Michael Shank Racing dominated both free practice sessions at the 2016 running of Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, with the Ligier crew finishing as the only team in the 1:13s.
Sunny weather, and only a handful of stoppages, saw teams clock up the mileage as both Olivier Pla and Ozz Negri took the top step of the podium in the Honda powered LMP2 with decent margins over the Mazda Prototypes which took turns to finish second in each session. Negri set the fastest time of the day with a 1:13.923.
In first practice, Jonathan Bomarito finished half a second behind Pla in what was a good run for the #55 in the Prototype class as the sister #70 of Joel Miller finished in fifth – sandwiching the two Action Express Racing Corvette DP. The second session saw the Mazdas close up on Michael Shank Racing as Miller moved to second and within 0.2 of claiming top spot, they were joined closely behind Tristan Nunez in the second Lola-based Mazda.
As said above, the Corvette DPs of Dane Cameron in the #31 and Christian Fittipaldi in the #5 claimed the best of the DPs in FP1 in what is their final weekend before they are replaced in the top Prototype class. They held the same position FP2 but they slipped down a position apiece as they finished FP2 in third and fourth.
Behind them in sixth place on combined times was the Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette of Jordan Taylor, Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli who were slightly down on pace in comparison to those ahead.
In Prototype Challenge, the final practice sessions for the category before it becomes part of IMSA Prototype Lites saw Renger van der Zande’s Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09 share first in class with Johnny Mowlem – on his last weekend before retirement – in the BAR1 Motorsports car.
Having a good run in both sessions was the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsport car of Tom Kimber-Smith, Robert Alon and Jose Gutierrez finished in third place.
GTLM also saw top spot shared as the #3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia slipped from first in the first practice session of the day, with a 1:18.840, to third in the second session as the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE of Daniel Serra, who set a 1:18.354, and the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Joey Hand pushed the Corvette crew down the order.
Putting themselves in position to strike come qualifying on Friday was the Risi Competizione Ferrari which finished second and third at the hands of Giancarlo Fisichella in both practices. Breathing down their necks though were the two BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLMs – the #100 and the #25 – which took it in turns to play the best of the rest role behind the Corvette, Ferrari and Ford entries.
Finally GT Daytona and it was a tale of two sessions for the Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3R which went from first, with a 1:21.833, to seventh in the second session as the team set about race prep in what will be a gruelling 10 hour race on Saturday.
Taking the top spot in FP2 was another Porsche, as Jorg Bergmeister in the Park Place Motorsport machine set a 1:21.340 to claim the lap record for the category at Road Atlanta.
Elsewhere in that class, Stevenson Motorsports had a good run in their Audi R8 LMS as Lawson Aschenbach finished second and fourth in a class that always proves difficult to pick a winner from. With 12 cars in that class, it still looks a wide-open race for the vast majority of those entries.