They came away impressed with the Circuit of The Americas, a 3.4-mile facility built to host Formula One and other major events.
“By far, this is the most spectacular track that I’ve been to in a long time," said five-time GRAND-AM Rolex Series DP champion Scott Pruett, who co-drives with Memo Rojas in the No. 01 TELMEX BMW/Riley. “Everything across the board here is first-class, in every capacity."
Unofficially, Starworks Motorsport posted the two top laps Thursday. Ryan Dalziel had the fastest time, negotiating the challenging 20-turn circuit in 2 minutes, 0.958 seconds (101.92 mph) in the No. 2 Ford/Riley, followed by teammate Brendon Hartley, who ran 2:01.216 (100.977 mph) in the No. 8 Ford/Riley. Both were 26 seconds per lap slower than the F1 cars.
“I’ve been looking forward to coming here since watching the Formula One race last November)," Dalziel said. “It’s a really great venue. We were disappointed with our results in the opening race at Daytona, (Starworks cars finished sixth and 14th in the Rolex 24 At Daytona) but both cars were fast today right out of the box. We’re on the pace, and we’re going to try to keep making the cars faster."
With the Starworks cars dominating the opening session, Richard Westbrook was fastest in the afternoon session with a lap of 2:01.304 (100.904 mph) in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP. Alex Gurney was second, running 2:01.359 (100.858 mph) in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Corvette DP.
Italian driver Alessandro Balzan was fastest in both GT sessions, with a best lap of 2:09.557 (94.476 mph) in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Michelotto Ferrari 458. Second was Jeff Segal in the No. 61 R. Ferrari/AIM Autosport Ferrari 458, 2:09.967 (94.178 mph).
“This is a very European race track, and I feel quite at home here," Balzan said. “The circuit is very complex, with all different kinds of corners. The team did a wonderful job giving me a car that is extremely nice to drive."
Testing also included the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. The No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche Carrera of Ken Wilden and Rod Randall led the Grand Sport competitors with a lap of 2:20.670 (87.012 mph), while the No. 3 CJ Wilson Racing Mazda MX-5 of Jason Saini and Chad McCumbee led the Street Tuner competitors with a lap of 2:29.031 (82.131 mph).
Practice for both series continues Friday morning, beginning at 8:45 a.m. (local/CT). The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge qualifies at 3:30 p.m., followed by the Rolex Series at 5:20 p.m.
The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge will compete on Saturday at 11 a.m. (SPEED, March 9. 4 p.m. ET), followed by the Rolex Series at 3 p.m. (SPEED, 5:30 p.m. ET)