Starting lineup grid for Twelve Hours of Sebring: Sebastien Bourdais leads 70th field

Sebring starting lineup grid

Sebastien Bourdais won the pole position Friday for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring as Cadillacs took four of the top five spots in the starting lineup grid for the prestigious sports car race’s 70th edition.

Bourdais is driving the No. 01 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing this season after manhandling the damaged No. 5 to the overall victory last year for JDC MotorSports in the iconic 12-hour event at Sebring International Raceway.

It ranked among many memorable conclusions to the Twelve Hours of Sebring, which Bourdais is expecting to unfold unexpectedly again on the extremely bumpy circuit that once housed a World War II Air Force base.

STARTING GRID: Click here for the Twelve Hours of Sebring lineup l Lineup by car number

FULL QUALIFYING RESULTS: Click here for Friday’s speeds

INFORMATION FOR THE 70TH TWELVE HOURS OF SEBRING: Schedules, start times, entry lists

“It’s kind of funny because you would think, ‘Oh, well, it’s the same kind of format and the race has been going on for a long time,’ but I can’t remember a single time where the race has played out the same way,” said Bourdais, who is teamed with Renger van der Zande and former IndyCar and Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay (making his first IMSA start since winning Sebring in 2020).

“I can’t really tell you how this is supposed to pan out, but there’s no better place to start. I think the car has shown it was really quick and consistent since the beginning of the weekend. Looking forward to it at a track that I very much enjoy.

“It’s a race that’s always fun, but with 53 cars on the grid there’s going to be a lot of aggression management in traffic if you want to come through and stay out of trouble and make sure the car is in the best possible condition at the end. It’s always a very difficult equation to manage the aggression and how safely you need to try not get yourself in positions that would jeopardize the result.”

Pipo Derani qualified second in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac that he shares with Tristan Nunez and Mike Rockenfeller. Ricky Taylor (co-driving with Filipe Albuquerque and Will Stevens) was third in Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10, the faster of the two Acuras.

Cadillacs have won three of the past five races at Sebring (Mazda won in ’20 and Nissan in ’18), and the five in Saturday’s field are expected to have the advantage on the bone-jarring asphalt.

“There’s no arguing that,” Bourdais said. “It’s a car that is less ride-height sensitive than the competitors, so that visually you can see we can run a bit softer. At a place like Sebring, that’s very beneficial. It’s the same on street courses.

“The drawback is that the car doesn’t really have a big peak in downforce and therefore is less suited to smoother tracks where you can run low and stiff. It’s a balance, but it’s obviously won a lot of championships since 2017 so it seems to be working out pretty good.”

Taylor can vouch for his rival’s comfort having driven a Cadillac to victory in 2017 at Sebring.

“The Cadillac felt more like a Cadillac,” Taylor said with a laugh, referencing the luxury street model. “It was soft, didn’t make as much downforce, wasn’t quite as edgy. But you go to Acura side, it makes a ton of downforce, and if you pack the downforce on, you can pick tracks and see where the Acura is going to be strong.

“Sebring is one of those places you want a bit of both. Long Beach, Cadillacs are extremely strong over the low-speed bumpy tracks. Go to Laguna, the smooth high-speed tracks, we’re really strong. Sebring falls somewhere in the middle with a bit of both. It’s bumpy, which the Cadillacs do very well, but it’s also high speed and you can really add quite a bit of downforce, which the Acura does very well.”

Oliver Jarvis, who is aiming to become the first driver to win four consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Endurance Cup events, will start sixth in Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 60 Acura with Tom Blomqvist and Stoffel Vandoorne.

Even though that’s last among the DPi cars, Jarvis is confident in the ARX-05’s ability to get to the front with its “very sophisticated traction control system” and efficient level of torque.

“The Acura is a very aero-dominated car,” he said. “It likes to be driven fast. The faster you drive it, the more aero downforce you get. One of the problems at Sebring is the bumps. There’s not much we can do about it. All we can do is try to tune the car.

