Cadillacs Quick in Opening Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring Practice

By Jeff Olson
Renger van der Zande got the jump on the competition Friday night with the fastest lap in the first practice for Saturday’s Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring.
Van der Zande recorded a lap of one minute, 51.152 seconds in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R around the 17-turn, 3.74-mile Sebring International Raceway circuit. That was 0.216 seconds faster than Stephen Simpson, who had the second-fastest lap of the hour-long session in the No. 85 JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi-V.R. Another Cadillac, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering entry shared by Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr was third.
The session, which was delayed because of rain, offered a bit of everything. It began with wet conditions, but the track dried during the final 30 minutes, and the lap times got better.
“Once we got going, it dried up very quickly,” van der Zande said. “Within 30 minutes, we were able to go to the slicks. In the wet, my teammate Ryan Briscoe did most of the driving. It was good to get familiar with the wet track, because tomorrow we have a great chance of having a wet track.”
Gustavo Menezes was quickest in the LMP2 class with a lap of 1:55.897 in the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA ORECA LMP2 07, good for seventh overall. Laurens Vanthoor led the GTLM class at 1:59.501 in the No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR-19 and Paul Holton led the GTD class with a lap of 2:06.012 in the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren 720S GT3, ranking 15th overall of the 28 cars that took to the track Friday.
Rain is possible tomorrow in much the same way it arrived Friday. As a result, the practice session was crucial.
“We went to the slicks quite early, so I had a good feel of how the car behaves when you’re in greasy conditions with slicks,” van der Zande said. “The car felt great. As always, the Cadillac is very good in the bumpy parts even with the slicks in the half-wet. It’s always nice to be on top of the time sheets.” 
Briscoe agreed. Being fastest is always best.
“It’s great that he set the quickest time,” he said. “It’s always good for the guys on the team to finish the day on top. If we get some dry running tomorrow, we’ll really see where we stand. Being able put down lap times in mixed conditions could be good because it could very well be the case in the race tomorrow.”
Preparation for Saturday’s two hour, 40-minute race continues Saturday with practice at 10 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying at 1:55 p.m. NBCSN’s live coverage of the race begins at 5:30 p.m.
IMSA Prototype Challenge Qualifying Rained Out; Race Set for Saturday Morning
IMSA Prototype Challenge teams and drivers turned their first laps on Friday since the Roar Before the Rolex 24 during the first week of January.
Luckily, they were treated to two practice sessions earlier in the day at Sebring International Raceway, which would turn out to be their only on-track activity before their second round of the season on Saturday morning. A ferocious storm swept across Sebring late in the afternoon that forced the abandonment of the series’ 15-minute qualifying session.
Teams were offered the opportunity to nominate their starting driver and the grid will be set based on points. Therefore, the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30 of Joel Janco will lead the field to green in the one hour, 45-minute race.
The race will be streamed live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold at 11:50 a.m. ET. 
Adam Sinclair