken Tire liveried machine driver by Bryan Sellers put in a time of 1:19.990.
The GTD class was topped by Spencer Pumpelly’s No. 73 Porsche 911 GT America. The top time of the class was 1:22.407, within a second of last year’s class pole time. Kuno Wittmer’s Aston Martin V12 Vantage screamed to a time of 1:22.776. Just 0.009s back from Wittmer was Daniel Serra’s No. 64 Ferrari 458 Italia. The sister Scuderia Corsa was just behind with Townsend Bell putting in a time of 1:22.887. Leh Keen rounded out the top five with a 1:23 flat in hisNo. 22 Porsche.
The practice ended as Schultis’ No. 8 machine slid off track at the final corners of the circuit, bringing out the third red flag of the session. His LMPC Oreca plowed through the first set of tire barriers before coming to rest near the wall. It was difficult to tell if the damage was terminal or not. If the team cannot repair the car in time, the LMPC class will be diminished to six entries.
Practice 2 for the Tudor Championship occurs later today at 3:25 PM Eastern with night practice beginning at 7:30 tonight. Qualifying will start at 3:20 PM tomorrow. The final round of the 2015 season as well as for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup will begin on Saturday at 11:00 AM. Keep it tuned to the Slipstream Network for Petit Le Mans IMSA coverage.