Pla puts Mazda on top after first day of IMSA practice at Sebring

Olivier Pla’s fastest lap in Free Practice Two ensured Mazda Team Joest ended the first day of the IMSA Sportscar Championship’s Sebring 12 Hours on top of the standings.

Pla, who is also competing in the WEC’s 1000 Miles of Sebring in a Ford GT, used Thursday afternoon’s session to pull ahead of Felipe Nasr in the Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi and Dane Cameron, who set the fastest lap for the #6 Acura Team Penske crew. It wasn’t plain sailing for Mazda though, as the car stopped out on track during FP2 having ran out of fuel. However, it managed to complete the session having been recovered to the pitlane.

Daytona 24 Hours winner Wayne Taylor Racing ended Thursday fourth as Renger van der Zande – another one of the 11 drivers double-heading the two races – finished three-hundredths of a second behind Cameron. Timo Bernhard waited until the final session to put the second Mazda into the top five, finishing 0.725s off Pla’s fastest time.

Colin Braun added to the mix of marques at the top of the DPi category as he finished the day sixth-fastest overall in the CORE Autosport Nissan DPi – just a tenth ahead of Helio Castroneves’ fastest time in the second Penske Acura.

In the two-car LMP2 class, the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports entry of Matthew McMurry, Gabriel Aubry and Anders Fjorback finished the day comfortably ahead of the Performance Tech machine, as it paced all three sessions in its Oreca 07.

Corvette Racing gave the fans a reason to cheer as Antonio Garcia left it until the final 30 minutes of Free Practice Three to set the fastest time in GT Le Mans as he clocked a 1m56.970s in the #3 Corvette C7.R. Just 0.013s behind the Spaniard was the fastest of the Porsche GT Team crews as Laurens Vanthoor in the #912 edged out Nick Tandy in the sister #911 Porsche 911 RSR by 0.008s. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing finished fourth and fifth in the combined standings with the #67 of Richard Westbrook finished 0.111s ahead of Sebastien Bourdais’ best time in the #66.

There was a mix of manufacturers at the top of the standings in GT Daytona as Bill Auberlen – in the Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 – edged out the Mario Farnbacher-driven Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX by two-tenths of a second. Third went to the GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo with Mirko Bortolotti setting the best time of the day for that car, half-a-tenth ahead of Andy Lally in the Magnus Racing Lamborghini. Fifth and sixth in Thursday’s combined classification went to a pair of Porsches as Patrick Long put the Park Place Motorsports entry ahead of Scott Hargrove in the Pfaff Motorsports car. The only crash of note throughout the day of running came from the #47 Precision Performance Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, which had a disrupted day of running as the team missed the majority of FP2 following a crash for Don Yount. The American was caught out by a bump at the exit of turn three which pitched the car round and hit the barriers. Despite a herculean effort to repair the car, it wasn’t able to return to the track for FP3.