Audi, Muscle Milk Lead Sebring Qualifying

Lotterer put the No. 1 Audi on pole

Andre Lotterer led an Audi sweep of the top three positions in qualifying Friday for the 60th Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida. It was an expected result for the trio of diesel-powered prototypes, and Lotterer led the German factory squad with a lap of 1:45.820 (125.874 mph) in the Audi R18 he will drive with Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler. The three seek to add a Sebring victory to their win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year.

Lotterer led a 64-car qualifying grid that combines the fields of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n and the FIA World Endurance Championship. Tom Kristensen qualified second at 1:46.215 with Romain Dumas 0.72 seconds further back.

After the three Audis, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s Klaus Graf was the fastest non-diesel entry at 1:47.536. He will drive the team’s HPD ARX-03a with Lucas Luhr and Simon Pagenaud. Graf was the quickest qualifier from the ALMS, and his performance was remarkable given that the Muscle Milk got its car less than two months ago.

Lotterer led a 64-car qualifying grid that combines the fields of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n and the FIA World Endurance Championship. Tom Kristensen qualified second at 1:46.215 (126.762 mph) with Romain Dumas 0.72 seconds further back. Lotterer’s quick lap was more than enough to offset an early-session penalty for speeding in pitlane.

“Usually the pit limiter is always on, but it wasn’t that time. That was my mistake for not noticing. It didn’t really make my life more difficult. The car ran great and I was able to get in a good lap. This pole is really nice for the staff as the guys work so hard to prepare for this race."

After the three Audis, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s Klaus Graf was the fastest non-diesel entry at 1:47.536 (125.205 mph). He drives the team’s HPD ARX-03a with Lucas Luhr and Simon Pagenaud. Graf was the quickest qualifier from the ALMS, and his performance was remarkable given that the Muscle Milk got its car less than two months ago.

“A new car is always a lot of work," Graf said. “Everyone involved such as Wirth Research, HPD and the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing have put a lot of effort into it for this event. It was a big effort to first get the car running, then testing and how to set up. And now this is a reward for us including our partners, Michelin, with the tires. This is a small team for a 12-hour race. This gives us motivation for the whole team. Our team has worked more than 100 hours since we got here on Saturday. It is so hard to prepare these cars for a race like this one since they are so new."

P1 cars took the top 10 spots. Olivier Pla was the quickest P2 qualifier thanks to a lap of 1:50.467 (121.883 mph) in Oak Racing’s Morgan-Judd. He was 0.356 seconds clear of ex-Peugeot factory driver Stephane Sarrazin in Starworks Motorsports’ HPD ARX-03b. Elton Julian, a regular last year in the ALMS’ Prototype Challenge class, was third in P2 qualifying Friday at 1:51.809 (120.420 mph).

“I had a chance to test here before, so I had a pretty good idea of the circuit," Pla said. “I was really looking forward to racing here. The car is amazing. We had an incident on Monday and our team did a great job to get the car back and ready to go. The car felt perfect in qualifying."

Christophe Bouchut led the ALMS’ contingent in the class with a lap of 1:52.129 (120.076 mph) in Level 5 Motorsports’ No. 055 HPD ARX-03b. He had just set his quick time when he clipped the inside of T1 and went hard into the outside tire wall. Bouchut said a fellow P2 car rejoined the race line too soon after exiting the pits and forced him to take an evasive maneuver.

“From my perspective, at that time, there was nothing else I could do or else the car would have hit me and then it would have been worse than what happened," Bouchut said. “Everybody has to watch their mirrors – especially in qualifying; you have nothing to win on your first lap."

Team manager David Stone said he feels confident that the team has the necessary spare parts – the engine cover was the main concern – to fix the car and make Saturday’s race.

“I know the guys can put the labor and effort in to get it back together," he said. “If we don’t get tricked by not having a critical part, then I think we’ll have it back together."

Bouchut’s time was 0.364 seconds clear of Conquest Racing’s Martin Plowman in the team’s Morgan-Judd. He was the second-quickest ALMS driver in P2.

