Stephen Simpson led Thursday at Sebring. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Sebring weekend, Thursday notes and results

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SEBRING, Fla. – Thursday at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is almost longer than race day itself.

Today’s on-track sessions featured three IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice sessions, two Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge practice sessions, and a practice, qualifying and race apiece for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda and the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama.

WEATHERTECH SESSIONS

The No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson of Stephen Simpson posted the fastest lap in Thursday’s three practice sessions, set in the morning session at 1:49.516 around the 3.74-mile, 17-turn Sebring International Raceway circuit.

That being said, two of the Cadillac DPi-V.Rs topped the two subsequent sessions held in the afternoon and evening, with the No. 10 Konica Minolta and No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillacs on top respectively. Both of their times were in the 1:49 bracket.

Fred Makowiecki ended the day with the best time in the GT Le Mans class, also in the morning session. His best time in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR was 1:57.109, set in the morning. In the evening session the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Sebastien Bourdais was just a tiny bit off with a best time of 1:57.116. Corvette Racing made it three different teams and manufacturers on top in as many sessions, with Tommy Milner fastest in the afternoon session at 1:57.206 in the Corvette C7.R.

At a lap time of 2:00.964 in the evening session, Lawson Aschenbach posted the fastest time of the day in the GT Daytona classes in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS. That car also led the afternoon session with the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 tops in the morning session.

BAR1 Motorsports led two of the PC class sessions in the afternoon and evening with Performance Tech Motorsports on top in the morning.

There were no major incidents during the three sessions, including the night practice, which always has the potential to be a trouble spot.

RESULTS

NOTES

  • Ford Chip Ganassi Racing held a quick photo opportunity Thursday with the respective trophies from the team’s class wins at Le Mans in June and Daytona in January. The team has the shot to go for three-in-a-row and hold all three titles simultaneously if they win Sebring this weekend, which would be a feat Corvette Racing achieved in the 2015 calendar year, and also from June 2015 into March 2016.
  • Corvette Racing, meanwhile, hosted its annual dinner with longtime oil partner Mobil 1 on Thursday night.
  • Fitting transition here, here’s Mobil 1 The Grid’s Sebring preview with Corvette Racing driver Oliver Gavin.
  • Ricky Taylor joins Ben Keating’s LMP2 program for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as initially reported by Sportscar365 and confirmed by Taylor’s dad and team principal Wayne Taylor to NBC Sports. The older of two Taylor brothers was initially listed in Larbre Competition’s No. 50 Corvette C7.R in the GTE-Am class but now moves into the LMP2 time for the second time in his career.
  • The No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi missed second practice with gearbox issues, but returned for the evening.
  • Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon, Spencer Pigot (IndyCar), Ryan Dalziel, Bryan Sellers, Lawson Aschenbach, Frankie Montecalvo (PWC), Pato O’Ward (Indy Lights) and Max Hanratty (Pro Mazda) are completing the St. Pete to Sebring 12-hour double this week. There’s a handful of others in the Sebring field who either were at St. Pete at some point last weekend and/or are competing in multiple races at Sebring this weekend between the other series.
  • Sellers’ No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 featured new daughter Mila’s name over the driver door, while young son Liam was making the rounds in the paddock on Wednesday with Sellers’ wife Jamie Howe.
  • Starworks Motorsport has had to perform a last-minute scramble to fill its lineup with James Dayson unable to compete. Mazda Road to Indy veterans Garett Grist and Max Hanratty got a crack within the team’s orange and white No. 8 Oreca FLM09 in Thursday practice, with Sean Rayhall also taking laps in the evening session. The team had apparent engine issues but returned in the final stages. Meanwhile at another of the PC (class) teams, BAR1 Motorsports adds Danny Burkett to its lineup, one of several pros alongside the previously listed Buddy Rice, Colin Thompson and Gustavo Yacaman.
  • Tristan Vautier now lives in Mooresville, N.C., site of the SunEnergy1 Racing team headquarters. The privateer team runs with some Mercedes support for one of the three Mercedes-AMG GT3s in the field; Vautier, a past Indy Lights and Pro Mazda champion in back-to-back years, shares the brightly colored No. 75 car with Boris Said and Kenny Habul.
  • Cool nugget about JDC Motorsports’ present this weekend. The team campaigns the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson in the WeatherTech Championship (an LMP2 car in Prototype), the No. 54 JDC-Miller Motorsports BMW 228i in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ST class, two LMP3 Ligier JS P3s and two MPC Elan DP02s in the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda series, for a total of six cars for the John Church-led team.
  • Nico Jamin won the opening Prototype Challenge race in his Ligier JS P3, the No. 20 ANSA Motorsports entry. Jamin, who was in St. Petersburg last weekend for his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires commitments with Andretti Autosport, was a late add in a second car for that team.
  • In the debut of the new Porsche 991-spec GT3 Cup car, Scott Hargrove won that first race Thursday afternoon in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche over Jake Eidson, the Haywood Scholarship winner, in the No. 24 Kelly-Moss Motorsports Porsche.

