BRASELTON, Ga. — Muscle Milk Pickett Racing was on the offensive at Road Atlanta on Wednesday as it set the fastest time in testing ahead of the 15th annual Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda. Saturday’s 1,000-mile/10-hour race will decide the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón’s P1 championship between Muscle Milk and Dyson Racing.
In GT, though Corvette Racing has already clinched the driver, team and manufacturer championships, it showed no signs of laying low after it posted the quickest GT time in testing.
Muscle Milk’s No. 6 HPD ARX-03a with drivers Lucas Luhr, Klaus Graf and Romain Dumas behind the wheel topped the test session chart with a lap of 1:10.680 (129.372 mph), 0.296 seconds ahead of Rebellion Racing’s No. 12 Lola B12/60-Toyota. Rebellion and its drivers, Andrea Belicchi, Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost are competing with a contingent of European Le Mans Series teams entered in the race.
Dyson Racing was third quickest of the P1 entries. Chris Dyson, Guy Smith and Steven Kane entered a 1:11.851 (127.263 mph) in the No. 16 Mazda-powered Lola B12/60.
Corvette Racing showed it’s out to win Petit Le Mans, even after clinching the GT titles at Virginia Int’l Raceway in September. The team’s No. 4 Corvette C6 ZR1 driven by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook laid down the fastest GT lap of the day, a 1:19.991 (114.313 mph).
Flying Lizard Motorsports was nipping on Corvette’s heels, only 0.15 seconds back. The No. 45 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, with drivers Patrick Long, Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Pilet turned a 1:20.144 (114.095 mph). The Lizards were followed by a pair of Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari F458 Italias led by Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek and Toni Vilander; their No. 01 ESM Ferrari completed the top three in GT with a lap of 1:20.158 (114.075 mph).
ELMS visitor Oak Racing was tops in P2. Clocking a 1:13.270 (124.799 mph), the No. 35 Morgan-Nissan driven by Jacques Nicolet, Bertrand Baguette and Olivier Pla barely edged Level 5 Motorsports’ No. 055 HPD ARX-03b by 0.14 seconds.
Level 5 is in a head-to-head battle with Conquest Endurance for the ALMS’ P2 championship. Driver/owner Scott Tucker has pulled out all the stops to ensure victory, bringing in four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti plus his younger brother, sports car hot shoe Marino, to co-drive. The 1:13.414 (124.554 mph) put in by Level 5 was 0.740 seconds quicker than Conquest Endurance’s No. 37 Morgan-Nissan with drivers David Heinemeier-Hansson and Martin Plowman.
Though running unclassified, the Nissan DeltaWing’s quickest lap of 1:13.686 (124.094 mph) placed it between the top two P2 times. The team experienced shades of the 24 Hours of Le Mans shortly before the close of the combined test session when the experimental car made contact with Green Hornet Racing’s No. 34 GTC Porsche. The contact sent the No. 0 DeltaWing off track and on its side with Gunnar Jeannette behind the wheel. The damage appeared significant, but the team expects to have the car back on track tomorrow.
“Not the best of practice sessions, unfortunately,” Jeannette said. “Everything was going well. (Co-driver) Lucas (Ordoñez) had a good run. All of the changes we have been making have been positive. I followed a GTC car through [turns] 10a and 10b, and in following the car I fully expected that he saw me. I had a run on him exiting 10b before the bridge and pulled almost completely past. He cut over to take the apex and made heavy contact with the left-rear of our car that sent me for a bit of a ride. Luckily, the guys built a very strong car. While the damage looks to be bad in photographs, the car took the impact quite well. We have all the spare parts to fix it and we have an excellent crew that are already going to work and almost have all the damaged parts off it already.”
CORE autosport hit the ground running at Road Atlanta with the fastest Prototype Challenge time of the day. With a 1:14.908 (122.070 mph), the No. 05 ORECA FLM09 of Jon Bennett, Colin Braun and Ricardo Gonzalez was 0.65 seconds clear of its nearest competition ― the No. 8 Merchant Services Racing ORECA FLM09 driven by Kyle Marcelli, Matt Downs and Chapman Ducote. CORE clinched the PC team championship at Road America and the driver championship for Alex Popow at VIR. Dempsey Racing’s No. 25 ORECA FLM09 with Henri Richard, Duncan Ende and Ryan Lewis was third in class at 1:16.097 (120.162 mph).
Another team with its name already engraved on the championship trophy was tops in GTC: Alex Job Racing. Drivers Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen and Dion von Moltke hustled the No. 22 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup to a quick lap of 1:25.220 (107.299 mph). The AJR entry was 0.198 seconds clear of TRG’s No. 66 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup driven by Spencer Pumpelly, Emilio Di Guida and Nelson Canache. Green Hornet Racing was third in the order. The No. 34 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup and pilots Peter LeSaffre, Damien Faulkner and Brian Wong turned a 1:25.612 (106.807 mph). LeSaffre was in the Porsche when it made contact with the DeltaWing.
“I had no place to go,” LeSaffre said. “I was tracking out on the curb. My steering wheel was straight, and he whacked me. There is quite a bit of traffic and a lot of turns where you should not pass even if you’re in a P1 car. It comes down to being patient. The race, especially in our class with eight cars, is going to be a tough one.”
AF Corse was the quickest GTE-AM entry in the test. The No. 60 Ferrari F458 Italia of Piergiuseppe Perazzini, Marco Cioci and Matt Griffin turned a lap of 1:21.948 (111.583 mph). It was 1.200 seconds quicker than IMSA Performance Matmut’s Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.