The practice sessions for the Motul Petit Le Mans got underway on Thursday at Road Atlanta, with all three classes taking to the circuit for some essential track time ahead of the season finale of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Free Practice 1
Filipe Albuquerque gave Mustang Sampling Racing the perfect start to the weekend with the fastest time in the opening session at Road Atlanta, with the Portuguese racer setting a best time of 1:11.878.
Albuquerque, sharing the #5 Cadillac this weekend with Christian Fittipaldi and Tristan Vautier as Joao Barbosa sits out Petit Le Mans due to injury, was 0.274 seconds faster than the sister #31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac of Felipe Nasr, while the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac of Jordan Taylor placed third.
Nasr and Eric Curran, who are joined this weekend by Gabby Chaves, head into the weekend leading the championship ahead of the #54 CORE Autosport duo of Jon Bennett and Colin Braun, with the Oreca they are sharing this weekend with Romain Dumas ending up sixth fastest behind the #7 Acura Team Penske of Ricky Taylor and the #77 Mazda Team Joest of Oliver Jarvis.
The #7 caused one of the two red flags during the session when Graham Rahal stopped on track, with the second stoppage being caused by the #99 JDC Miller Motorsports Oreca, which also ground to a halt on the track.
Dirk Muller led the way in GT Le Mans for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, with the #66 he shares with Sebastien Bourdais and Joey Hand finishing just ahead of the sister #67 Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Richard Westbrook, the two cars separated by just 0.038 seconds.
Antonio Garcia put the #3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet into third, with the Spaniard aiming for a second consecutive GT Le Mans title this weekend alongside Jan Magnussen, with Marcel Fassler completing the line-up for the weekend.
The leading Porsche, the #912 of Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber and Mathieu Jaminet was fourth ahead of the second Corvette, the #4, of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Fassler, who is doing double duty this weekend in both C7.R’s.
Christopher Mies put the #29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi R8 to the top of the time sheets in GT Daytona, ahead of Jack Hawksworth in the #15 3GT Racing Lexus and the #96 Turner Motorsports BMW of Markus Palttala.
The #33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports machine of Jeroen Bleekemolen was fourth fastest, while the #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche of Patrick Long completed the top five.
Championship leaders Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow of Paul Miller Racing ended sixth fastest alongside their co-driver Corey Lewis, while their rival for the title, Katherine Legge of Meyer Shank Racing ended up tenth alongside her co-drivers Alvaro Parente and Trent Hindman.
Free Practice 2
Braun put the championship-contending #54 CORE Autosport Oreca to the top of the standings in the second practice with a time of 1:11.669, 0.137 seconds clear of the #5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac of Vautier, and 0.281 seconds ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya in the #6 Acura Team Penske entry.
Jonathan Bomarito and Jarvis were fourth and fifth fastest respectively for Mazda Team Joest, just 0.012 seconds apart, while the championship leaders Curran and Nasr ended down in tenth.
Magnussen took the #3 Corvette to the top in GT Le Mans, just 0.037 seconds clear of Westbrook in the #67 Ford, while Fassler made it two Corvette’s inside the top three in the #4 ahead of the #912 Porsche of Bamber and the #24 BMW Team RLL of John Edwards, Jesse Krohn and Chaz Mostert rounded out the top five.
Bleekemolen put the #33 Mercedes to the top of GT Daytona ahead of Dillon Machavern in the #96 Turner Motorsports BMW, while the #29 of Mies was third fastest. Parente put the #86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura he shares with championship contender Legge into fourth, while the top five was rounded out by the #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini of championship leaders Sellers and Snow.