INDYCAR: What Drivers Said after Friday’s two practices at Road America

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Here’s what IndyCar drivers had to say – courtesy of IndyCar Media Relations – after Friday’s two practice sessions at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin:

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I think we are relatively pleased. The car has been easy to work with, which is great. It is nice when you don’t have to change too much. We’ve been trying things to make sure we understand sort of both ends of the car and where it can go if we adjust either end of it. Seems quick right out of the box. We haven’t had to do too much with it. The Chevy package is working really well, which I felt like it would be strong at this kind of track. We’ve been working hard with that group to make sure our power down and everything else is great. So far, so good with the Verizon car. We have a solid start; we just have to maintain it throughout the weekend.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “Pretty productive day. Obviously, we tested here last week, which I think helped us roll off with a solid car. For Practice 2, we decided to go in a little different direction with our setup, just to try and cover our bases, so we have a lot of data to look over tonight. We have pretty good pace on the blacks (primary Firestone tires) and were into the top five, but when we put the reds (alternate Firestone tires) on, we just didn’t find the grip that we normally do; we’ll look into that. This Arrow Electronics SPM team’s got a way of turning things around and being strong in qualifying, so hopefully, we can do that and get the job done tomorrow.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “I think it was a pretty decent Friday. The Lucas Oil car feels good and we’re making good progress. We were top five in both sessions, but it’s only Friday, so we still have to work hard and keep our heads down. Initial signs are pretty positive for, hopefully, a good weekend.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think we started a little bit slow for some reason and had some work to do after the first practice session here at Road America. We know our way around here though, and after some changes tonight, I hope we can have the PNC Bank car pointed in the right direction, and closer to the top time the other manufacturer set.”

ED JONES (No. 10 First Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I’m obviously not thrilled with the results today with the First Data Honda, but we know Scott (Dixon) had a great car here last year and won the race, so there is good data to look at tonight. We have some work to do for sure, but I’m confident in our team that we can find what we were missing today in practice and be ready for qualifying tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “We definitely changed the setup a bit, then went back. I think the track had really low grip at the beginning of every session, then got better. Kind of a little bit hard to pick what to do. But obviously, Josef (Newgarden) is really quick, so got plenty of data to look at. We’ll just keep working away at it.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 GEHL Honda): “It was a good finish to the day for the GEHL team. We pushed hard and made some changes between the sessions and I think we went the right direction. This morning we had some mishaps, and unfortunately, it lost us the session, but we had a good recovery. We’ll try to keep improving the car a little bit and see what we can do in qualifying.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team Sealmaster Honda): “(I’m) pretty happy. I think, obviously, we didn’t test, a couple of guys did. Felt a little bit off this morning. We’re pretty confident because it was just mostly understeer in the car. Just pretty happy with the day. Our guys did a good job. The Firestone red (alternate) tires are definitely giving a huge amount of grip in comparison to the prime. But for us, it really wasn’t much of a balance change, so that was nice. Could definitely get a pretty decent run. Consistency was quite good, as well. Looking forward to the rest of the weekend.”

