Prior to last weekend, Zane Smith had never driven a GT race car before. He finds that the experience thus far has been really fun. On Thursday (Jan. 26), he turned in the fastest lap of practice ahead of qualifying for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona with a lap at 113.651 mph.
Session No. 1
The opening practice session Wednesday (Jan. 25) was held in 83-degree weather, much warmer than the rest of the race weekend. As a result, teams were able to come to speed a little bit faster. That didn’t do much to help NV Autosport’s Drew Neubauer, who spun his Ford Mustang GT4 exiting the International Horseshoe almost as soon as the session started. Neubauer was able to get back underway and did not hit anything.
Early on, was fastest. Ultimately, Lone Star Racing’s Scott Andrews set a lap at 112.792 mph that was good enough to top the session in his Mercedes-AMG GT4. Andrews’ lap was .094 seconds quicker than KohR Motorsports’ Luca Mars, who was quickest during last weekend’s ROAR Before the 24.
Winward Racing’s Daniel Morad was third in his Mercedes, then Murillo Racing teammates Eric Foss and Christian Szymczak. PF Racing’s Harrison Burton was sixth, followed by Rennsport One’s Stevan McAleer and Accelerating Performance’s Michael Cooper. CarBahn Motorsports with Peregrine Racing’s Nolan Siegel and Turner Motorsport’s’ Robert Megennis rounded out the top 10.
The TCR class was more of the same from the ROAR. VGRT is showing that they will be the team to beat, at least on single-lap pace.
Karl Wittmer was fastest in class in his Honda Civic Type-R TCR with a lap at 108.439 mph, 33rd overall. Wittmer’s lap was nearly three-tenths of a second faster than LA Honda World Racing’s Mat Pombo. KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering’s Tim Lewis Jr. was third in his Alfa Romeo, while Deily Motorsports’ Tyler Maxson was fourth. Bryan Herta Autosport’s Robert Wickens was fifth.
The session was ultimately relatively clean. There were no red flags during the 60-minute session. There were a couple of incidents, though.
In addition to Vajda’s spin, BGB Motorsports’ Thomas Collingwood also had a brief spin in the International Horseshoe, while Crucial Motorsports’ Michael de Quesada and Henry O’Hara both spun their McLaren Artura GT4.
While Burton was sixth quickest, he also received a mechanical black flag just before the halfway point of the session. The PF Racing team made quick repairs to his Ford Mustang GT4, but sent Smith out in his place.
Session No. 2
Given the 9:45 a.m. ET start time Thursday morning, teams scrambled out to set their best times. Smith and McAlister traded quick times until Smith set the fastest lap of the weekend 11 minutes into the session.
Smith’s lap was .221 seconds quicker than Morad, who set his time right near the end of the session. McAlister was one-thousandth of a second behind Morad in third, then Andrews and Mars.
Rennsport One’s Eric Filguerias was sixth in his Porsche, then PF Racing’s Ben Rhodes and BGB Motorsports’ Spencer Pumpelly. Wilsports’ Kris Wilson and Murillo Racing’s Kenny Murillo were ninth and 10th.
In TCR, Wittmer was once again fastest with a lap at 109.341 mph, good for 33rd overall and nearly nine-tenths of a second faster than the current class track record. Wittmer’s lap was more than a third of a second faster than HART’s Mario Farnbacher. LA Honda World Racing’s Ryan Eversley completed a Honda trio. Roy Block and Mike LaMarra rounded out the top five.
As compared to Wednesday’s opening session, it was a little rougher, despite no red flags. Lone Star Racing’s Anton Dias Perera spun at the exit of the infield early on, but recovered. Later on, Crucial Motorsports’ Aurora Straus went off at West Bend, but was able to recover.
The session ended just as O’Hara collided with the McCumbee-McAleer Racing Mustang of Jenson Altzman in turn 2. Both drivers spun, but were able to drive away under their own power.
Qualifying for the BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona is scheduled for 2:25 p.m. ET Thursday afternoon. Frontstretch will bring you a recap of the session later on.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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