Gimmi Bruni was the fastest GTE Pro driver with a lap of 1:58.427 (113.690 mph) for AF Corse as Ferrari F458 Italias took the top two spots in the GT class. The Italian was the pole-winner last year in the a Ferarri F430 GT – also for AF Corse. Bruni finished 0.296 seconds clear of Luxury Racing’s Jaime Melo.

“GT this year is a real fighting class – very good," Bruni said. “The level is getting higher and higher, and we have been working so hard to be there and it is a good starting point for Ferrari and AF Corse, for sure. It will be a good fight tomorrow. Hopefully we can last for all 12 hours and make a great maneuver for the spectators to enjoy the racing."

Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen qualified third in class and was the ALMS’ fastest driver in the production-based class. He set a lap of 1:58.996 (113.147 mph) in the Corvette C6.R that he is sharing with Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor. Magnussen was just 0.011 seconds clear of Oliver Gavin in the sister Corvette.

Both Corvettes went all-out. Magnussen ran out of E85 on his cool-down lap, and Gavin got back to pitlane on fumes.

“I don’t think we made the best of (qualifying) at the time, but we made the best of it at the end," said Magnussen, who overtook Gavin for third on his final flying lap. “It is super competitive and we have to be 100 percent every time we go out. Qualifying is the first time for everyone to show what they can really do and I think it will be 12 hours of really hard racing."

Bruno Junqueira earned his first ALMS pole in his qualifying debut in Prototype Challenge. The former open-wheel star set a lap of 1:54.510 (117.579 mph) in RSR Racing’s ORECA FLM09. Junqueira, a past championship runner-up in Champ Car, was 0.045 seconds clear of CORE autosport’s E.J. Viso – another open-wheel regular.

Junqueira, teaming with Tomy Drissi and Roberto Gonzalez at Sebring, drove for RSR last year in a Jaguar as part of the ALMS’ GT class. He said the team has a much better competitive advantage with equal cars in their new class.

“This pole gives our team some good morale for this race," Junqueira said. “The team told me to be patient and bring the car home and we will be fine. This is the first time I have driven this car. I love it. On the first lap, I felt the brakes and they were great. They really worked well. So I said, ‘Hey, it’s race time. So let’s go.’ And the car was great. Now, we are ready for the race. It should be exciting."

Dane Cameron qualified third for Dempsey Racing at 1:54.628 (117.458 mph) – only 0.118 seconds off the PC pace. The top five cars in the class were within 0.698 seconds.

Dominik Farnbacher was the fastest GTE Am qualifier with a lap of 2:00.184 (112.028 mph) in Luxury Racing’s Ferrari F458 Italia. He was 0.745 seconds clear of Krohn Racing’s Nic Jonsson in another Ferrari. The gap was similar from Jonsson back to Pedro Lamy in Larbre Competition’s Corvette C6.R.

“My first Sebring race was in 2004 and it really impressed me because in Europe we do not have such bumpy racetracks like here," Farnbacher said. “The first year after I did it, I really felt it in my back at the end of the race and I still do. This is going to be one for the history books. It is the biggest field ever and the toughest one to beat."

Sean Edwards won pole position in GT Challenge during a fantastically close session. Edwards, driving NGT Motorsports’ Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, set a lap of 2:06.674 (106.289 mph) in the car he will share with Henrique Cisneros and Carlos Kauffmann.

Only 0.037 seconds separated the top three runners in GTC. Damien Faulkner was second for Green Hornet Racing. Alex Job Racing was next at 2:06.711 (106.258 mph). All told, the top six GTC cars were separated by just 0.760 seconds.

“It is a really difficult track and the team has put together a good car," Edwards said. “There is not a huge amount we can adjust on the GTC cars so it is just about putting a lap together. (Managing traffic) is going to be tough. You are going to see quite a battle out there. And with the traffic of 64 cars, it is going to be tough. You’ve got to keep your nose clean. Stay out of trouble in the first 10 hours and then see where you are."

