Penske Porsche leads P2 parade in St. Pete Porsche and Acura flexed their muscles in the opening practice for the inaugural Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg as Penske Motorsports drivers held the top two spots overall in Friday morning’s hour-long session for Saturday’s race.
Sascha Maassen was the quickest driver in one of Penske’s Porsche RS Spyders. The defending LMP2 class co-champion posted a best time of 1:05.331 (99.187 mph) for a 0.025 gap over the sister car of Romain Dumas. Both of the Penske cars were reporting a level of high-speed understeer during the first half of the session but obviously corrected the problem in the latter half.
A trio of Acura-powered entries sat third through fifth overall, paced by the Sebring-winning Andretti Green Racing Acura ARX of Bryan Herta and Marino Franchitti at 1:05.522. The Lowe’s Fernandez Racing Lola-Acura was next with the Highcroft Racing Acura ARX each within 1.4 seconds of the leading Penske entry.
Allan McNish led the way in P1 with an early-session 1:07.006 for Audi and the Audi R10 TDI. He was 0.2 seconds better than the sister car of Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro. Intersport Racing’s Judd-powered Creation and Autocon Motorsports’ Lola-AER were neck-and-neck for third.
Corvette Racing’s two Corvette C6.Rs turned in nearly identical times. Oliver Gavin, in the car he is sharing with Olivier Beretta, posted a best time of 1:12.270. The No. 3 car of Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen was 0.001 seconds back.
In GT2, Tomas Enge was fastest for Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing and its Ferrari F430 GT. The Czech star was at 1:14.019 and nearly a half second ahead of the Risi Competizione Ferrari of Mika Salo and Jaime Melo. Rahal Letterman Racing’s Porsche of Ralf Kelleners and Tom Milner was the best Porsche and third in class at 1:14.591.
The No. 61 Risi Ferrari sustained heavy damage with three minutes remaining in the session following an off at Turn 12. Jose Maria Lopez was OK but the front of the car was completely destroyed. Its status for Saturday’s race wasn’t immediately known.
The next round of the American Le Mans Series is the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg. The race will start at 5:05 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 31. SPEED will provide a same-day broadcast event from 8 to 11 p.m. MotorsTV in Europe, SPEED Latin America and 7TV in Russia will carry the race live. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA’s Live Timing & Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.
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