Vasser Sullivan Lexus sets early pace in IMSA GT Challenge at VIR

Vasser Sullivan Lexus, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GTD PRO points leaders, asserted their intent to extend that lead by posting fast times in the first practice session for the Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway. This weekend’s round features the GTD PRO and GTD classes only, with Ben Barnicoat claiming the top time overall with a 1m45.201s lap in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3, an average of 111.9mph around the 3.27-mile, 17-turn road course.

Barnicoat’s teammate Jack Hawksworth had held the top time in GTD PRO in the No. 14 before Barnicoat, in his second race weekend at the track, bettered his co-driver’s time. It was a clear step forward for the team after they struggled at VIR last season.

“I’m not going to lie and say it was a good track for me last year because it wasn’t,” Barnicoat said before the start of the weekend’s activities. “I knew that and we’ve been working hard away from the track. We’ve got great simulators and tools…to work with and use to help us improve. We’ve done a lot of simulator running, probably moreso for this event than we have any other event this year, along with our offline tools, and we feel like we’ve made really good gains there to help push us forward. I feel like going back to the track for a second time should should help me a lot to take another step. Can’t say too much, or give away too many details, but we’re feeling much more confident heading back.”


The top time of the session was held briefly by Patrick Gallagher in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3. His 1m45.234 (111.86mph) was only 0.033s off Barnicoat’s best to lead the GTD field. With conditions likely close to what they will be for qualifying Saturday, the Turner crew sent Gallagher out on fresh sticker Michelins to see what he could do, and he rewarded them with the second-quickest overall time.

“The Turner guys have it working good,” said Gallagher. “We still have a little work to do – qualifying is always quicker than these practice sessions, but the Turner guys have done a great job and they got this working good and we’ll keep rubbing on it. Hopefully we progress with everyone else and have a shot at pole.”

GTD cars took the next three spots on the time sheet, Aaron Telitz in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus falling 0.160s short of the best time in the class. Philip Ellis took third in GTD with a 1m45.422s lap for defending VIR winners Winward Raacing in the No. 57 Mercedes AMG. Frederik Schandorff (No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S Evo) and Bryan Sellers (No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3) completed the GTD top five.

After the No. 12 Lexus, the rest of the GTD PRO runners were sprinkled throughout the field. The No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, winners here last year with Mathieu Jaminet and Matt Campbell, was second in GTD PRO and sixth overall in the hands of Patrick Pilet, whose best lap was 1m45.895s. Antonio Garcia was third, ninth overall, for Corvette Racing with a 1m46.023s in the No. 3 C8.R.

With only a few off-track excursions, there were no red-flag interruptions of the 90-minute session. The most serious incident came at the very end, when the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes AMG caught fire in the pits. Daniel Juncadella was already part way out of the car, ready to hand over to Jules Gounon, when the fire started. It was extinguished quickly, but the extent of the damage is unknown.

All cars in the event (19) turned laps during the session. The entry list originally included 20, but Andretti Autosport withdrew the No. 94 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 for Jarett Andretti and Gabby Chaves.

Up Next: 1h45m split practice session beginning at 10:20 a.m. ET.


Story originally appeared on Racer