Words and images by Matthew Boyce
The No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac of Sebastien Bourdais and the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac of Pipo Derani topped the charts for the first and second practice sessions for this weekend's IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Road America.
With a total of five red flags limiting track time during the first practice session, Sebastien Bourdais was able to place his No. 01 Cadillac at the top of the speed charts with a lap of 1:49.538. Only 0.054 seconds behind Bourdais was the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac of Pipo Derani while the No. 24 Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 of Augusto Farfus posted the third quickest time. The No. 11 TDS Oreca of Mikkel Jensen led the LMP2 class while the No. 30 Jr III Racing Ligier JS P320 Nissan of Garett Grist led the LMP3 class. Leading the GT classes was the Seb Priaulx in the No. 80 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R with a lap of 2:05.126.
Numerous contenders for Sunday's race found trouble during the opening practice session. The No. 35 TDS Racing Oreca driven by Giedo van der Garde crashed in the carousel bringing out the first red flag. Mathieu Jaminet brought out the second red flag after damaging the nose of his No. 6 Penske Porsche 963 leaving debris on course. The third red flag was brought out by the No. 78 Forte Racing by US RaceTronics Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2 of Misha Goikhberg after heavy contact in the "Kink." While the fourth red flag was brought out due to debris on course, the final red flag came after a spin by the No. 92 Kellymoss by Riley Porsche 911 GT3 R of David Brule. Brule spun his Porsche in turn three making contact with the barriers after a trip through the gravel trap.
Pipo Derani flipped the script compared to the opening session to take post the fastest lap overall on Friday during the second practice session. Derani edged out the No. 01 Cadillac of Sebastien Bourdais by 0.201 seconds. Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport Acura ARX-06 while the duo of Connor De Phillippi and Philipp Eng finished in fourth and fifth on the speed charts in their Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 DPI machines. The LMP2 class was topped by the No. 18 Era Motorsport Oreca of Ryan Dalziel, while Garett Grist again posted the top time in LMP3. Jordan Taylor paced the GTD-Pro field ahead of the No. 79 Mercedes of Dani Juncadella.
As was the case in the opening session, the second session was marred by red flags. The first came at the hands of Steven Thomas, who crashed his No. 11 TDS Racing Oreca 07 Gibson at the Carousel in a similar method compared to his teammate Giedo van der Garde in the first session. The second red flag was brought out by Alan Brynjolfsson who spun his No. 77 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R in turn three, but continued with no damage. The final red flag of the session flew due to Mike Skeen crashing his No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo heavily at turn three. In a cruel twist of fate, Mikael Grenier posted the quickest time in GTD before teammate Mike Skeen's turn three crash.
Qualifying for Sunday's IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Road America takes place Saturday at 1:15 p.m. CDT.