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Castroneves Leads Opening Practice At Sebring

Early drama for JDC Miller's 'Red Dragon'

The first practice session ahead of the 2018 Sebring 12 Hours is now over, first blood going to Acura Team Penske, its #7 ARX-07 DPi finishing top after a 1:48.237 tour from Helio Castroneves.

Behind, completing the top three were a pair of Cadillac DPis, the Spirit of Daytona example leading the Wayne Taylor Racing’s.

Spirit of Daytona’s fastest time came from Tristan Vauiter, who posted a 1:48.387 to go just 0.150 off Castroneves’ time. Renger van der Zande was quickest in Wayne Taylor’s car, the Dutchman briefly leading the class early in the session with his 1:48.415.

Behind, the top five was completed by the #2 ESM NIssan DPi, Olivier Pla setting its 1:48.461, and the #55 Joest Mazda, which set a 1:48.544 late in the session with Jonathan Bomarito driving.

It was an encouraging session for both Mazda’s (following their tough time at the pre-event test), the #55 finished up 0.307 off the top time, while the #77 ended up eighth and 0.527 back. Both completed a decent amount of laps too, both RT24-Ps managing 18 laps apiece.

The top nine in the class ended up within eight tenths of the top time in what turned out to be a very close session between the DPi runners.

The class didn’t run trouble free though, as there was a big moment at Turn 1 for Chris Miller in the #99 ‘Red Dragon’ JDC Miller ORECA. Miller ran wide at the corner, sending him off the track, veering into the tyre barriers, damaging the right rear of the 07 Gibson.

He was however, able to drive away during the subsequent red flag, and return to the pits for repairs. The team told IMSA Radio that it expects the car to be out for Practice 2.

CORE autosports’ ORECA also didn’t have a smooth first session, the car not setting a competitive time.

GTLM was tight at the top, Dirk Muller setting a 1:57.567 tour of the circuit in the #66 Chip Ganassi Ford to lead the way. James Calado ended up putting the Risi Ferrari second with a 1:57.819. The #67 Ford completed the top three, ahead of the #911 Porsche, Fred Makowiecki posting a 1:57.958 at the very end of the running.

Further down BMW Team RLL’s M8 GTLMs ended up sixth and seventh, with a second of the lead Ford. While the #24 clocked up a decent amount of milage, the #25, in seventh, managed just seven laps, Alex Sims telling IMSA Radio that the chassis is new and the team were being cautious, running checks during the session.

GTD meanwhile, was topped by the #93 Michael Shank Acura NSX GT3, Lawson Aschenbach setting a 2:00.337, to go a tenth faster than the Spirit of Race Ferrari and Land Motorsports Audi which made up the top three.

Free Practice 2 is set to get underway later today at 15:10 local time in Florida.