Heylen’s GTD Porsche Bests GTD PRO Cars in GT Classes
Driver Tom Blomqvist won the day for the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-05 DPi at Daytona International Speedway by turning the fastest lap at the very end of the last of two IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice sessions Friday at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Blomqvist topped the speed charts with a lap of 1 minute, 34.351 seconds (135.833 mph) over Daytona’s 3.56-mile road course in the first day of on-track activities for the Roar, which continues through Sunday.
“Today was a decent day for the team,” said Blomqvist, making his first appearance in the No. 60 Acura. “We didn’t have a great morning, but we chipped away at it all day long and the car was just getting better and better with every lap. Obviously, that’s a positive to take into the next couple of days.”
Blomqvist is driving the No. 60 with Oliver Jarvis, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud for the Roar this weekend and the Rolex 24 At Daytona that officially opens the 2022 season Jan. 29-30.
“The car feels good,” Blomqvist said. “This is super fun. There are so many cars on track (that) the race will be chaotic, but this is pretty cool.
“Although we topped the times, we cannot be complacent,” he added. “I don’t think (Friday) was a true representation of the pecking order at all, but there are some positives there for sure.”
The other Acura in the seven-car Daytona Prototype international (DPi) field, the No. 10 Konica Minolta from Wayne Taylor Racing, was nipping at Blomqvist’s heels. Filipe Albuquerque posted the second-fastest lap of 1:34.687 (135.351 mph). Wayne Taylor Racing has three consecutive Rolex 24 triumphs and four wins over the last five years.
Rounding out the top three in the DPi class was newcomer Alex Palou. The reigning IndyCar Series champion turned a lap of 1:34.712 (135.315 mph) in the No. 01 Cadillac V-Performance Academy Cadillac DPi V.R from Chip Ganassi Racing.
In Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2), Rene Rast topped the chart in the No. 68 G-Drive Racing by APR ORECA 07 at 1:35.933 (133.593 mph). Malthe Jakobsen turned fast lap among Le Mans Prototype-3 (LMP3) entries at 1:43.006 (124.420 mph) in the No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier JS P320.
A third practice is set for 10 a.m. ET Saturday, ahead of qualifying at 3:25 p.m. to determine the starting grid for Sunday’s 100-minute race that sets the field for the Rolex 24. A final night practice runs from 7-9 p.m. Saturday.
Sunday’s qualifying race airs live at 2 p.m. on Peacock and IMSA Radio.
Heylen’s GTD Porsche Bests GTD PRO Cars in Roar Practice
The shift to the GTD PRO class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this year was expected to narrow the speed gap with the returning GT Daytona (GTD) class. After one day of Roar Before the Rolex 24 testing at Daytona International Speedway, it looks like it did even more than that.
Jan Heylen, co-driver of the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R in the GTD class, posted the fastest lap among all GT entrants in Friday’s two sessions. Heylen’s top lap of 1 minute, 46.483 seconds (120.357 mph) came in the first practice and held up by 0.033 seconds over the second-session lap turned in by GTD PRO driver Mirko Bortolotti in the No. 63 TR3 Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3.
“Today was a good day. No better way to start the Roar than where we finished,” said Heylen, who won the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge driver championship last year for Wright and helped the team to the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup crown in the WeatherTech Championship. “The car felt good. We had good top speed and I think very similar to some of the other cars out there. But as we know, everybody’s feeling out the track and the drivers, and so everybody’s being very cautious and so are we. But certainly a good start.”
GTD PRO replaced the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class that ran to different technical specifications specifications and allowed teams to use Michelin tires developed specifically for each manufacturer. GTD PRO and GTD now fall under identical specs aligning to the FIA GT3 format, and both classes race on the same Michelin tires. GTD, however, requires at least FIA Bronze- or Silver-rated drivers as part of every driver lineup, whereas nearly all GTD PRO teams feature all Gold- and Platinum-rated pilots.
Heylen is enjoying the change that’s seen the GTD PRO car count at 13 for the Roar and next week’s Rolex 24 At Daytona and the GTD count swell to 22 entries. How tight are the two classes? The fastest 21 GT cars – 13 in GTD and eight in GTD PRO – were separated by less than a second on Friday.
“For me, the announcement that we’re going to be racing under the same set of rules was good news,” Heylen said. “I think the more cars, the better – better racing. I’m really excited about that. It’s a busy track out there; it reminds me much of my younger years where some of the fields were much bigger.”