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Renger van der Zande tops first Thursday practice for the Rolex 24

Rolex 24 practice

#01: Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi , DPi: Renger van der Zande, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Kevin Magnussen

LAT Images

Renger van der Zande posted the fastest time in Thursday afternoon’s first practice session for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with a lap of 1 minute, 34.649 seconds in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi.

He beat Whelen Engineering’s Mike Conway (1:34.731) by .082 seconds. Harry Tincknell (1:34.786) in the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports entry was third.

Nine drivers for six different teams, all in the DPi class, posted times within one second of one another.

Van der Zande’s teammate Kevin Magnussen landed fifth on the Rolex 24 practice chart with a deficit of .308 seconds.

Making his debut in the Rolex 24, defending NASCAR Cup champion Chase Elliott (1:38.731) landed 29th on the practice chart in the No. 31, which was slightly more than four seconds off the leader’s pace.

Elliott’s teammate from last year, Jimmie Johnson (1:37.705) was 25th.

SPEED CHART: Click here for results from Thursday’s first practice at Daytona | Fastest Lap by Driver | Fastest lap by class

HOW AND WHERE TO WATCH: Start times, schedule, TV info for the race weekend

In other divisions, Nicolas Lapierre (1:36.153) paced LMP2 over Ben Hanley (1:36.403). Lapierre’s Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca was eight fastest overall (11th among drivers) on the Rolex 24 practice chart.

On his second lap, Cody Ware spun his LMP2 Ligier in the bus stop at the 48-minute mark and continued to the pits for a damage assessment. Ware did not record a time.

Jeroen Bleekemolen (1:42.416) piloted the fastest LMP3 and landed 36th on the charts. He was followed in class by Colin Braun (1:42.855).

The GTLM class was led by Tommy Milner (1:42.766) and Antonio Garcia (1:43.062). Both drive for Corvette Racing.

The largest class in terms of car count, GTD’s chart was topped by Billy Johnson (1:45.822) and Earl Bamber (1:45.862). The margin between the two GTD drivers was also razor thin at .042 seconds.

Closing rates will be fast in the race with the quickest GTD car more than 11 seconds slower than the fastest DPi.

In total, 105 drivers posted laps in this session.