By IMSA Wire Service
DANVILLE, Va. –
Garcia Gets VIR Three-peat Effort Off to Solid Start by Leading Friday Practice at VIR
Antonio Garcia was at it again on Friday at VIRginia International Raceway.
After winning the Michelin GT Challenge each of the past two years with No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R co-driver Jan Magnussen, Garcia posted the fastest time in Friday practice for the two-hour, 40-minute race on Sunday. Garcia’s best time – which came in the second of the day’s two IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice sessions – was 1 minute, 41.743 seconds (115.702 mph).
However, while Garcia was pleased with the team’s effort and the lap time, he was reluctant to place too much stock in the early pace.
“I don’t know,” Garcia said. “We saw that already last year where we were fastest in P2 and everybody went super-fast on last practice and qualifying, so I don’t think that means a lot. For sure, I think it’s a quick lap, definitely, but yeah, as we saw last year, people went super-fast around here.
“We are definitely on different programs. We’ll see. I don’t know. I just know what our plan is, but we’ll see what the others are. We’ll just focus on both qualifying and the race and let’s see where we are.”
Garcia’s lap was more than half a second faster than current GT Le Mans (GTLM) class points co-leader Ryan Briscoe, who turned in a 1:42.262 (115.115 mph) in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT he shares with Richard Westbrook.
The No. 67 duo, which won two weeks ago at Road America, is looking to extend Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s WeatherTech Championship win streak to five consecutive races this weekend. Briscoe and Westbrook own two of those victories with a win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park three races ago in addition to the Road America win.
The other two Ganassi wins came from Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller in the No. 66 Ford GT at Watkins Glen and Lime Rock Park. Mueller was fourth quickest in Friday practice, one spot behind Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette.
Bleekemolen Tops GTD Time Charts
On Friday practice a year ago at VIR, Jeroen Bleekemolen learned that his regular co-driver Ben Keating, was leaving the track immediately to return to his native Texas with Hurricane Harvey bearing down on his home and automotive dealerships. Trent Hindman stepped in to drive for Keating in the race and the duo finished third in the GT Daytona (GTD) class.
This year was seemingly far less stressful for Keating, Bleekemolen and everybody involved with Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports. It showed on the time charts as Bleekemolen turned a best lap of 1:44.865 (112.258 mph) in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 to lead the opening day of practice for the Michelin GT Challenge in the GTD class.
“I am happy with our Mercedes-AMG GT3,” Bleekemolen said. “Again, like the last couple of weekends, we have not had to make too many changes because the car has been great from the beginning. No dramas, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 is running really well, and I think we have a really good chance to do well.
“I think we can get a good result, but this is American racing where anything can happen, and anyone can win with strategy and yellows and stuff like that. Just looking at the pure speed we have, however, we should have a good shot at it. Last year we had a good car and finished third, but this year we have more power. Last year we just lost out so much on the straightaways, but that’s gone now, so with that we can really fight.”
Robby Foley was second quickest in GTD practice with a best lap of 1:44.866 (112.257 mph) in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, while Patrick Long was third at 1:45.046 (112.064 mph) in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
For the second time in three races, the GTD points leading No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 co-driven by Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers missed much of the first practice session and all of the second due to a mechanical issue. The team was completing an engine change on Friday evening and planned to be back on course for practice again Saturday morning.
It should be noted that when this happened to the team last month at Lime Rock Park, the No. 48 went on to score a dominating victory in the Northeast Grand Prix.