Photo courtesy of IMSA

Pruett, Lexus sustain heavy crash in Hour 2 at Rolex 24

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The flagship driver of the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 program, Scott Pruett, has seen his 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona likely come to an end following a heavy accident exiting Turns 1 and 2.

It appeared as though Pruett overcorrected while trying to come back to power on corner exit, and went across the road directly in front of the No. 4 Corvette C7.R driven by Tommy Milner. Pruett crashed his Lexus head-on into the barriers at pit exit, which caused heavy front-end damage to the car.

The five-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winner and recently minted 2017 Motorsports Hall of Fame of America driver, who owing to the odd quirks of the FIA Driver Rating system is actually a Silver-rated driver (he’s 56 years old, which automatically qualified him for a downgrade from Gold to Silver last year), emerged from the wreckage under his own power OK.

“Well, we were just rolling around. The Lexus was running. We were just putting in the hours, you know?” Pruett said, in quotes released via Lexus. “Not exactly sure what took place. We were racing pretty hard there in a group. It felt like I got just a little nudge from behind.

“It could have been just the air taken off the rear wing cause we were in a pack or something, but it snapped pretty hard, pretty quick down in turn one and unfortunately it got into the fence on the left hand side, so I don’t know if we’ll get going again. You just feel disappointed for all the guys, all the team, everybody that’s put this thing together and this is not how you want to start, so hopefully we’ll get back out there and get a little more running in and see what we can do.

“Just disappointment. There’s so many people here that are a part of this program that have put so much energy and effort into getting here and then to have something like this happen it’s just frustrating. It’s not how you want to get things going.”

Pruett’s No. 14 Lexus started 13th in the GT Daytona class. He was meant to share the car with Sage Karam, Ian James and Gustavo Menezes.

Karam has posted the team will work to repair the damage and get the car back out.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.