IMSA WeatherTech Championship

Taylor, Acura on Record Pace at WeatherTech Raceway Practice

The No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 Turns a Lap a Tick Better than the Track Qualifying Record Set by the Same Car Last Year

By John Oreovicz
IMSA Wire Service

MONTEREY, Calif. – Cool conditions produced fast lap times Friday afternoon as Ricky Taylor paced the first practice session for the Hyundai Sports Car Championship Presented by Motul at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Under cloudless skies but with brisk ambient temperatures in the upper 50s, Taylor cajoled a lap timed at 1 minute, 14.400 seconds (108.290 mph) out of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 fielded by Wayne Taylor Racing. Taylor’s effort was unofficially 0.041 seconds under the WeatherTech Raceway track record for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship established in 2021 in the same car by his teammate, Filipe Albuquerque.

Taylor was a robust 0.681 seconds quicker Friday than Oliver Jarvis in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura and 0.931 seconds up on the No. 5 JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi-V.R, the next two fastest competitors in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class.

With similar weather conditions expected for Saturday’s Motul Pole Award qualifying, a new track record is a strong possibility.

“You never know what kind of track conditions you’re going to get at Laguna, but we tried to learn from what we did last year,” Taylor said. “We decided to go out with low fuel and see what we could do, and I think we’ll see the rest of the field close up through the rest of the weekend.”

Taylor turned his pace-setting lap just 21 minutes into the 90-minute practice session. He and Albuquerque are the defending winners of the two-hour, 40-minute event at WeatherTech Raceway.

“Usually, this place is pretty dusty and dirty in the early running, but there are a lot of cars running here this weekend putting rubber down on the track, and no doubt it’s going to keep improving,” Taylor said. “This was a track we earmarked that should favor the Acuras, just like the Cadillacs were favored at Long Beach. We just need to do our jobs and execute at the places where we are favored and win some points back.”

Louis Deletraz turned the fastest practice lap in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class, lapping the 2.238-mile road course in 1:16.316 (105.571 mph), a full half second under the official track record for the class.

Deletraz (No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07) found his speed in the closing moments of the session to eclipse Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 81 DragonSpeed USA ORECA) by 0.483 seconds.

Jack Hawksworth was fastest in the GTD PRO class with a lap of 1:23.961 (95.958 mph) in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. Robby Foley pushed the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 around the circuit in 1:24.235 (95.646 mph) to lead the GT Daytona (GTD) class.

Qualifying streams live on IMSA.com/TVLive at 3:45 p.m. ET Saturday. The Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship airs live on NBC at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Covid Sidelines Skeen; Mueller Subs in No. 32 Team Korthoff Mercedes

The leading car in WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) points faced a sudden change for this weekend when co-driver Mike Skeen announced in a Facebook post that he has tested positive for Covid.

Dirk Mueller, a winner of 24 career IMSA top-series races, was summoned to replace Skeen in the No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship. Mueller is sharing the car with Stevan McAleer, the No. 32’s other full-season pilot. Mueller was victorious in his last appearance at WeatherTech Raceway, three years ago in the Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class.

“I’m super gutted that Mike isn’t able to make it to Laguna Seca,” Mueller said in a social media post. “But I’m honored to sub in for him and will do my very best to support Team Korthoff Motorsports and Stevan. We will fight for the big points!”

The No. 32 Mercedes reeled off a pair of podium finishes to open the 2022 season and enjoys a 57-point lead over the next full-season GTD team, the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R. Skeen and McAleer finished sixth in the most recent race, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 9, that awarded points only for the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup.

McAleer was 11th fastest among GTD cars in Friday’s practice at WeatherTech Raceway with a lap of 1:25.125 (94.646 mph).

Latest Le Mans Entry List Swells with WeatherTech Championship Flavor

No fewer than 19 full-season WeatherTech Championship drivers are named on the updated entry list for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans released Friday by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO). Among them is Tristan Vautier, co-driver of the No. 5 JDC Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi-V.R in the WeatherTech Championship who will make his first start at the 24-hour race in his native France.

Vautier is among seven WeatherTech Championship full-timers who will compete in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class at Le Mans. Richard Westbrook, Vautier’s JDC-Miller teammate, is set to drive a Glickenhaus LMH at Le Mans, as is Pipo Derani from the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.

Another Daytona Prototype international (DPi) driver, Renger van der Zande, will make his first non-prototype start at Circuit de la Sarthe in the JMW Motorsport Ferrari in the GTE Am class. Rob Ferriol, who earned a Le Mans invite by winning the Bob Akin Award last year in the WeatherTech Championship, will take his Hardpoint Porsche 911 GT3 R along with co-driver Katherine Legge in GTE Am.

Lamborghini Super Trofeo Moves Upcoming Round to NOLA Motorsports Park

The second round of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America season will take place at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, Louisiana, from May 20-22, series officials announced Friday. This will mark the single-make series’ first visit to the 2.75-mile, 16-turn road course outside New Orleans.

The doubleheader race round was originally slated for the same weekend at Ozarks International Raceway but moved due to delays in completing the new track in Missouri.

“Due to weather-related delays and the ongoing global supply chain issues, we are moving our rounds scheduled for Ozarks International Raceway to NOLA Motorsports Park,” said Chris Ward, senior manager of motorsports for Automobili Lamborghini America. “We’re excited to take Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America to the New Orleans area for the first time.”

The schedule is expected to remain the same for the race weekend, with a pair of 40-minute practices on Friday, May 20, qualifying and the first 50-minute race on Saturday, May 21 and the final 50-minute race on Sunday, May 22.

All LSTNA competitors race in identical Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo Evo2 cars and compete in four classes: Pro, ProAm, Am and LB Cup. The 2022 season opens this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the first of five rounds held in North America before the final round in Portimao, Portugal, in November.

WeatherTech Raceway Filled with Action in Other Series

Three IMSA support series were on track Friday at WeatherTech Raceway. The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America each held two practices. Porsche Carrera Cup North America conducted two practices and a qualifying session.

• Christian Szymczak set the pace in Michelin Pilot Challenge with a lap of 1:30.368 (89.055 mph) in the No. 72 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT4 that came in the first practice.
• Trenton Estep (No. 6 MDK Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car) collected the pole position for the first Porsche Carrera Cup race of the weekend with a fast lap of 1:24.925 (94.869 mph). Saturday’s race starts at 2:50 p.m. ET and streams live on IMSA.com/TVLive.
• Patrick Kujala topped the Lamborghini Super Trofeo practice timesheet with a lap of 1:24.987 (94.800 mph) set in the opening session in the No. 50 O’Gara Motorsport/Change Racing/USRT, Lamborghini Beverly Hills Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo2.

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