Following a stormy Thursday night, Wisconsin served up a picture-perfect day for Friday’s on-track action at Road America for the IMSA SportsCar Weekend.
A day that included sizzling speeds for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Pipo Derani lapped the freshly repaved 4.048-mile, 14-corner road course in 1 minute, 47.986 seconds in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R competing in the new hybrid-powered Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class.
That works out to an average speed of 134.950 mph, and the lap was a robust 0.729 seconds better than the current sports car track record of 1:48.715 held by Dane Cameron in a Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class Acura.
GTP entries driven by Sebastien Bourdais (No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R) and Ricky Taylor (No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06) also lapped faster than Cameron’s benchmark. Practice laps, however, are not eligible to set an official IMSA record.
“It was a good start, but obviously the competition is very stiff and strong,” Derani stated. “It’s a long track and a small mistake going really quick can cost you a couple of tenths (of a second) and a position.
“Practice is very tight and we shouldn’t expect anything different in qualifying, which means that every detail is going to count.”
While Road America’s new asphalt helped create the potential for a new track record to be set during qualifying on Saturday, the new surface still lacks grip off the racing line. That leaves little margin for error, resulting in a series of off-track excursions Friday.
The inclement overnight weather damaged several tents, awnings and temporary structures at Road America, including the IMSA WeatherTech Paddock Club, and cleanup remained the watchword as the WeatherTech Championship’s opening 90-minute practice was interrupted by no fewer than five red flags.
The most significant crashes involved Giedo van der Garde (No. 35 TDS Racing ORECA LMP2 07) and Misha Goikhberg (No. 78 Forte Racing Powered by USRT Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2), neither car of which was able to participate in the afternoon session as damages were repaired.
The afternoon practice was slightly cleaner with just three stoppages. But it was no kinder to TDS Racing, which saw Steven Thomas heavily damage the No. 11 ORECA in an accident at the exit of the Carousel that looked like a carbon copy of teammate van der Garde’s morning incident. Neither driver was injured, but the TDS crew faced the prospect of a long night working on both cars.
“Track limits mean something here,” declared Taylor, who with Filipe Albuquerque won the 2022 IMSA SportsCar Weekend race at Road America in the former DPi class. “There’s a penalty if you go off, and there’s some reward when you get it right.
“If you’ve put together a lap, you’ve earned it.”
Ryan Dalziel was fastest in Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) with a lap of 1:52.244 in the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA. Dalziel and co-driver Dwight Merriman are two-time defending race winners in the class.
Garett Grist topped the chart in Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) at 1:58.069 in the No. 30 Jr III Racing Ligier JS P320. Jordan Taylor eclipsed by more than 1.5 seconds the GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) track record set last year by Jack Hawksworth with a 2:03.712 lap in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R GTD.
Mikael Grenier was fastest among GT Daytona (GTD) entries in the afternoon, lapping in what would also be a track-record 2:04.327 (117.213 mph). But the No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 ended the session on the back of a flatbed truck, the aftermath of a Turn 11 crash by co-driver Mike Skeen.
Road America announced that all reserved trackside camping is sold out for the weekend, though overflow space remains.
“If you know the amount of acreage around here, that’s a lot of campers. It is full,” IMSA President John Doonan said. “This weekend here again will be a record crowd for Road America.”
WeatherTech Championship qualifying is set for 2:15 p.m. ET Saturday, with live coverage streaming on IMSA.com/TVLive and Peacock. Sunday’s race airs live on USA Network starting at 11 a.m.
- Derani, Cadillac lead IMSA practice at newly repaved Road America - August 4, 2023
- Meyer Shank Acura’s long run rewarded with IMSA CTMP win; No. 74 Riley wins third in a row in LMP3 - July 9, 2023
- No. 25 BMW Wins Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen after No. 6 Porsche Penalized in Postrace Inspection - June 25, 2023