Perfect morning conditions at Sebring International Raceway with temperatures in the low 60s and moderate humidity had engines and tires happy, allowing drivers to push the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship racecars to very quick times in qualifying for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
In a rare GTP-only qualifying session — the top class is normally on track with LMP2 for qualifying — the two Cadillac Racing V-Series.Rs locked out the front row after trailing Acura in yesterday’s practice sessions. Pipo Derani turned the fastest lap of the weekend, showing the pace that was evident, but hadn’t appeared on the official results. Derani bailed out of a potential 1m45s lap in qualifying simulations during the second practice session yesterday, but posted a 1m45.836s (127.22mph) lap to claim the pole in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac.
“We’ve been having a fantastic weekend,” said Derani, a three-time Sebring winner. “It seems like rolled onto the track with very competitive car and so changes have been very small from practice to practice, and therefore we keep evolving quicker than if we were trying to find bigger lap times. It was a very competitive qualifying session.
“I think we came from Daytona a a little bit behind some of our competitors, but we’ve been able to work really hard together between Action Express and Ganassi to continue to develop the Cadillac. I think it’s a strong track normally for the Cadillac, but with a new regulations, you never know whether that’s going to translate into still being a strong track. We’ve worked really hard and it shows that we are now a little bit more competitive than we were at Daytona. To be able to extract that in qualifying and have Cadillac one – two, it shows that we’re able to achieve what we’d be looking for.”
As comparison, Antonio Fuoco took the WEC 1000 Miles of Sebring pole in the No. 50 Ferrari 499P Hypercar last night with a 1m45.067s lap. The Cadillac Racing V-Series.R run by Chip Ganassi Racing, which runs to slightly different regulations in WEC, had a best lap of 1m46.082 in the hands of Alex Lynn to qualify fifth. The DPi qualifying record at Sebring is 1m45.025s, set by Bourdais last year in a Cadillac.
Sebastien Bourdais will join Derani on the front row, missing out on the pole by only 0.087s in the No.01 Chip Ganassi Racing-prepared Cadillac. Last year’s polesitter hadn’t looked as strong during yesterday’s sessions, but Bourdais had the pace when it counted.
Acura and Porsche will make up the second row for tomorrow’s 10:10am start, Ricky Taylor qualifying the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport ARX-06 in third with a 1m46.1s lap. Taylor set the lap on the first of two sets of tires he used, but didn’t go any faster on the second set, hurt perhaps by a shortening of the session — GTP qualifying was cut short when Matt Campbell clipped the inside wall at Turn 1, putting the No. 7 PPM 963 into a spin and into the tire barrier on the outside of the track. Mathieu Jaminet was 0.59s off Derani’s best to put the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsports 963 on the outside of the second row.
Tom Blomqvist, who had previously held the best lap of the weekend, qualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian Acura ARX-06 in fifth, and the No. 24 BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8 will start alongside, Augusto Farfus being the last driver within a second of Derani. Campbell would have been within that range, but lost his two best laps for causing a red flag.
Ben Keating, who just missed out on the GTE-Am pole for the 100 Miles of Sebring WEC race, took the LMP2 pole by 0.120s over Francois Heriau. Keating turned a 1m51.780s (120.45mph) lap in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports before heading over to the WEC paddock where he’s racing the No. 33 Corvette in GTE-Am. Keating reported that he didn’t expect to be that quick, but also said he had a brake lockup on a lap that would have been even quicker.
Heriau’s 1m51.9s lap in the No. 35 TDS Racing ORECA, which was near the top of the time sheets in every session yesterday, put that car in second, with Steven Thomas in the other TDS Racing car, No. 11, another 0.269s back in third.
Glenn van Berlo destroyed the LMP3 competition, turning a record 1m55.215s (116.86mph) lap to put the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier on pole for the class. Second-place Tonis Kasemets in the No. 4 Ave Motorsports Ligier was 1.659s slower. Dan Goldburg qualified the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports third with a 1m769s lap.
“Our car was really on point during qualifying,” said van Berlo, who is running his first race with Andretti and will serve as the team’s third driver alongside Jarett Andretti and Gaby Chaves for the rest of the Michelin Endurance Cup races. “I think we’ve been experimenting quite a lot yesterday to find the right balance, and today it worked out, so I’m really, really pleased with that.
“I didn’t really have expectations. I went into the qualifying really neutral to just see how it turned out. I knew we had a good car. So at the end, it’s all about putting it together and then see where you end up.”
Corvette Racing began its Twelve Hours of Sebring title defense in good style, Antonio Garcia putting the No. 3 on top of GTD PRO, and GTD overall, with a time some two seconds better than seen so far, a 1m59.315s (112.84mph) lap. The GT qualifying session was cut short when Klaus Bachler spun the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche in Turn 1 and made heavy impact with the tire wall with a bit over 4m left, leaving some drivers wanting for a fast lap.
“We just committed to what we had,” said Garcia. “In the little warmup we had before qualifying, everything ran smooth and I knew everything was good. The car is decent — it doesn’t look like we might be doing a lot of changes after how it felt.”
GTD PRO cars took the top three positions, Jack Hawksworth putting the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 on the outside of the front row, 0.267s shy of Garcia’s best. Daniel Juncadella will start third in the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG after posting a 1m59.635s time.
Kyle Marcelli put the No. 93 Racers Edge with WTR Acura NSX alongside Juncadella on the grid, claiming the GTD pole with a 1m59.714s (112.47mph) lap. The Michelin Endurance Cup-only team of Marcelli, Ashton Harrison and Danny Formal will be looking for Acura’s first Sebring GTD victory tomorrow.
“I went into qualifying confident that we had a shot. Throughout the practice sessions yesterday, we’ve kind of been in in the top four all day and I don’t feel like I ever put the perfect lap together and sort of let it all hang out there. I felt they had a couple of tenths in me still and that that would be good enough for pole. Sleeping on it last night was a good thing and sometimes it’s nice to just run the laps through your head and I was able to make it happen. But it’s tight field — IMSA did a really good job with the BoP coming into Sebring. There’s four or five manufacturers within a tenth of a second, so I don’t expect the race to be easy.”
Phillip Ellis qualified the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG second in GTD, 0.120s off of Marcelli’s time, ahead of fourth (Alex Riberas, No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage) and fifth (Daniel Serra, No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3) in GTD PRO. The No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes AMG will line up on the outside of the fourth row of GT cars, third in GTD. Aaron Telitz in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 and Jan Heylen in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R completed the top five in GTD.
UP NEXT: A 20-minute warmup at 8 a.m. ET prior to the 10:10 a.m. race start.