Road Atlanta: VICI Racing Thursday practice report

The build up to this year's Petit Le Mans got underway today at a hot and sunny Road Atlanta with a long day on track during a program that saw three practice sessions, including one the was held in the gathering evening gloom. Racing cars...

The build up to this year's Petit Le Mans got underway today at a hot and sunny Road Atlanta with a long day on track during a program that saw three practice sessions, including one the was held in the gathering evening gloom. Racing cars piercing the fading light with their headlights is an atmospheric part of any endurance race and at the sweeping, dramatic Road Atlanta it is certainly no different.

For VICI Racing and its tire development partner Kumho Tires this weekend's 10-hour/1,000-mile classic will be the perfect chance to demonstrate the progress that has been made over the summer months and hopefully collect a result to make up for the disappointment of last two races where promising performances were dashed early on. Team spirit is always high at VICI Racing and we are looking forward to this weekend.

Today (Thursday Oct 2nd) would be the first of three days on track here for us and was scheduled to kick off with an hour long practice session in the morning open to all classes (10:30-11:30 AM) followed by another hour in the late afternoon (3:05-4:05 PM) which is again open to all classes. The day would wrap up with two hours of night practice (7:00-9:00 PM), again open to all competitors.

This morning started quite chilly but with clear blues skies over the 2.54-mile, 12-turn circuit at Braselton, Georgia; however by the time the first session came round it was warm and sunny, a weather pattern that seems destined to remain in place all weekend. Nicky Pastorelli, who will share the #18 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR with his brother Francesco and Marc Basseng this weekend, took the first turn to drive as the team started to work on set-up. The hour long session would be blighted by red flags and the first would be waved after just a minute when one of the Zytek prototypes hit the wall on the way out of the pits. With air temperatures of 65 degrees and track temperature at 79 degrees, there was just four minutes of green flag action before debris at turn 12 brought out the red flag again (10:45 AM). Three minutes later the track went green again and Nicky was soon lapping consistently as he learnt the track. The Dutch former F1 Test Driver posted a 1:26.212 after 23 mins, and with temperatures rising, he followed this up with a 1:25.410 (25 mins), 1:24.911 (26), 1:24.991 (28) and 1:25.354 (29). After 31 mins Nicky was in and out of the pits and he posted a quartet of solid laps (1:24.748, 1:25.165, 1:25.541 and finally a 1:24.456) before a third red flag was waved as a P1 Acura hit the wall at Turn 1. With just a few minutes remaining Nicky handed over to his brother, who has also never driven here before, but after just a lap the reds were waved again due to a damaged Lola prototype at Turn 10 and Francesco brought the #18 car in as the session ended. Nicky's fastest lap of the session was a 1:24.456 (108.269 mph) set on lap 14 out of the 18 that the #18 car ran during the session.

After the opening session was blighted by red flags, the second session, which got underway at 3:05, saw the 38 cars taking part having a clear run. Track temperatures, were steadily rising, and were now recorded at 113 degrees, as the circuit went green. With just a lap under his belt this morning Francesco was strapped into the cockpit and ran steady, consistent laps for 25 mins as he learnt this track from scratch. Marc, who raced here last year to a podium finish, then took over and the German was quickly into his stride with a 1:24.790 after 31 mins followed by a 1:23.533 next time around. Two brief pit visits followed to make checks and minor adjustments before he raised the bar again with a 1:23.099 after 41 mins. He followed this up with a 1:23.505 (43 mins) and a 1:25.706 (44) before posting his first sub-1:23 lap, with a 1:22.645 (45). He then ran a 1:23.025 (47), 1:22.950 (48), 1:22.427 (50) and a 1:23.427 (51) before pitting after 52 mins. Back out he turned in five more laps before the session ended, wrapping up with a 1:23.129 as the clock ticked onto the hour. The best lap of the session went to Marc in 1:22.427 (110.935 mph), set on lap 27 of the 34 that he and Francesco turned in.

Before the night practice took place the gearbox in the #18 car was changed for a unit optimised to the track. The night practice is mandatory for all drivers racing in the Petit Le Mans, allowing them time to acquaint themselves with running on this race track at night. Each driver has to accomplish at least one flying lap. The session schedule has been tweaked slightly; it would now start at 7:15 PM and finish at 9:00 PM. By the time the start of the session came round the daylight was falling fast, the clear Georgia sky reddening as the sun began to set.

Marc was first into the cockpit and he immediately reported himself happy with the set-up of the car. His first flying lap after 9 mins was a 1:26.283, which he followed up with a 1:22.20 (10 mins) before going sub-1:22, with a 1:21.808 (13). With the track now plunged into darkness, the experienced German sports car pilot turned in a 1:24.908 (15), 1:22.315 (17) and a 1:23.033 (19) before pitting after 21 mins. Back out 2 mins later Marc turned in a 1:22.770 (26), 1:24.610 (28) and 1:23.313 (31) before the #21 Panoz went off at turn 6, bringing out the red flag. At this point Marc was 7th fastest on the GT2 timesheets and, importantly the second-fastest of the GT2 runners.

During the red flag delay mild play was noticed in the left-hand-rear wheelbearing and to put caution first, especially as the team was happy with set-up direction, Francesco and Nicky then ran just the required three tours of the track, an out lap, in lap, and flying-lap. The fastest lap in the night practice was Marc's 1:21.808 (111.77 mph) posted on the fifth lap. The three drivers ran a combined total of 23 laps.

Roland Wall, Technical Director VICI Racing: "I'm pretty pleased with how today has gone. The night practice pace showed that we have got a good set-up together despite a lot less track time than the other teams have, so the changes we have made today have shown they have worked. The car looks quite good here, the drivers have all done very well, and Nicky and Francesco haven't been here before so they have adapted well. We have got the car working well on the tires, so everything so far is good. Actually we used a very hard compound today as we wanted to continue the test program. We now have to continue to push tomorrow, and make sure we are fully ready for the race."

Marc Basseng (Germany): "The car has felt good today; it's working really well and seems to suit the track, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow and the race. I like this trck, it's good for the driver. The team have done good. in getting the car well-prepared and working here, the tires seem to be ok here; in fact I think that the track comes towards us and it having fewer slower bends helps us a bit. The set-up is good, the RSR is working very well over the kerbs, and it grips tightly when it comes off the kerbs. With the new engine tomorrow and other parts we should be able to improve further. The team is working hard, we have ground to make up so hopefully we can turn in a good day tomorrow."

-credit: vici racing

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Nicky Pastorelli , Marc Basseng