Mazda Team Joest topped the first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice session of the weekend at Road America, but a major fire hit the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM entry early in the session.
The car erupted in flames in Turn 13 while Pipo Derani was on his initial out lap, with the defending race winner exiting the car under his own power.
The extent of the damage to the car, however, is unclear.
“I smelled fuel by Turn 5 and the team told me to come in,” Derani told Sportscar365. “There were flames inside the car. I’ve never experienced anything like that before.
“Luckily I was ready for it: I had closed my visor and had my hand on the fire suppression button just in case.”
This setback comes in the first weekend back at full strength for the program, which ran with just a single entry at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park due to engine supply problems.
A second red flag came out later in the session for an accident involving the No. 33 Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Ben Keating.
The car was third on the GT Daytona time chart at the time of the crash.
Mazda Fastest in Opening Practice
While the session was a stop-and-start affair, Oliver Jarvis set the pace in the tightly contested Prototype class.
Jarvis’ best lap of 1:52.627 in the No. 77 Mazda RT24-P checked in a mere 0.020 seconds faster than Scott Sharp in the No. 2 ESM entry, while Stephen Simpson was third in the No. 85 Oreca 07 Gibson for JDC-Miller Motorsports.
Patrick Pilet put Porsche on top in GT Le Mans, edging the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia and the Ford GT of Dirk Mueller.
GT Daytona, meanwhile, saw Andy Lally show the way in the No. 44 Audi R8 LMS GT3 for Magnus Racing, with Jack Hawksworth and Joerg Bergmeister second and third for 3GT Racing and Park Place Motorsports, respectively.
Practice 2 is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. CDT.
RESULTS: Practice 1