Qualifying is in the books for Saturday's 60th Anniversary Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. As expected, Audi scored the overall pole, with other class poles going to Muscle Milk Pickett Racing (ALMS P1), OAK Racing (WEC LMP2), Level 5 Motorsports (ALMS P2), RSR Racing (ALMS PC), AF Corse (WEC GTE Pro), Corvette Racing (ALMS GT), Luxury Racing (WEC GTE Am) and NGT Motorsport (ALMS GTC).
LMP – As could be expected, the question in qualifying at Sebring wasn't whether an Audi would be on pole, but rather, which one of its three R18 TDIs would do so. When all was said and done the cars qualified in numerical order, with cars 1, 2 and 3 in positions 1, 2 and 3.
Andre Lotterer (LEFT), the defending champion at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, showed what pace the cars could achieve with the overall and LMP1 poles at 1:45.820. Tom Kristensen and Romain Dumas completed the Audi sweep. Lotterer discussed his initial race weekend at Sebring, having only tested at the track before.
“It's not a huge change going through Turn 1 now compared to earlier,” he said. “There are other difficulties to deal with. For us drivers, it's very emotional to sign off this car. It won Le Mans and it's legendary to compare with that.”
Klaus Graf kept HPD as best of the rest, with the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing driver tops among ALMS competitors at 1:47.536 in the ARX-03a. The time represented a lap two seconds quicker than the fastest non-diesel lap last year, when Graf qualified Muscle Milk's Lola Aston Martin. OAK Racing, which has been among the quickest non-diesel cars all week, completed the top five in the hands of Guillaume Moreau.
Olivier Pla made OAK's day better than expected to begin with when he snatched the LMP2 pole near the end of its session. The Frenchman took the team's Morgan Judd just ahead of Starworks' HPD ARX-03b driven by ex-Peugeot man Stephane Sarrazin.
Meanwhile, the fastest ALMS P2 entry, another HPD ARX-03b in the hands of Christophe Bouchut for Level 5 Motorsports, will face an uphill battle just to make the grid. An accident toward the end of the session may set the team back, as team manager David Stone acknowledged a shortage of spare parts, rather than a lack of time, would be the challenge for the team into the overnight. The Level 5 HPD was sixth fastest of all the P2 entrants, behind five WEC LMP2 cars.
The battle in PC was a fascinating one with most of the cars separated by only a few tenths throughout, before one part-time and one current IndyCar driver set the bar. Bruno Junqueira and E.J. Viso snuck in ahead of Silicon Tech/Dempsey Racing's Dane Cameron to nab the front row starting positions.
Junqueira, driving for RSR Racing and which has Genoa Racing technical support including team manager Thomas Knapp, took the car to pole in the team's first class start.
“It feels really good, and it's great to see how the team looks,” Junqueira said. “It's great for morale.”
“Two weeks ago, this wasn't even a program, and only eight days ago, it was,” added Tomy Drissi, Junqueira's co-driver and two-time winner in class a year ago. “We got here on Monday and had a very short time to catch up on what everyone else has done.”