Pla Goes Back-to-Back in Sebring Qualifying

Olivier Pla celebrates his pole
Olivier Pla celebrates his pole

SEBRING, Fla. – For the second year in a row — albeit in a different car, and for a different team — Olivier Pla was the top qualifier Friday ahead of Saturday’s 64th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida.

With a lap of 121.061 mph, Pla drove the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Tire Kingdom Ligier JS P2 Honda to a 0.174-second advantage over runner-up Pipo Derani, in the Rolex 24 At Daytona-winning No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Ligier JS P2 Honda.

Qualifying third was the fastest Daytona Prototype, the No. 31 Whelen Action Express Corvette DP, driven by Dane Cameron to a best lap of 120.275 mph. Fourth was Cameron’s teammate, Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP at 119.995 mph. Fifth was the faster of the two Mazda Prototypes, the No. 55 driven by Tristan Nunez.

Pla’s pole was especially remarkable since the car was crashed in night practice Thursday evening, and the team worked until 3 a.m. to repair it.

"It was tough for many ways," Pla said. "First, because yesterday the crew had to repair the car overnight. Things were a little bit crazy.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]"I think I love this track. I know this one is difficult but the team gave me a great car. We changed the setup because yesterday we were a little bit struggling and today it paid off, so I have to give them a huge thanks."

"This was a great effort from the entire team. The guys had to rebuild the car after a crash [in practice] last night, and I had to extract the maximum from myself and the car. It was tough, but we did it together. We made one small setup change from this morning, and it paid off big for us today. The weather for tomorrow is uncertain [rain is in the forecast], so the race will have its own challenges. We’ll be ready."

In the tough GT Le Mans class, many of the competitors feel that the two BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLMs have the edge, and qualifying did nothing to discourage that notion: Bill Auberlen in the No. 25 car nipped the No. 100 team car, driven by John Edwards — Auberlen’s best lap was 113.714 mph, compared to Edwards’ 113.532. It was, said Auberlen, "a picture-perfect day."

"We went out and did the practice before qualifying and came upon a setup that was quite good," Auberlen said. "We were making slight tweaks, it’s not big tweaks anymore. We just had to do the same thing again during qualifying – just put a good lap together. I didn’t do anything crazy it was just enough out of control and it was enough for first."

Third was the No. 68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE of Daniel Serra 113.489 mph, and fourth was the No. 67 Ford GT driven by Richard Westbrook 113.421 mph. Fifth and sixth were the two Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs.

In Prototype Challenge, seven cars took time. Colin Braun destroyed the competition, as he has all during practice, in the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09/Chevrolet, with a fast lap of 117.170 mph. He was close to a full mile per hour faster than second-place Tom Kimber-Smith 116.226 mph in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen entry.

Derani gave Ligier-Honda a 1-2 sweep of the front row
Derani gave Ligier-Honda a 1-2 sweep of the front row

Nineteen of the 20 GT Daytona cars took time — the No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Audi had gearbox problems and will start from the rear. With practically the whole GTD field new this year thanks to the off-season adoption of the global GT3 rules, it was a tight battle up front, won by the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3, thanks to Jeff Segal’s best lap of 110.045 mph.

The Ferrari 488 was delivered late to the teams, and Segal made a point of thanking his crew.

"It’s been a lot of hard work from the team," Segal said. "We had a productive test and left with a lot of confidence. There is still a lot left with a 12-hour race tomorrow. It’s a little more special this weekend with Ferrari’s 60th anniversary of their first win here."

Second in GTD was the No. 33 ViperExchange.com Dodge Viper GT3-R with Jeroen Bleekemolen behind the wheel, followed by the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 driven by Jens Klingmann. Fourth and fifth were the two Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Rs.

The weather forecast for Saturday shows a good chance of rain, which can certainly color the outcome of an endurance race like it did in the 2015 season-ender, the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, where drenching rain favored the full-bodied cars, and a Porsche GT Le Mans entry one. The Sebring forecast doesn’t appear to be that wet, but it could make for a very interesting race.

Live television coverage of the 64th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida begins at 10:30 a.m. ET on FS1 and the Fox Sports GO app. Television coverage shifts to FS2 from Noon to 7 p.m.; continues on IMSA.com and the IMSA mobile app from 7-10 p.m., and concludes on FS2 from 10-11 p.m.

