No. 32 Team Korthoff Mercedes Co-Drivers Both Excel in GTD Practice;
By John Oreovicz
IMSA Wire Service
ALTON, Va. – With rain imminent Friday afternoon at VIRginia International Raceway, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competitors tried to maximize the early part of their 60-minute practice for the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR.
It took just four laps of VIR’s challenging 3.27-mile, 17-corner layout for Connor De Phillippi to set the time that would remain fastest for the rest of the session. De Phillippi’s best effort in the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M4 GT3 co-driven with John Edwards was clocked at 1 minute, 45.196 seconds (111.905 mph).
That was 0.296 seconds faster than the next quickest GTD PRO class competitor, Matt Campbell in the championship-leading No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche shared with Mathieu Jaminet. Second fastest overall and tops in GT Daytona (GTD) was Mike Skeen in the class-leading No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 at 1:45.348 (111.743 mph) on this WeatherTech Championship weekend featuring just the GT3 cars.
Setting the practice pace was a welcome reward for De Phillippi after what has been a challenging 2022 season as the team develops the M4 GT3 in its first year of competition.
The 29-year-old American also claimed the Motul Pole Award in GTD PRO for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in June, but he and Edwards have managed only one podium finish so far this year.
“It’s a positive start,” De Phillippi said. “P1 is always good in practice, but we have a lot of things to improve on. Let’s just hope it translates to when it’s important. But definitely happy with the balance so far, and we always seem to have good results here. The first half of the session went as planned, and when the rain kind of came in, we went conservative because there’s no need to tear anything up when you don’t need to.
“I’m keeping my hopes high,” he added. “Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that things go our way. If we just have a clean weekend, I really think we can win this one.”
The No. 9 Pfaff Porsche won the GTD class at VIR in 2021 with a different driver lineup. A solid result on Sunday could all but clinch this year’s GTD PRO title for Jaminet and Campbell.
“In our championship position, we just need to focus on finishing the race,” said Jaminet, who with Campbell leads the GTD PRO standings by 227 points. “If we can have a podium or go for the win, for sure we’ll try to go for it. But for me, today was about learning the track as quickly as possible.”
While Skeen set the fastest time in GTD, his co-driver Steven McAleer was just 0.019 seconds off his teammate’s best effort in a remarkable show of consistency between the Team Korthoff Mercedes drivers.
Jan Heylen (No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R) was second fastest in GTD at 1:45.390, followed by Bryan Sellers (No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3) at 1:45.399.
McAleer leads Heylen and co-driver Ryan Hardwick by 36 points in what is a much closer championship battle in GTD, with the top five teams clustered within 125 points.
Michelin GT Challenge at VIR qualifying to set the field streams live at 3:15 p.m. ET Saturday on IMSA.com/TVLive. The two-hour, 40-minute race airs live at 2 p.m. Sunday on CNBC, Peacock and IMSA Radio.