Albuquerque takes Acura to the top in first IMSA practice at Laguna

As drivers came to grips with the new surface at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca during Friday’s first practice session for IMSA’s Course de Monterey, many found the limits and took off-course excursions, including one hard crash for Jack Aitken in the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing V-Series.R. The GT classes weren’t immune to the car-dirtying and trackside-sign-destroying trips through the sand and gravel either.

Filipe Albuquerque put the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06 at the top of the time sheet with a 1m14.434s (108.24mph) lap, just a tick quicker than Matt Campbell’s 2023 pole position in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963.

“This first session went really well. I felt really connected to the car. The new asphalt has changed the track completely. Very, very positive,” said Albuquerque.


Philip Eng led most of the session in the No. 24 BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8 and the No. 24 ended the session 0.019s off WTR’s time. Mathieu Jaminet made it three manufacturers in the top three with a 1m14.453s in the No. 6 PPM 963. PPM had a special guest in its timing stand — Tim Cindric, suspended from Penske’s IndyCar Series operation for two races after the push-to-pass scandal.

Louis Deletraz was fourth for WTRAndretti in the No. 40 Acura, and Aitken had the fifth-fastest time despite completing only 14 laps before his crash.

“Practice was running quite well, but unfortunately coming into Turn 4 I had a little bit of a snap on the entry,” Aitken explained. “I let the car recover a little bit, but it was out on the dust and I didn’t anticipate that it would lose grip that quickly and I was heading straight for the wall. I couldn’t do much about it. It doesn’t look like a terrible amount of damage, though it’s going to be a little bit longer day for the guys. I’m sure we’ll be back in action tomorrow. It’s just a shame to cause more work. I’m fine.”

Aitken was evaluated and released from the medical center. Most of the damage occurred on the left front of the Cadillac, but per IMSA rules, the battery and MGU have to be removed from the car and inspected due to the g-loads that occurred in the crash.

The top-five GTP cars were under Campbell’s existing track record, but not quite matching Ricky Taylor’s 2022 DPi record of 1m13.924s – although it is likely that time will be bested before the weekend is done thanks in large part to the greater traction of the new pavement; all eight factory cars were within a second of the record.

Antonio Garcia held the top spot in GTD PRO for most of the session, but Seb Priaulx jumped to the top in the closing stages, posting a 1m21.182s time (99.24mph) in the No. 77 AO Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. The two Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports Z06 GT3.Rs followed, Garcia in the No. 3 at 1m21.375 leading Nicky Catsburg in the No. 4 by 0.029s.

The top three in GTD PRO headed the GT field as a whole, with Philip Ellis turning the fast lap in GTD at 1m21.475s for the fourth-quickest GT time in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. Loris Spinelli was 0.099s off Ellis in the No. 78 Forte Racing Powered by USRT Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo2. Robby Foley was third at 1m21.706s in the Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3, carrying the No. 557 this weekend to celebrate what is expected to be the team’s 557th start with BMW on Sunday.

Matt Bell put the No. 13 AWA Corvette Z06 GT3.R in fourth in GTD, followed by Stevan McAleer in the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo22.

Aside from the Aitken accident, the session was interrupted by only one other red flag for a spin-and-continue by Laurin Heinrich in the AO Porsche.

Practice two begins at 9:15 a.m. local time (12:15 p.m. ET) on Saturday.


Story originally appeared on Racer