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Petit Le Mans: ESM 1-2 After Frantic Hour 1 At Road Atlanta

Drama for Penske

After a chaotic first hour of the 20th running of Petit Le Mans, it’s an Extreme Speed Motorsport Nissan DPi 1-2 in the greasy conditions at Road Atlanta.

Leading the way is the #22 Nissan DPi of Pipo Derani, who took the lead off Penske’s Helio Castroneves on the first lap, and stayed on top for the remainder of the hour. Brendon Hartley, in the sister car, is second, the Kiwi setting the race’s fastest lap so far – a record-breaking 1:13.221.

Behind, the first of the LMP2s sits third, Renger Van Der Zande moving up the order into the top three after the first round of stops, where the entire field dived in to change to cut slicks as the conditions improved.

The big drama of the hour came in the Team Penske camp, Castroneves slipping to second on the opening lap, before getting punted off the circuit by the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari at the Chicane just before the 30-minute mark. It sent both cars into the gravel on the outside, with damage, though they would continue.

Castroneves lost a lap, after returning to the pits for a rear-end change.

Outside the top three, the PR1 Ligier sits fourth, Olivier Pla making moves in the opening hour to keep the team in the running, with the Rebellion ORECA of Mathias Beche fifth – Beche moving up after Eric Curran in the Whelen Cadillac pitted just before the end of the hour.

The best placed Cadillac was therefore the Mustang Sampling Action Express example, sitting sixth with Christian Fittipaldi behind the wheel.

As the hour ended, the rest of the Prototype runners came in and the order shuffled.

In GTLM, Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette C7.R leads the way, after a great move six minutes into the race at the bottom of the hill on Pole-sitter Toni Vilander in the Risi Competitzione Ferrari.

Vilander gradually fell back as the laps wore on, and is now fourth. Bill Auberlen is up to second in the #25 RLL BMW after a gusty move on Vilander at the Chicane; the second Corvette – the #4 of Tommy Milner – is up to third.

Auberlen will have to serve a drive-through penalty though, for jumping the restart, as will Patrick Pilet in the #911 Porsche, who is currently last in the class.

It was all familiar names and faces at the top of the sheets in GT Daytona. Andy Lally in the #93 Acura NSX holds the top spot after an hour. Sage Karam in the #14 Lexus RCF sits second with Jesse Krohn in the #96 Turner Motorsports BMW rounding out the top three.

There was drama for the championship-leading #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari though. Matteo Cressoni accidentally put the right side tyres onto the grass under braking into turn 10, sending the car sideways and into the back of the Penske ORECA, bringing out the aforementioned caution period. The #63 got a penalty for the contact which put them to the back of the GTD field, five laps behind their class leader.

Additionally the #50 Riley Motorsports Porsche went behind the wall with a gearbox issue, that car was still not on track at the end of the first hour.

The #38 Performance Tech car piloted by James French lead the way in Prototype Challenge. French passed Garett Grist in the #26 BAR1 car in the pits when both switched from wets, to slicks. Don Yount behind the wheel of the #20 BAR1 rounded out the three car field for PC’s final race in IMSA competition.

Nine hours to go.