Muscle Milk Pickett Racing was on the offensive at Road Atlanta on Wednesday as it set the fastest time in testing ahead of the 15th Annual Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda. Saturday's 1,000-mile/10-hour race will decide the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón's P1 championship between Muscle Milk and Dyson Racing.
In GT, though Corvette Racing has already clinched the driver, team and manufacturer championships, it showed no signs of laying low after it posted the quickest GT time in testing.
Muscle Milk's No. 6 HPD ARX-03a with drivers Lucas Luhr, Klaus Graf and Romain Dumas behind the wheel topped the test session chart with a lap of 1:10.680 (129.372mph), 0.296sec ahead of Rebellion Racing's No. 12 Lola B12/60-Toyota. Rebellion and its drivers, Andrea Belicchi, Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost are competing with a contingent of European Le Mans Series teams entered in the race.
Dyson Racing was third quickest of the P1 entries. Chris Dyson, Guy Smith and Steven Kane entered a 1:11.851 (127.263mph) in the No. 16 Mazda-powered Lola B12/60.
Corvette Racing showed it's all-out to win Petit Le Mans, even after clinching the GT titles at Virginia International Raceway in September. The team's No. 4 Corvette C6 ZR1 driven by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook laid down the fastest GT lap of the day, a 1:19.991 (114.313mph).
Flying Lizard Motorsports was nipping on Corvette's heels, only 0.15sec back. The No. 45 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, with drivers Patrick Long, Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Pilet turned a 1:20.144 (114.095mph). The Lizards were followed by a pair of Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari F458 Italias led by Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek and Toni Vilander; their No. 01 ESM Ferrari completed the top three in GT with a lap of 1:20.158 (114.075mph).
ELMS visitor Oak Racing was tops in P2. Clocking a 1:13.270 (124.799mph), the No. 35 Morgan-Nissan driven by Jacques Nicolet, Bertrand Baguette and Olivier Pla barely edged Level 5 Motorsports' No. 055 HPD ARX-03b by 0.14sec.
Level 5 is in a head-to-head battle with Conquest Endurance for the ALMS' P2 championship. Driver/owner Scott Tucker has pulled out all the stops to ensure victory, bringing in four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti plus his younger brother, sports car hot shoe Marino, to co-drive. The 1:13.414 (124.554mph) put in by Level 5 was 0.74sec quicker than Conquest Endurance's No. 37 Morgan-Nissan with drivers David Heinemeier-Hansson and Martin Plowman.
“I'm still figuring out where I can and can't pass the GT cars," admitted the elder Franchitti. "I'm relying on Marino's experience for that. The chassis itself feels similar (to the Acura P1 and P2 cars). The engine is obviously different. I'd love to have the old engine back! It was a nice little motor but we're making the best of what we have available. The Level 5 guys have done a great job developing this package. I've tried to do this race twice with the Highcroft boys and didn't get in one year then drove 10 to 20 laps in the wet and mostly under yellow the next year. I'd really like the opportunity to get a lot of race laps this year.”
Though running unclassified, the Nissan DeltaWing's quickest lap of 1:13.686 (124.094mph) placed it between the top two P2 times. The team experienced shades of the 24 Hours of Le Mans shortly before the close of the combined test session when the experimental car made contact with Green Hornet Racing's No. 34 GTC Porsche. The contact sent the No. 0 DeltaWing off track and on its side with Gunnar Jeannette behind the wheel. The damage appeared significant, but the team expects to have the car back on track tomorrow (see separate story).
CORE autosport hit the ground running at Road Atlanta with the fastest Prototype Challenge time of the day. With a 1:14.908 (122.070mph), the No. 05 ORECA FLM09 of Jon Bennett, Colin Braun and Ricardo Gonzalez was 0.65 seconds clear of its nearest competition – the No. 8 Merchant Services Racing ORECA FLM09 driven by Kyle Marcelli, Matt Downs and Chapman Ducote. CORE clinched the PC team championship at Road America and the driver championship for Alex Popow at VIR. Dempsey Racing's No. 25 ORECA FLM09 with Henri Richard, Duncan Ende and Ryan Lewis was third in class at 1:16.097 (120.162mph).
Another team with its name already engraved on the championship trophy was tops in GTC: Alex Job Racing. Drivers Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen and Dion von Moltke hustled the No. 22 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup to a quick lap of 1:25.220 (107.299mph). The AJR entry was 0.198 seconds clear of TRG's No. 66 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup driven by Spencer Pumpelly, Emilio Di Guida and Nelson Canache. Green Hornet Racing was third in the order. The No. 34 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup and pilots Peter LeSaffre, Damien Faulkner and Brian Wong turned a 1:25.612 (106.807mph). LeSaffre was in the Porsche when it made contact with the DeltaWing.
AF Corse was the quickest GTE-AM entry in the test. The No. 60 Ferrari F458 Italia of Piergiuseppe Perazzini, Marco Cioci and Matt Griffin turned a lap of 1:21.948 (111.583mph). It was 1.200 seconds quicker than IMSA Performance Matmut's Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
The ALMS has three Petit Le Mans practice sessions scheduled for Thursday, the first beginning at 10:15 a.m. ET, followed by another at 3:20 p.m. Night practice is set for 7 p.m.
The 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET on Saturday. ABC's broadcast begins at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 21. Full, live coverage starts at 11:15 a.m. ET on ESPN3 with qualifying coverage beginning at 1:50 p.m. ET on Friday, Oct. 19.