SEBRING, Fla. — Qualifying for Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida at the 3.7-mile, 17-turn Sebring International Raceway road circuit with starting position, car number (in parentheses), driver, car and speed in miles per hour.

  1. (60) Olivier Pla, Ligier JS P2 Honda, 121.061 mph
  2. (2) Luis Felipe Derani, Ligier JS P2 Honda, 120.872
  3. (31) Dane Cameron, Corvette DP, 120.275
  4. (5) Christian Fittipaldi, Corvette DP, 119.995
  5. (55) Tristan Nunez, Mazda Prototype, 119.202
  6. (90) Marc Goossens, Corvette DP, 118.956
  7. (70) Tom Long, Mazda Prototype, 118.612
  8. (10) Rubens Barrichello, Corvette DP, 118.546
  9. (81) Nicolas Minassian, ORECA 05 Nissan, 117.928
  10. (24) Daniel Morad, Riley DP BMW, 117.906
  11. (0) Andy Meyrick, DWC13 Elan, 117.822
  12. y-(54) Colin Braun, ORECA FLM09 Chevrolet, 117.170
  13. (52) Tom Kimber-Smith, ORECA FLM09 Chevrolet, 116.226
  14. (20) Johnny Mowlem, ORECA FLM09 Chevrolet, 115.411
  15. (38) James French, ORECA FLM09 Chevrolet, 114.891
  16. (8) Alex Popow, ORECA FLM09 Chevrolet, 114.840
  17. (50) Jim Pace, Riley DP BMW, 114.663
  18. (85) Misha Goikhberg, ORECA FLM09 Chevrolet, 114.461
  19. (88) Sean Johnston, ORECA FLM09 Chevrolet, 113.891
  20. x-(25) Bill Auberlen, BMW M6 GTLM, 113.714
  21. (100) John Edwards, BMW M6 GTLM, 113.532
  22. (68) Daniel Serra, Ferrari F488 GTE, 113.489
  23. (67) Richard Westbrook, Ford GT, 113.421
  24. (3) Antonio Garcia, Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, 113.280
  25. (4) Tommy Milner, Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, 113.259
  26. (911) Patrick Pilet, Porsche 911 RSR, 113.134
  27. (62) Toni Vilander, Ferrari F488 GTE, 113.124
  28. (66) Dirk Mueller, Ford GT, 113.092
  29. (912) Frederic Makowiecki, Porsche 911 RSR, 112.981
  30. z-(63) Jeff Segal, Ferrari F488 GT3, 110.045
  31. (33) Jeroen Bleekemolen, Dodge Viper GT3-R, 110.013
  32. (96) Jens Klingmann, BMW M6 GT3, 109.767
  33. (23) Mario Farnbacher, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 109.430
  34. (22) Leh Keen, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 109.249
  35. (73) Patrick Lindsey, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 109.211
  36. (51) Raffaele Gianmaria, Ferrari F458 Italia, 109.162
  37. (16) Spencer Pumpelly, Lamborghini Huracán GT3, 109.060
  38. (97) Markus Palttala, BMW M6 GT3, 108.910
  39. (21) Christopher Zoechling, Lamborghini Huracán GT3, 108.737
  40. (9) Lawson Aschenbach, Audi R8 LMS GT3, 108.707
  41. (11) Townsend Bell, Lamborghini Huracán GT3, 108.702
  42. (27) Fabio Babini, Lamborghini Huracán GT3, 108.639
  43. (98) Paul Dalla Lana, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, 108.402
  44. (48) Bryce Miller, Lamborghini Huracán GT3, 108.353
  45. (28) Christopher Bruck, Lamborghini Huracán GT3, 108.317
  46. (44) John Potter, Audi R8 LMS GT3, 107.835
  47. (540) Timothy Pappas, Porsche 911 GT3 R, 105.937
  48. (45) Tracy Krohn, Audi R8 LMS Ultra, 105.734
  49. (6) Robin Liddell, Audi R8 LMS Ultra, no speed

y-PC class pole

x-GT Le Mans class pole

z-GT Daytona class pole

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