BRASELTON, Ga. – Team Penske wasted little time getting acclimated to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on the opening day of practice for Saturday’s Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
Juan Pablo Montoya set the fastest lap in the two daytime practice sessions with a lap of 1 minute, 12.445 (126.219 mph) in the No. 6 ORECA LM P2 he will share this weekend with co-drivers Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.
“The car was really good,” said Montoya. “I didn’t run in the first session, we let Helio and Simon get some laps. Last week, I tested the 2018 IndyCar and it’s just such a different feel. It just took me a few laps to get back in the car and get used to it – to get a feel for things again. Once I did, we put down some fast laps. I just really enjoy these cars and we have a fast one this weekend.”
Team Penske made news earlier in the week with the announcement of Castroneves joining Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron as full-time drivers for 2018, with a fourth driver to be named at a later date. The team will make its competition debut with the new Acura DPi at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“Helping Roger, the team and everyone with Acura start this program and build it from the ground up will be another big challenge and a great opportunity in my career,” Castroneves said. “I am proud of everything we have accomplished together in INDYCAR and now I am focused on helping to develop the ARX-05 to try and win the 24 Hours of Daytona and the IMSA championship in 2018 with Acura.”
Ferrari, Pier Guidi Tops In GTLM In Competitive Afternoon Session
Risi Competizione returns to Road Atlanta this weekend looking to repeat its Motul Petit Le Mans victory one year ago.
Through two practice sessions, the team has shown good pace with newcomer Alessandro Pier Guidi leading the afternoon session with a lap of 1:18.334 (116.730 mph) in the No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE. Joining him this weekend are full-season drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander.
“I knew a couple months ago that I would join the Risi Competizione team and I was immediately happy because I know the story of the team and how many amazing results Risi’s team achieved over the years,” Pier Guidi said. “I met Toni (Vilander) at the beginning of my GT career in 2005. At that time, it was the debut for both of us in a GT car and we won immediately the Italian GT championship, so I’m really happy to race again with him. I met Giancarlo (Fisichella) a few years later and I think he is one of the most successful and famous Italian drivers. It will be really interesting to join them in Petit Le Mans.”
The GTLM class’ five manufacturers all were represented in the top five with Corvette, Porsche, BMW and Ford directly behind the class-leading Ferrari.
The Porsche 911 RSR of Laurens Vanthoor set the fastest lap of the day in the morning session with a lap of 1:18.320.
Home Track Race Weekend Starts Well for Legge
Through the day’s first two GTD practice sessions, Atlanta-resident Katherine Legge led the field with a lap of 1:20.308 (113.861 mph).
Legge and co-driver Andy Lally are looking to bring home their third win of the season in their No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 for Michael Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian. A win this weekend could top off what has been a remarkable first season for the manufacturer.
“I want to win this one as much as Daytona,” Legge said. “It’s my home race, I live locally, and it’s the last race of the works Acura team as it is. As a reward for the guys working so hard, it would be fantastic to get a win here. It’s what everybody is working towards and I want it really, really bad. I think we’ve got a good car as shown by practice speeds but we’re trying not to get ahead of ourselves.”
Jeroen Mul put the No. 16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 on top of the leaderboard in the morning practice, with a time exactly one-tenth of a second off Legge’s pace.