The 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n begins with the 60th Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida on Saturday, March 17. The race, set for 10:30 a.m. ET, will be broadcast at noon March 18 on ABC and shown live on ESPN3

Quotes after qualifying

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): "Grid position one for the tenth time at Sebring is a great result after Thursday hadn’t been so easy for us. We’ve now seen a positive turn of events and that’s a nice reward for the team’s hard work. On the other hand we know that although a good qualifying result is very nice the race is obviously the crucial part. We’re in for twelve hours that’ll be difficult for all the teams."

Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest):
"Well done to André (Lotterer). That was a superb lap which he set right on the mark. The others tried that as well but didn’t quite make it. Romain even had a small spin. The cars are good, we knew that. After the major repair we tried out the third car again in free practice on Friday morning. The guys did a great job. In qualifying we saw that the others aren’t that far away. That’ll be a very close situation in the race. The important thing is that our cars are easy to drive in traffic."

Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 TDI #1): "I don’t know what André (Lotterer) had for breakfast. His showing was simply incredible – he just needed one lap to lay a 1m 45.8 on track. That’s a word! Well done to André, that was a fantastic lap."

André Lotterer (Audi R18 TDI #1):
"It wasn’t easy because we didn’t drive the last free practice session this morning. Going into qualifying like this is a nice wake-up call. The lap was okay and, fortunately, it was enough for pole. Of course it’s nice being in front today. But with 60 cars on track, tomorrow will be a much tougher story. Pole won’t be of such great help then. Still, it’s a great thing for my team-mates and me."

Benoît Tréluyer (Audi R18 TDI #1): "Things couldn’t have gone any better for us than this. It was a great qualifying session for us. André (Lotterer) only went out on track for a very short time and it took him only one lap to clinch the pole position for us: a fantastic performance!"

Dindo Capello (Audi R18 TDI #2): "A tremendous result. On the first start of the Audi R18 TDI at Sebring the car takes positions one, two and three. Tom (Kristensen) did a very good job of driving in qualifying. It was important not to risk too much because we need a good car for the race. André’s lap was fantastic. He drove his best time right on his first trial. Well done to him, to Tom and also to Romain (Dumas). The front row on the grid is very good for not having extremely heavy traffic. Allan is a fantastic starter."

Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 TDI #2):
"This was a productive week in which we did a good job of preparing for the race. Qualifying was interesting: In the beginning I was in front. And when I had a particularly good feeling for the next trial a car came out on track from the pit lane. As a result, I wasn’t able to defend myself against André Lotterer who was running really well. Positions one, two and three – in the end we couldn’t have scored a better result than that: a good start into the world championship and the 60th running of the Sebring 12 Hours."

Allan McNish (Audi R18 TDI #2):
"Sebring is showing us again that this track is anything but easy. More than anything else, the heavy traffic will be an issue. It’s important that we’ve been doing well so far. We’ve concentrated on the race set-up and not on having the quickest car in the end. We’ll be doing nothing but overtaking for twelve hours and need a car that’s good in these conditions. Well done to André (Lotterer) and Tom (Kristensen) on taking the front row and to Romain (Dumas), who is completing the trio. That’s a head start to the world championship!"

Timo Bernhard (Audi R18 TDI #3):
"For Audi, with positions one, two and three, qualifying went really well. In our car Romain (Dumas) was very quick on a particularly good trial up to the last turn. But then he unfortunately lost the car on the bumps in the track. We took a closer look at that: Up to that point he was equal to André (Lotterer). But third place is not a bad starting base for an endurance race. We’re pleased with the set-up of our Audi R18 TDI and looking positively toward the race."

Romain Dumas (Audi R18 TDI #3):
"Qualifying was quite alright. My first trial hadn’t been so good and on my second one a Rebellion came out of the pit lane right in front of me. Afterwards the tires weren’t good enough anymore and I made a driving mistake. Still, I agree with the result."

