Braselton, GA - Phillippe Denes, Steve Bamford and Ryan Norman led Friday practice in the F1600, F2000 and Atlantic Series Championships, respectively, on a near perfect cool spring day at Road Atlanta.
F1600 Formula F Championship Series teams opened the inaugural weekend of their 21-race season with the first of their two Friday practice sessions starting at 8:00 a.m. local time in Georgia.
Winter exhibition winner Calvin Ming set the pace early for Team Pelfrey with a lap of 1:30.733 ahead of a similar Mygale of his teammate Phillippe Denes and Spectrum driver Ryan Bjerke in third.
At session's halfway mark, things were brought to a stop for a disabled No. 33 entry, with Ming still hosting fast time over Denes, but with Peter Portante's K-Hill Mygale/Honda now third fastest and returning F1600 driver Max Mallinen in fourth for Swan Motorsports. Mallinen last raced in the F1600 Series in 2014.
Ming then went faster, to 1:30 flat ahead of Portante before Denes set the fastest lap of Friday under the cool morning conditions with a lap of 1:29.422. That time would stay as the fastest of the day for F1600 competitors.
In the final moments of the morning session Masters class driver Steve Bamford rocketed to second on the time sheets with a lap of 1:29.869 to split the Team Pelfrey cars with Portante fourth fastest ahead of fellow K-Hill driver Neil Verhagen.
Two Exclusive Autosport entries, Trenton Estep and Will Harvey, followed in sixth and seventh.
The afternoon session saw the pace slow just enough to keep the cars away from the morning mark set by Denes.
Portante went fastest early and controlled the top of the time sheet for the session. Ming was second quickest with Mallinen third fastest, posting his fastest lap after Swan Motorsports made a number of adjustments to the No. 10 Spectrum in the pits. Verhagen and Bamford rounded out the top five.
Drivers might have seen their first taste of race action too, as a large pack of cars swarmed together and raced for the last eight minutes of practice, an exciting preview of two races scheduled for F1600 on Saturday and the final of the Series' triple-header weekend scheduled for Sunday morning.
With the green flag flying for practice one on the 2016 F2000 Series season, it was Series veteran Steve Bamford setting the early pace ahead of David Grant and 2015 Series Champion Sam Beasley, driving a new Mygale/Zetec as the first hints of outright speed for the seven-weekend, 14-race Championship were on display.
John McCusker then set the fastest mark, at 1:25.434 before Beasley went faster and off track - causing a brief session stoppage and costing him a five-minute penalty in the afternoon's sessino.
As the track got faster, Bamford leapt back to the top of the time sheets and then went faster again, to pace the morning session with an impressive time of 1:24.915, with Grant's Polestar Spectrum in second at 1:25.000, followed by Beasley at 1:25.112 and McCusker's Van Diemen with a lap time of 1:25.172.
McCusker managed to limp back to the pits with a broken rear suspension after a part failure.
The top four cars in the morning practice were under last year's qualifying pole time for race one.
Following the fast four, Dixon completed the top five with Dave Weitzenhof sixth fastest.
The afternoon practice saw Beasley nearly eclipse the morning's fast time, running a quick lap of 1:24.926 for first position ahead of Bamford and Dixon's pair of Citations, McCusker and Grant in a relatively calm 30-minute practice.
Steve Jenks was sixth quickest, with Weitzenhof following in seventh ahead of Robert Wright, Dan Denison and Brent Gilkes.
After winning both winter exhibition events at Palm Beach and Sebring, K-Hill's Ryan Norman was the class of the Atlantic Championship Series field in Friday practice at Road Atlanta in the No. 48 Swift 016/Mazda.
Norman's morning quickest time of 1:16.975 was nearly seven-tenths up on the 2015 pole time from Saturday morning.
Second on the early-morning practice time sheet was defending Series Champion Keith Grant, in the No. 40 Polestar Swift 016/Mazda, while Lee Alexander, Kirk Kindsfater and Lewis Cooper Jr. completed the top five in an incident-free 30-minute practice session.
The afternoon practice sang a similar tune on the time sheets, although the track was slower overall for the one-two pairing of Norman and Grant. Kindsfater improved in his No. 32 Swift 016/Mazda to third overall, ahead of Bruce Hamilton's high-revving No. 06 Swift 014/Toyota from K-Hill Motorsports. Johnpaul Ciancimino was fifth.
Full results are available on www.F1600Series.com, www.F2000Series.com and www.AtlanticChampionshipSeries.com.