Photo courtesy of IMSA

Jani, Rebellion secure the pole for 12 Hours of Sebring

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SEBRING, Fla. – A Rebellion defeated the Galactic Empire (the trio of Cadillac DPi-V.Rs) in the first battle to win the war that is Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, with Neel Jani’s LMP2-spec Oreca 07 Gibson emerging ahead of Christian Fittipaldi’s Daytona Prototype international (DPi)-spec Cadillac for pole.

Full qualifying reports are below:

PROTOTYPE

Jani has delivered Rebellion Racing the overall pole for Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with a record (since IMSA merger of 2014) lap time at the 17-turn, 3.74-mile Sebring International Raceway circuit.

Jani uncorked a flier of 1:48.178, which smashed the previous mark of 1:51.152 set in 2015 by Olivier Pla, in a previous generation LMP2-spec car, the Ligier JS P2 Judd for Krohn Racing.

Jani shares Rebellion’s No. 13 Oreca 07 Gibson with Nick Heidfeld and Sebastien Buemi.

It was less than a tenth ahead of the top of the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) car, Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R at 1:48.273.

Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa, who won overall at Sebring with Sebastien Bourdais for the Action Express team in 2015, roll off second with third driver Filipe Albuquerque; the trio finished second at Daytona.

The second Action Express car, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac qualified by Dane Cameron, starts third.

The No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac, which won the Rolex 24, starts sixth with the car shared by Ricky and Jordan Taylor and U.S. debutante Alex Lynn.

GT LE MANS

Two of the three Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs completed a front row lockout in the GT Le Mans class.

The two U.S.-based, Indianapolis-housed entries were 1-2 with Ryan Briscoe edging Dirk Mueller for the pole position. Briscoe’s time in the No. 67 Ford he shares with Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon was 1:55.931, which was nearly a full 2.5 seconds faster than last year’s pole, Bill Auberlen at 1:58.402 in a BMW M6 GTLM.

Mueller laid down a 1:56.175 in the No. 66 Ford, which looked good before Briscoe’s lap. Mueller, Joey Hand and Sebastien Bourdais are going for both their own and Ford’s triple endurance race sweep at Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring and will start their quest from second.

The pair of Corvette C7.Rs, which themselves have split the last two Sebring races between them, start third and fifth with the No. 4 car qualified by Tommy Milner ahead of the No. 3 car qualified by Antonio Garcia. Kevin Estre split the pair of yellow Corvettes in his No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR. Top BMW was Nicky Catsburg in eighth, at 0.678 off the pole.

Nine of the top 10 cars in class were separated by 0.721 of a second, with the only exception the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Giancarlo Fisichella more than 1.5 seconds off the pace.

GT DAYTONA

Past Pro Mazda combatants Tristan Vautier and Connor De Phillippi relived their open-wheel battle for supremacy now in sports cars, both having found homes in their new teams, in the quest for GT Daytona class pole at Sebring.

Vautier took the top spot in the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 to deliver the car its first IMSA pole, having obliterated last year’s track record. Vautier’s pole lap was 1:59.738, more than 2.5 seconds quicker than Jeff Segal’s last year in the debuting No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 at 2:02.350.

The French driver now lives in North Carolina near the team’s headquarters, and shares the car with Kenny Habul and Boris Said.

De Phillippi, meanwhile will start the No. 29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi R8 LMS from the same position the car finished at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, second. His best lap of 2:00.490 was over seven tenths of a second in arrears. He shares the car with Christopher Mies and Jules Gounon.

Posting an impressive run to third was Corey Lewis in the No. 16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, which is a built up new chassis after an accident at Daytona. Lewis, who was in potential win position at Sebring last year for Robby Benton’s team before passing the pace car to trigger an improper wave around, shares the car with fellow youngsters Jeroen Mul and Brett Sandberg; Mul is new to Sebring.

The pair of 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 entries clocked in fourth and fifth for their second race, the No. 15 car qualified by Robert Alon ahead of the No. 14 car qualified by Scott Pruett.

Christina Nielsen qualified the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 10th as the team looks for a rebound after an engine issue halted their Daytona hopes and after she, Alessandro Balzan and Segal won here last year. This year’s Daytona winners Alegra Motorsports start 12th, with Daniel Morad qualifying the team’s No. 28 Porsche 911 GT3 R. NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell is 15th on the grid in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Audi R8 LMS.

PROTOTYPE CHALLENGE

Gustavo Yacaman took the PC class pole in the No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09, his first WeatherTech Championship pole since 2014 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park before he won the race overall in an OAK Racing Morgan Nissan. Yacaman shares the car with Colin Thompson, Marc Drumwright and Chapman Ducote. Yacaman’s pole time of 1:53.506 beat last year’s pole time by more than 2.3 seconds set by Tom Kimber-Smith, which was a 1:55.843.

Rolex 24 winners Performance Tech Motorsports start second after James French qualified its No. 38 car; he shares that car with Pato O’Ward and Kyle Masson. French only just missed the pole at a lap of 1:53.575.

McLaren almost back on schedule with 2018 F1 car after delay

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McLaren is almost back on schedule with its 2018 Formula 1 car development after losing two weeks due to a delay in deciding on its engine supplier, according to racing director Eric Boullier.

McLaren confirmed back in September it would be cutting ties with Honda at the end of the year after three difficult seasons, favoring a switch to Renault power units.

The decision was not taken lightly by McLaren, causing it to lose two weeks in the development of next year’s car, but Boullier confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the team is almost back on-track.

“Maybe we made the decision to change the engine manufacturer two weeks too late for our schedule, but these two weeks have almost been recovered,” Boullier said.

“Any big decisions are always difficult to take. The concept of McLaren winning with Honda was a dream for everybody, yes – it was a beautiful story.

“Today we have huge respect for them and we definitely don’t divorce with fights and screams and finger pointing. We are all very professional – and in the end it was a business decision, which they understand.

“There is a sadness that it didn’t work out like we wanted. McLaren-Honda in terms of brands was a good fit – in terms of results it didn’t work.

“That’s what it is in the end. Now we have to see that we get back to competitiveness – back to the top!”