Loïc Duval (Audi R18 TDI #3):
"Our Qualifying was pretty good. And for Audi the main aim has been achieved, grid positions one to three. Romain (Dumas) drove the third-best time in our car. Unfortunately, he spun on a very fast trial on the bumps in the last turn. Otherwise, a bit more might have been possible."

Friday’s qualifying

Pos Class Car Drivers Car type Tire Time Behind Gap
1 P1 1 Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer Audi R18 M 01:45.8 0.00s 0.00s
2 P1 2 Capello/Kristensen/McNish Audi R18 M 01:46.2 0.40s 0.40s
3 P1 3 Bernhard/Dumas/Duval Audi R18 M 01:46.9 1.12s 0.72s
4 P1 6 Luhr/Graf/Pagenaud HPD ARX-03a M 01:47.5 1.72s 0.60s
5 P1 15 Moreau/Baguette/Kraihamer Oak Pescarolo D 01:48.3 2.50s 0.78s
6 P1 22 Brabham/Chandhok/Dumbreck HPD ARX 03a M 01:48.4 2.62s 0.12s
7 P1 21 Leventis/Watts/Kane HPD ARX 03a M 01:48.6 2.77s 0.15s
8 P1 12 Prost/Jani/Heidfeld Lola B12/60 Coupé M 01:48.6 2.81s 0.04s
9 P1 13 Belicchi/Primat/Bleekemolen Lola B12/60 Coupé M 01:49.0 3.14s 0.33s
10 P1 16 Collard/Boullion/Jousse Pescarolo M 01:50.2 4.38s 1.24s
11 P2 24 Nicolet/Lahaye/Pla Morgan D 01:50.5 4.65s 0.27s
12 P2 44 Potolicchio/Dalziel/Sarrazin HPD ARX 03b D 01:50.8 5.00s 0.36s
13 P2 41 Zugel/Gonzalez/Julian Zytek Z11SN D 01:51.8 5.99s 0.99s
14 P2 23 Tresson/Mailleux/Lombard Oreca 03 D 01:52.1 6.26s 0.28s
15 P2 25 Graves/Kerr/Martin Oreca 03 D 01:52.1 6.29s 0.03s
16 P2 55 Tucker/C.Bouchut/Barbosa HPD ARX-03b D 01:52.1 6.31s 0.02s
17 P2 37 Plowman/Hansson/Dracone Morgan D 01:52.5 6.67s 0.36s
18 P2 95 Tucker/Diaz/Hunter-Reay HPD ARX-03b D 01:52.7 6.84s 0.17s
19 P2 49 Companc/Kaffer/Ayari Oreca 03 D 01:52.8 6.94s 0.10s
20 P2 31 Holzer/Shultis/Moro Lola B12/80 Coupé D 01:53.1 7.26s 0.32s
21 PC 9 Junqueira/Drissi/Gonzalez Oreca FLM09 M 01:54.5 8.69s 1.43s
22 PC 6 Popow/Viso/Friselle Oreca FLM09 M 01:54.6 8.74s 0.05s
23 P1 16 Dyson/Smith/Kane Lola B12/60 D 01:54.6 8.77s 0.04s
24 PC 25 Richard/Ende/Cameron Oreca FLM09 M 01:54.6 8.81s 0.04s
25 PC 7 Ducote/Echeverria/Sanchez Oreca FLM09 M 01:55.2 9.34s 0.53s
26 PC 5 Bennett/Braun/Lux Oreca FLM09 M 01:55.2 9.39s 0.05s
27 PC 5 Guasch/Gidley/Wills Oreca FLM09 M 01:55.4 9.60s 0.21s
28 PC 52 Leitzinger/Dobson/Junco Oreca FLM09 M 01:55.5 9.64s 0.04s
29 PC 8 Marcelli/Downs/Stirling Oreca FLM09 M 01:55.7 9.83s 0.19s
30 PC 18 Nicolosi/Vera/Matos Oreca FLM09 M 01:55.8 10.03s 0.19s
31 GT 51 Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander Ferrari F458 Italia M 01:58.4 12.61s 2.58s
32 GT 59 Makowiecki/Melo/Vernay Ferrari F458 Italia M 01:58.7 12.90s 0.30s
33 GT 3 Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 M 01:59.0 13.18s 0.27s
