Taylor, Long open strong in first 24 Hours of Le Mans practice

Jordan Taylor’s regular ride is his father’s Corvette Daytona Prototype in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, but he got right up to speed in the very different Chevrolet Corvette C7.R GT car during Wednesday’s opening four-hour practice session for the 82nd 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Taylor posted a best time of 3 minutes, 58.136 seconds around the 8.469-mile Circuit de la Sarthe, placing him third on the GTE Pro class time sheet. The practice session was interrupted by three red-flag stoppages, including one for a frightening crash by French driver Loic Duval that destroyed the No. 1 Audi prototype. Duval was conscious and was transported to an area hospital for further evaluation.

Taylor, the 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Series Daytona Prototype champion, is sharing the No. 73 Corvette with 2013 American Le Mans Series GT champions Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia.

“It started off a bit rough with that Audi crash and we lost a bit of time on that, but thankfully the driver was OK," Taylor said. “As for our car, it was definitely a good start. We were third quickest, about a second off. Around Le Mans, a second off is like a tenth at another track, so I think we’re in good shape. The car is comfortable to drive at that pace, so for a 24-hour [race], that’s a pretty important thing."

Another team off to a solid start in opening practice was Patrick Dempsey’s No. 77 Porsche entry in the GTE Am class. Patrick Long turned in the second-quickest lap in class with a time of 3:58.167. The No. 77 Dempsey Racing-Proton driver lineup of Dempsey, Long and Joe Foster is the only all-American team in this year’s race. The trio is looking to improve upon last year's fourth-place class result.

“This is a track I really enjoy driving," Long said. “It was a pretty rough session with a lot of red flags and a pretty big shunt. My mindset was to just get back in the car and stick to our plan, which is to find a balance in the car for the race and then emphasize laps for Joe and Patrick. We’ll just continue doing that tonight. All in all, without putting on a set of soft [tires] to do that lap time, we’re pretty happy with the pace of the car. It’s quick, but it’s also easier to drive."

Long and Taylor were the top performers in their classes among 22 regular IMSA drivers on the entry list. Anthony Davidson turned the quickest overall time in the opening practice session with a lap of 3:23.652 in the No. 8 Toyota Racing Hybrid prototype.

A second, two-hour practice session runs tonight from 10 p.m. to midnight local time (4-6 p.m. ET).

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