The cool morning temperatures were clearly good for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi cars, as four drivers set times under the old qualifying record as the grid was set for the 70th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. Sebastian Bourdais claimed the pole for Chip Ganassi Racing with a 1m45.166s lap in the No. 01 Cadillac, his third pole in IMSA competition. Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac will start alongside after falling a mere 0.026s short.
“It’s my second here, so definitely a place I really enjoy,” said Bourdais, who won the race last year in the JDC-Miller Cadillac. “Didn’t quite get the balance right. I was hoping that we would go better. I basically got the pole on the banker, and then as soon as I went, then it was game over. We’re probably going to be looking for a bit of security for the long stints in the race, but we got time to think about it.”
Ricky Taylor will start third in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura, looking stronger than the team has all weekend, with a 1m45.301s lap. Alex Lynn in the second CGR Cadillac was the fourth car under the old record, 0.157s off Bourdais. Tristan Vautier, in the defending-champion No. 5 JDC-Miller Racing Cadillac, spun in the hairpin and made contact with the Armco barrier, removing several dive planes and a chunk of splitter before he could set a quick lap, dashing any hope for a pole.
Ben Keating claimed his second pole of the weekend and will start first in LMP2 in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA. Yesterday he took the WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring pole for GTE-Am driving a TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage. Keating posted a blazing 1m49.954s lap, the only car under 1m50s and 0.638s ahead of Henrik Hedman in the No. 81 DragonSpeed car.
“Is this fun or what?” enthused Keating. “I think there’s a big advantage to running both series. I think there are things I learned in the Aston to help me in the LMP2, and things I learned in the LMP2 that helped me in the Aston. Both the laps that I did in the Aston, and in this car were really incredible laps. It was a goal of mine to get below the 1m50s, and you really have to push to get there. I took quite a bit of risk to get there. But because I’m new tires with low fuel, you can get away with a little bit more. You can’t get away with that in a race. So I don’t expect there to be any more 1m49s in my future.”
GTD qualifying was halted by a red flag that not only interrupted the flow, but also hurt several teams as they fell afoul of regulations by lining up at pit exit before the track went green again. The No. 97 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG, in GTD Pro and a host of GTD teams — No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura, No. 42 NTE/SSR Lamborghini Huracan, No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG, No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari 488 and No. 47 Cetilar Racing Ferrari — all had to serve drive-through penalties.
When the green flag came out again with five minutes left, Daniel Serra in the No. 62 Risi Competizione was the first driver to put up a GTD time under two minutes, followed by Mirko Bortolotti in the No. 63 TR3 Racing Lamborghini Huracan. On the final lap, Serra went even quicker to claim the GTD Pro pole with a 1m59.414s lap, Bortolotti falling a mere 0.017s short.
“I’m very happy with the team,” said Serra. “We did a great job in the practice sessions and improving every session in the car. The car was super great. Qualifying at Sebring is fantastic. To put the car on the limit on the bumps to the driver is really, really nice.”
Antonio Garcia was third in GTD Pro — albeit behind five GTD cars — in the No. 3 Corvette, which had received a slightly larger engine air restrictor ahead of qualifying. The BMW Team RLL M4s that had been near the front yesterday were down in the field, Nick Yelloly qualifying seventh in the No. 24.
Wright Motorsports seems to be picking up where it left off at Daytona, with Zachary Robichon putting the car on the GTD pole ahead of Robby Foley. Robichon had a 1m59.763s in the No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3R, 0.025s quicker than Foley in the No. 96 Turner Motorsports BMW M4. Russell Ward qualified third in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG, 0.085s off the pole time. Madison Snow in the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 and Giorgio Sernagiotto in the No. 47 completed the top five in GTD that were quicker than Garcia.
LMP3 was a three-way battle between Gar Robinson, Jarett Andretti and Harry Gottsacker, who was a late call-up into the No. 6 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine. It came down to the final lap, as Andretti in the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier held the pole for a moment after his final lap, having improved on each circuit, but Robinson in the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier pipped him by 0.035s a few seconds later, turning a 1m57.048s lap. Gottsacker ended up third, 0.562s off pole time.
“I’ve always known Jarett to be really great competition back when we were racing in GT4 — I have a lot of respect for those guys,” Robinson said. “But it goes to show all the hard work that the guys at Riley Motorsports put in to put this car together. I think it’s a great way to start the IMSA points season. I know it doesn’t win us the race, but it puts us in a better position than we had at Daytona.”
UP NEXT: The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts starts at 10 am. ET on Peacock. Live coverage on USA Network starts at 3:30 p.m. ET.