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): “It’s awesome driving an Indy car here. I love the Road America track and I’m excited to be back here. We had a tough second session today in our Paysafe car, but we made big improvements from our first practice, which is really encouraging. What Sebastien (Bourdais) has seems to be working really well, so we’ll look at that and also at what I need to work on to improve. With that and some steady improvements, we should be looking good for tomorrow.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “It is quite difficult to learn the circuit, relative to others that I have driven on. For example, St. Pete, it just felt a little bit easier to pick up the smaller parts. I feel quite comfortable in the car now, but it took a bit longer to get there in this morning’s session. It’s a longer circuit and requires a lot of confidence with the high speed and blind corners; when it’s only 45 minutes, you end up eating into your track time. I felt quite good in this afternoon’s session and we have a better idea of what direction we want to go in. A little bit annoying we haven’t quite jumped on it straight away, still a bit of progress to be made. Looking forward to having a good night’s sleep. I always find that when you are able to chill out, think about it, and sleep well it makes the second day much nicer. We all know where we need to go with the car and should be quicker tomorrow.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet): “It was a pretty difficult day for us. We are kind of struggling to zero in on the balance and the setup that we want. We know what we need the car to do, we just have to try and find a way of getting it there. We are going to try and find some things overnight, then get the Direct Supply car handling a bit better and get more speed out of it tomorrow.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “We’ve made big improvement this weekend. It is obviously another very important weekend with Menards on the car. This is John’s (Menard) country here. I am eager to do very well, and the whole No. 22 team is using the momentum we gained at Texas. It feels like a really good weekend so far. I think we have more in the car; I didn’t extract all the best out of during practice. But, it felt really good. Chevy is giving us a lot of power around here which is always useful on those long straightaways. Now we are just going to have to put it all together in qualifying tomorrow.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): “Obviously, that wasn’t the day we wanted for the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet. We’re struggling for balance and grip-a little bit of both. But we’ve got some good ideas, good data to look through and some concepts to think about. We’ll make solid, reasonable, intelligent changes for tomorrow. Hopefully, we can pick a good direction out of that and be ready for qualifying.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): “Overall, it was a pretty good day for us in the Relay car. We know, confidently, that we have a car good enough to be in the top 10, maybe in the top six. We’re fighting a bit of an issue throughout the second session, but we know what that is, so we’ll fix it and get the speed we need tomorrow. I haven’t felt this confident in an Indy car yet – but I said that at Detroit and I said that at Texas. I really just feel like we are coming into our own and this is going to be our best weekend yet.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “Today wasn’t the best Friday that we’ve had. I think we are stepping through changes and making small improvements, but we didn’t find the big improvement that we need, which is disappointing. Fortunately, we have another session tomorrow and three teammate cars to try and put our heads together and come up with a solution. Right now, we need a pretty big step in performance to be fighting for pole.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We made some progress with the DHL car today, we need to make another step tomorrow. We didn’t really have a clear lap, but if we had, I think we would have been around P4 or P5 and we can work from there. We’ll put our heads down tonight, check in with the teammates and see where we are at tomorrow. We have one more session before qualifying and we’ll put it to good use.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “It was a good day, a productive one. We wanted to improve a little more than we did in the second session, but overall, we tried a few things and we learned a few good things and a few not so good. I think we can continue improving for tomorrow.”

ALFONSO CELIS JR. (No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet): “Today was going pretty well until the last practice. The day started off well for us. I was happy with the balance and I am still happy with the balance. We worked on some changes and I was happy with the direction we were going in. The second practice was going pretty good up until my incident. It is really unfortunate we have now lost this track time, but we will work hard and bounce back for tomorrow.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “It was a challenging day at the office here at Road America for the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet. This is one of my favorite tracks – I know I can pedal a car around here pretty well. We were fighting for top six last year, so I’m trying to just drive the same, obviously, with less downforce. We’ve got an underlying balance issue – whether it’s new tires or old tires, it’s really just wherever we are, we’ve got the same issue that we just can’t seem to iron out. It’s slightly frustrating for a new team with the lack of testing we’ve been able to do, so we’ve got limited time to try and sort it. We’ll work it out tonight and if we can make some significant progress toward the end of FP3, I’m sure we can have a fairly decent qualifying.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “Road America is a great track and a lot of fun. Today was a bit challenging, as we are just working through our plan, but we found a big chunk of time between Practice 1 and Practice 2 today. That is very encouraging as we get ready for Practice 3 tomorrow. There are some things we are going to try out and that will hopefully take us to the next step to doing a great job in qualifying and then the race.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “I was definitely happier with the car this morning. We kind of went in a different direction for the afternoon session and lost the car. We definitely have a clear direction on where we need to go and we’ll put that to use to go forward tomorrow with the U.S. Concrete car.”

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