IMSA: Taylor crash upends Detroit qualifying

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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DETROIT – Polesitters for Saturday’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic were determined conventionally in two of the three classes, but not in the primary Prototype class.

Quick reports are below.

PROTOTYPE

The No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team faces an uphill battle tonight that the Wayne Taylor Racing team was not expecting.

Ricky Taylor set what was the fastest time of the session at a 1:24.530, but lost control of the car through Turn 4, smashing into the concrete barrier on the outside.

It leaves Taylor and brother Jordan Taylor now stuck starting 12th and last among the combined prototype cars (Prototype and Prototype Challenge cars), because they caused a red flag.

The situation was made a bit more complicated because the Taylors, on the heels of four straight wins to open 2017, lead the points. With the grid determined “by other means” as the Taylor crash brought out a red flag because it didn’t complete the minimum 10 minutes of required green flag time, the field would be set by points. But because the Taylors brought out the red, that meant they lost their fastest lap.

It leaves the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac on pole for Saturday’s race, for the car driven by Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi.

The No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley Mk. 30 Gibson was unlucky by the red flag timing. Renger van der Zande had what would have been the leftover top time of 1:24.693. He shares that car with Marc Goossens.

GT DAYTONA

Lawson Aschenbach has extended the streak of different drivers, teams and manufacturers to win a pole in GT Daytona this year.

After Ferrari, Mercedes-AMG, Lamborghini and Porsche had scored poles in the first four races this year, the Audi R8 LMS now has its first pole of the year courtesy of “Awesome Lawson,” in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi.

Aschenbach’s best lap was a 1:30.200, with a big gap of 0.341 to Katherine Legge, who did well to shoot up into the best starting position yet in IMSA for the No. 93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3.

Aschenbach shares his car with Andrew Davis and Legge will share her’s with Andy Lally on Saturday.

Two Lamborghini Huracán GT3s from Paul Miller Racing and Change Racing were next, with Lexus getting into the top five on home soil for the 3GT Racing team, not far from the team’s Lansing headquarters.

With the top Porsche in sixth, Ferrari in seventh and Mercedes-AMG in ninth, there were seven different manufacturers in the top nine.

PROTOTYPE CHALLENGE

James French has scored his third pole of the season as Performance Tech Motorsports looks for its fourth win in as many races to kick off the season.

With young full pro-in-waiting French qualifying against the two gentlemen drivers for BAR1 Motorsports in Tomy Drissi and Don Yount, it was never really going to be a fair fight.

French’s best time of 1:28.494 in the No. 38 Oreca FLM09 was clear of the other two by 4.672 and 6.474 seconds, respectively.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds