Scott Pruett set the fastest time of the opening practice for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship event on the Long Beach street track in the very final minutes of the opening practice session.
Pruett, sharing the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford-Riley with Memo Rojas, as the season moves away from the endurance format of the first two rounds at Daytona and Sebring, lapped the California street track in 1:16.441 as the checkered flag fell to end the first 120 minutes of running.
Saturday’s race – featuring only the Prototype and GT Le Mans classes of the TUDOR Championship is scheduled to run for 100 minutes.
Pruett’s late lap deposed Ozz Negri and the Michael Shank Racing team – another team with a Daytona Prototype Riley powered by a Ford EcoBoost engine as the blue oval teams seemed to keep the momentum given them by Ganassi’s win at the 12 Hours of Sebring last month.
Negri – who shares driving duties with long-time co-driver John Pew was two tenths slower than Pruett with the championship leading Action Express Racing team – represented by Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi third fastest. The duo, with a lap by Barbosa that led the session at the time, were just seven thousandths off the pace of Negri at the head of three Chevrolet Corvette team with Wayne Taylor Racing and Spirit of Daytona Racing fourth and fifth respectively.
Nearly a second off the ultimate – if early – pace Gustavo Yacaman was the fastest man in LMP2 machinery, sixth fastest in the OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan co-driven by Olivier Pla.
In the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class late laps were less of the fashion, with only Dane Cameron logging an improvement in the closing minutes for the Risi Competizione team where he joins Giancarlo Fisichella in place of the suspended Matteo Malucelli.
The Ferrari team were only sixth fastest in the class headed by Oliver Gavin and the #4 Corvette Racing team. The Briton, sharing his C7.R with Tommy Milner, lapped the 1.97 mile course in 1:19.797, just three hundredths faster than Bill Auberlen in the better of the two BMW Team RLL Z4 GTE, the second of which was third fastest, ahead of the other yellow Corvette in the race.
Team Falken Tire were fifth fastest in the class while the two Porsche North America 911 struggled in the session, a vibration prompting Nick Tandy to stop the #911 entry, leading to a brief red flag period. The #912 team’s session was even shorter, engine problems limiting the combination of Patrick Long and Michael Christensen to just three laps.
Also struggling for pace in the early session were the two SRT Motorsports Viper, a year on from having claimed pole position at Long Beach. Dominik Farnbacher, fastest in qualifying twelve months ago, set the best lap for the team, putting the #91 eighth fastest in class with a 1:20.590 effort.
There are a further 30 minutes of practice scheduled before qualifying, which begins at 1:45am UK time.