Juan Pablo-Montoya in the #6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05c topped the charts in the first Rolex 24 Free Practice session of the weekend. Montoya’s best time was 1:49.917.
The times in this session means fairly little, with a damp track this morning but dry weather forecasted for the weekend, a handful of teams took a conservative approach to the start of the day.
For reference, Montoya’s top time was roughly 16 seconds slower than last year’s pole time and the #6 Acura completed just six laps.
Oliver Pla in the #77 Mazda RT-24P ended the session in second with a best time of 1:49.956. Pla’s time was set just as the chequered flag flew. Mazda took a more aggressive approach to this session; their two cars completed a combined 36 laps.
The #85 JDC-Miller Motorsports entry carried the banner for Cadillac in the session. Tristan Vautier set the fastest time in the Cadillac DPi-V.R., his time was a 1:50.316.
In LMP2. David Heinemeier Hansson led the field in the #8 Tower Motorsport ORECA 07. His best time was 1:52.193.
Henrik Hedman in the #81 DragonSpeed ORECA 07 ended the session in second with a best time of 1:53.555. Third in LMP2 was the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA 07.
The #52 ORECA 07 completed just four laps. The #18 Era Motorsport ORECA 07 took a similar approach to the session and completed just five laps.
The GTLM class saw pace from the four new cars making their IMSA debut this week, with Porsche’s pair of 911 RSR 19s finishing up 1-2.
In contrast to last year’s blistering times set on Michelin’s new rubber, deteriorating damp conditions meant more cautious installation though. The new Chevrolet Corvette C8.R made the news first, the red flag shown as Marcel Fassler’s #4 silver liveried GTLM car stopped at Turn 4 with early teething troubles.
The #3 car fared better in the hands of Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor on a 1:57.991, sandwiched between the two GTLM Porsches for most of the session before Nick Tandy made it a Porsche 1-2 with ten minutes to go. Laurens Vanthoor’s 1:57.031 was the fastest GTLM session time in the #912 911 RSR-19, Tandy’s best within three-tenths. The #4 Corvette was recovered and resumed to end a solid fourth in GTLM, followed by the pair of BMW M8s.
Fastest GTD lap in the session fell to the #88 WRT Speedstar Audi Sport R8 LMS in the hands of Mirko Bortolotti, 1:58.763 the class best. Patrick Pilet brought the #9 Pfaff Racing Porsche within a hundredth of a second with ten minutes to go in improving conditions. The following six GTD cars were in the 1:59’s, the best of which is the #12 Lexus RC F GT3 of Shane van Gisbergen.
A second red flag saw the #54 Black Swan Racing Porsche with front right damage going at Turn 1, Trenton Estep safely exiting the car but significant frontal damage clearly about to keep its garage busy.
The #86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX spent time in its pit, as did the #47 Precision Performance Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan which only showed late in the session.
The #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini was the first car to go out on dry tyres with just three minutes to go, the sun just starting to suggest improving conditions for the next Free Practice and, hopefully, this afternoon’s qualifying sessions.