34 GT 4 Gavin/Milner/Westbrook Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 M 01:59.0 13.19s 0.01s
35 GT 71 Bertolini/Cioci/Beretta Ferrari F458 Italia M 01:59.1 13.26s 0.08s
36 GT 56 Hand/Summerton/Mueller BMW E92 M3 D 01:59.8 13.96s 0.69s
37 GT 1 Sharp/van Overbeek/Cosmo Ferrari F458 Italia M 02:00.1 14.27s 0.32s
38 GT 45 Bergmeister/Long/Holzer Porsche 911 GT3 RSR M 02:00.1 14.30s 0.03s
39 GT 97 Mucke/Fernandez/Turner Aston Martin Vantage M 02:00.2 14.35s 0.06s
40 GTE-AM 58 Ehret/Farnbacher/Jakubowski Ferrari F458 Italia M 02:00.2 14.36s 0.01s
41 GT 77 Lietz/Lieb/Pilet Porsche 911 RSR M 02:00.3 14.44s 0.07s
42 GT 155 Mueller/Auberlen/Alzen BMW E92 M3 D 02:00.3 14.52s 0.08s
43 GT 2 Brown/Segal/Lazzaro Ferrari F458 Italia M 02:00.3 14.52s 0.01s
44 GTE-AM 57 Krohn/Jonsson/Rugolo Ferrari F458 Italia D 02:00.9 15.11s 0.59s
45 GT 17 Henzler/Sellers/Ragginger Porsche 911 GT3 RSR F 02:01.6 15.81s 0.70s
46 GTE-AM 50 Bornhauser/Canal/Lamy Chevrolet Corvette C6-ZR1 M 02:01.6 15.82s 0.01s
47 GTE-AM 88 Ried/Roda/Ruberti Porsche 911 RSR M 02:01.8 15.97s 0.15s
48 GT 48 Miller/Maassen/Bell Porsche 911 GT3 RSR D 02:02.1 16.33s 0.36s
49 GTE-AM 70 Bourret/Gibon/Belloc Chevrolet Corvette C6-ZR1 M 02:02.7 16.91s 0.58s
50 GTE-AM 61 Kauffman/Waltrip/Aguas Ferrari F458 Italia M 02:03.3 17.51s 0.60s
51 GTE-AM 55 Binnie/Palttala/Camathias Porsche 911 RSR P 02:04.3 18.52s 1.01s
52 GTC 30 Cisneros/Edwards/Kauffmann Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Y 02:06.7 20.85s 2.33s
53 GTC 34 LeSaffre/Faulkner/Bleekemolen Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Y 02:06.7 20.88s 0.02s
54 GTC 22 MacNeil/Keen/Dumoulin Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Y 02:06.7 20.89s 0.01s
55 GTC 23 Sweedler/Bell/von Moltke Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Y 02:07.0 21.20s 0.31s
56 GTC 11 Cumming/Bullitt/Estre Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Y 02:07.3 21.44s 0.25s
57 GT 44 Neiman/Law/Lally Porsche 911 GT3 RSR M 02:07.4 21.53s 0.09s
58 GTC 31 Benitez Jr/Benitez Sr/Thiim Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Y 02:07.4 21.61s 0.08s
59 GTC 66 Pumpelly/Di Guida/Bunting Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Y 02:07.6 21.73s 0.12s
60 GTC 32 Sofronas/Welch/Villeneuve Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Y 02:08.6 22.79s 1.06s
61 GTC 24 Faieta/Avenatti/Wagner Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Y 02:08.8 22.97s 0.19s
62 P2 54 Pappas/Curtis/Fogarty ? 02:35.2 49.34s 26.36s
63 P2 29 Fatien/Ihara/Deletraz Lola B12/80 Coupé D 14:43.7 1,257.90s 1,208.56s

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