Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Roar Before the 24 Friday results

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The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship kicked off its 2018 season on Friday with Day 1 of the annual Roar Before the 24 test. With all 50 cars entered at the Rolex 24 present, there was no shortage of cars on track in either of the Friday sessions, and every car ventured out on track in at least one of the sessions.

Below is a roundup of highlights from Day 1

ACTION EXPRESS, CADILLAC TOP THE TIME SHEETS

Action Express Racing put their Cadillac DPi-V.R atop the timesheets for the day, with Filipe Albuquerque going fastest in both the morning and afternoon sessions.

In fact, the morning session saw Cadillacs take the top four spots, a continuation of what was a dominant 2017 season for the marque.

CORE Autosport broke up the Cadillac party in the afternoon, turning the second quickest lap of the day. Wayne Taylor Racing and Spirit of Daytona Racing ended up third and fourth in the combined results, with Jackie Chan DCR JOTA putting its No. 78 Oreca 07 Gibson fifth.

Of note: Fernando Alonso turned laps in his No. 23 United Autosports Ligier LMP2 Gibson, kicking off his first official foray into sports car racing.

Also of note in the Prototype class: the Acura Team Penske ARX-05s were 12th and 15th at the end of the day, and the revamped Mazda RT24-P entries from Mazda Team Joest both made it out on track, though the No. 70 entry only did two laps late in the evening session.

PORSCHE LEAD OPENING DAY FOR GTLM

Porsche GT Team put a 911 RSR at the head of the GTLM field on Friday, with Laurens Vanthoor going fastest in the No. 912 entry. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 67 machine was second, thought it did lead the morning session, while the No. 911 Porsche ended the day third, putting both Porsches in the top three at the end of the day.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 66 entry was fourth, with the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE fifth.

Both of the Corvette C7.Rs from Corvette Racing were outside of the top five at the end of the day, sixth and seventh respectively in the GTLM class, while the new BMW M8 GTLM entries from BMW Team RLL brought up the rear of the GTLM field.

LAMBORGHINI TOP GT DAYTONA

A Lamborghini Huracan GT3 topped a deep GT Daytona at the end of Friday, with GRT Grasser Racing Team’s Rolf Ineichen leading the way in the morning and co-driver Franck Perera doing the same in the afternoon in the No. 11 entry.

The Manthey-Racing No. 59 Porsche 911 GT3 R was second, followed by the sister GRT No. 19 entry. Montaplast by Land-Motorsport ended up the day fourth in their Audi R8 LMS GT3, with Magnus Racing rounding out the top five in their first official outing on their return to IMSA competition.

All three classes saw relatively clean running, with no contact during either session and only four brief stoppages, all resulting from minor issues.

SCOTT PRUETT ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT

Maybe the biggest story to emerge on Friday was Scott Pruett revealing that the 2018 Rolex 24 will be the final race of his career, with the veteran of IMSA, INDYCAR, and NASCAR announcing he will retire following the 24-hour endurance race.

The 58-year old Pruett has been racing in some capacity for 50 years, and has amassed a total of 88 wins across a number of series.

But, Pruett will likely be most remembered for his sports car endeavors, as one of the most decorated American sports car racers who has ever lived. Pruett’s sports car resume includes a record 60 wins, five Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series titles, and a record-tying five overall victories at the Rolex 24. He also has a class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“Daytona is a magical place for me and I love it,” Pruett said regarding the timing of his announcement. “I’ve always said the Rolex 24 at Daytona is like the Super Bowl of Motorsports because you’re bringing the best of the best from all over the world and the challenge of both man and machine is fierce. What better way to say goodbye to the sport I love than at this revered place, surrounded by my respected peers and die-hard fans.”

Pruett’s final race will be contested in a Lexus RCF GT3 with 3GT Racing.

The Roar Before the 24 continues on Saturday with three test sessions, the first beginning at 10:50 a.m. EST. Results from Friday’s sessions are below.

Practice 1
Practice 2
Combined Results


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April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994