TUSC: McMurray, Bird, Magnussen, Heylen fastest on Saturday

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Four test sessions occurred on Saturday at the Daytona International Speedway for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s Roar Before the Rolex 24, and with temperatures upwards of 30 degrees warmer than they had been on Friday, teams were able to gather a better read on times and data.

Jamie McMurray, who we wrote yesterday is one of only three full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers confirmed to run the Rolex 24, led the overall (and P class) timesheets in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost Riley at 1:38.980. The CGR pair of cars, plus the sister Ford Riley of Michael Shank Racing, had to leave a day early as the engines suffered exhaust header failures. GP2 runner-up Sam Bird led the PC class for the day in a Starworks Motorsport ORECA FLM09 at 1:42.010.

Jan Magnussen (pictured right), father of McLaren Formula One rookie Kevin, led the GTLM competitors in the new factory Corvette C7.R with a best time of 1:46.010, with the lone Aston Martin Vantage in class and the sister Corvette next up in the 1:46 bracket. The GTD class was tightly bunched, as throughout the day the top 10 or 11 were roughly within a second and the top 18 or 19 separated by less than two. Jan Heylen led the times with a 1:48.228 in the No. 58 Snow Racing Porsche 911 GT America, run in partnership with Wright Motorsports and JDX Racing.

A link to all four of the day’s session PDFs, via IMSAtiming.com, is below. Meanwhile I’ll also give a shout out to two sports car super fans, Ben Wedge and Kevin Welling, who have dug deeper into the data, section times and top speeds, to analyze the respective car performances. Both of their Twitter feeds (@TheBenWedge, @Kevin_Welling) provide a lot of valuable technical data.

Final Balance of Performance adjustments across the TUDOR Championship’s four classes – P, PC, GTLM and GTD – are expected after the Roar this weekend.

SATURDAY TIMES

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.