Pla leads polesitters at Sebring

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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SEBRING, Fla. – Not even 24 hours ago, the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda was in pieces after a sizable and odd accident for John Pew during Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida night practice.

Just after 5 p.m. ET on Friday, the repaired car with three of the four quarters replaced following a Herculean effort by the Shank crew, Olivier Pla has repaid them with the pole position and a best time of 1:51.217.

Other class polesitters include Colin Braun (PC), Bill Auberlen (GTLM) and Jeff Segal (GTD).

P 

The Prototype qualifying session saw the LMP2-spec cars emerge ahead after Action Express Racing had dominated practice, with both of its Nos. 5 and 31 Corvette DPs having led all four sessions.

Pla, who also won last year’s pole in a similar Ligier JS P2 chassis albeit with a Judd engine at Krohn Racing, then proceeded to lay down a series of fliers.

His ultimate best time of 1:51.217 was off slightly compared to his 2015 time of 1:51.152, but no less impressive given it was a repaired car.

Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani, in the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Ligier Honda that won the Rolex 24 at Daytona, came up just shy at 1:51.391.

Action Express’ two cars line up third and fourth with Dane Cameron in the No. 31 car ahead of Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 car.

Mazda impressed, with Tristan Nunez taking the No. 55 Mazda Prototype completing the top five.

PC

CORE autosport continued its weekend dominance in the new-look Prototype Challenge class, as after it led all four practice sessions it also took the pole position courtesy of a flier from Colin Braun in the team’s No. 54 Oreca FLM09.

Braun set a best time of 1:54.910, which was nearly a second clear of Tom Kimber-Smith in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry.

It’s Braun’s first pole since Indianapolis in 2014, and the first for the team since Jon Bennett started from pole following the qualifying rainout at Watkins Glen last year.

GTLM 

Bill Auberlen and John Edwards led a BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM 1-2 in GT Le Mans qualifying, with Auberlen scoring the first pole for the new GTLM variant of the new M6.

Auberlen set a new track record of 1:58.402 in the No. 25 BMW, with Edwards slightly in arrears at 1:58.592 in the No. 100 BMW.

Porsche had won the previous six pole positions in class dating to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last year. Corvette Racing started on pole at Watkins Glen International when qualifying was rained out; the last qualifying session led by a car other than Porsche was at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last May, when Dirk Werner scored the pole in the team’s BMW Z4 GTLM.

Auberlen seeks an elusive first victory at Sebring, where he’s been close but no cigar for years. He’ll co-drive with Werner and Bruno Spengler; Edwards shares the No. 100 BMW with Lucas Luhr and Kuno Wittmer.

Scuderia Corsa’s Daniel Serra nearly completed a pole sweep for the Giacomo Mattioli-owned team in the team’s GTLM Ferrari 488 GTE. He ended third.

The best Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT and Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R ended fourth and fifth, respectively.

GTD

Jeff Segal secured the first worldwide pole for the debuting Ferrari 488 GT3, in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa entry he shares with Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan.

Segal set a track record of 2:02.350, which edged Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R at 2:02.386. Bleekemolen held the previous track record of 2:03.485, set last year.

Ferrari’s 488 got a pole in the Australian GT race in Melbourne this weekend, but got bounced in tech for an infringement – more here from Speedcafe.

Behind the top two, Jens Klingmann took the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 into third with the pair of Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Rs fourth and fifth. The No. 23 The Heart of Racing car ended ahead of the WeatherTech-backed No. 22 car.

The best of six Lamborghini Huracán GT3s was Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 16 Change Racing entry in eighth; NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell qualified the sister No. 11 Change car 12th of the 20 cars in class.

Qualifying Results