SEBRING, Fla. – As a defending winner of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, Ricky Taylor clearly knows the quick way around the historic, 3.74-mile strip of Central Florida pavement known as Sebring Int’l Raceway.
He proved that once again Thursday in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice for Saturday’s race, topping the day’s time charts in the No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05 DPi car he’s sharing with co-drivers Helio Castroneves and Graham Rahal. Taylor led the first two of the day’s three sessions, including the day’s fastest overall lap of 1 minute, 47.841 seconds (124.851 mph) in the afternoon session.
“It’s so competitive again this year,” Taylor said. “We’ve done, I think, 10 or 11 days of testing here, so we’ve got a really good handle on this Acura DPi. We unloaded very strong and we’re just kind of fine tuning now. The car’s very good. I think qualifying is going to be a different story, and in the race, you’re going to have to face 85-degree temperatures and then 50-degree temperatures at the end. There’s a lot of work still to do. I don’t think we can read too much into this.”
The second-quickest time of the day, however, came during Thursday’s night practice session. Rene Rast led the evening session and was second overall with a best lap of 1:48.233 (124.399 mph) in the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P DPi car. Third on the day was Tristan Vautier in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R with a best lap of 1:48.387 (124.222 mph) in the day’s first practice session.
In the GT Le Mans class, Dirk Mueller turned in the fastest lap of the day in night practice with a best lap of 1:57.371 (114.714 mph) aboard the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT he shares with Joey Hand and Sebastien Bourdais.
The fastest lap in the GT Daytona class belonged to the No. 93 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 and driver Lawson Aschenbach, who turned a 2:00.337 (111.886 mph) in the morning session. However, the Shank team now has its work cut out for it, as co-driver Justin Marks was involved in a heavy crash in the car in the afternoon session and the team is now trying to rebuild the car in time for Saturday’s race.