“It’s a real compromise between aero grip and mechanical grip. That’s where we discuss a lot that the Caddy seems to ride the bumps really well. It’s got incredible traction. We can’t compete in them areas, but what we can do is maximize our strengths and limit the areas we aren’t as strong.

“Looking on pure pace over the last four years, the Caddys seem to have two or three 10ths in their pocket, but as you saw in (the Rolex 24 at) Daytona, they were probably the quickest car in Daytona, but it’s not the way the race finished, so, as always in IMSA, it’s not just about pure performance. There’s a lot more at play with strategy and staying out of trouble. You can always win, regardless of the exact performance of the car. As a team, you can make the most of it.

“You can almost choose when you want to be strong in the race and dial a car into that and it’s finding the best compromise, because it’s so competitive. You can’t afford to be at the back and expect to suddenly overtake and come through the field with an hour to go. So it’s making sure you’re competitive throughout the race. It’s the little strategy details and having experience in terms of learning in the test days about the track changing. It’s very sensitive to temperature and even more so to wind direction. It can change the balance of the car, which is incredible. We went from one day to the next, and the wind had such an influence.”

Here are the pole-sitters in other categories for the endurance race classic on the 17-turn, 3.74-mile road course:

LMP2: Ben Keating, No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA, 1:49. 954

LMP3: Gar Robinson, No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320, 1:57.048

GTD Pro: Daniel Serra, No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3, 1:59.414

GTD: Zacharie Robichon, No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R, 1:59.763



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III l Session IV

With throaty roar, NASCAR Next Gen Camaro is taking Le Mans by storm on global stage

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

LE MANS, France — The V8 engine of the NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro has a distinct growl that cannot go unnoticed even among the most elite sports cars in the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When the Hendrick Motorsports crew fired up the car inside Garage 56, NASCAR chairman Jim France broke into a huge grin and gave a thumbs up.

“The only guy who didn’t cover his ears,” laughed seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

GARAGE 56 SPECS: Full comparison of NASCAR Cup car to Le Mans car

BUTTON’S BIG MOVE: Hendrick drone tour was NASCAR entryway for F1 champion

France has been waiting since 1962 – the year his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., brought him to his first 24 Hours of Le Mans – to hear the roar of a stock car at the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

A path finally opened when NASCAR developed its Next Gen car, which debuted last year. France worked out a deal to enter a car in a specialized “Innovative Car” class designed to showcase technology and development. The effort would be part of NASCAR’s 75th celebration and it comes as Le Mans marks its 100th.

Once he had the approval, France persuaded Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – NASCAR’s winningest team, manufacturer and tire supplier – to build a car capable of running the twice-around-the-clock race.

The race doesn’t start until Saturday, but NASCAR’s arrival has already been wildly embraced and France could not be more thrilled.

“Dad’s vision, to be able to follow it, it took awhile to follow it up, and my goal was to outdo what he accomplished,” France told The Associated Press. “I just hope we don’t fall on our ass.”

The car is in a class of its own and not racing anyone else in the 62-car field. But the lineup of 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and Johnson has been fast enough; Rockenfeller put down a qualifying lap that was faster than every car in the GTE AM class by a full three seconds.

The Hendrick Motorsports crew won its class in the pit stop competition and finished fifth overall as the only team using a manual jack against teams exclusively using air jacks. Rick Hendrick said he could not be prouder of the showing his organization has made even before race day.

“When we said we’re gonna do it, I said, ‘Look, we can’t do this half-assed. I want to be as sharp as anybody out there,” Hendrick told AP. “I don’t want to be any less than any other team here. And just to see the reaction from the crowd, people are so excited about this car. My granddaughter has been sending me all these TikTok things that fans are making about NASCAR being at Le Mans.”

This isn’t NASCAR’s first attempt to run Le Mans. The late France Sr. brokered a deal in 1976, as America celebrated its bicentennial, to bring two cars to compete in the Grand International class and NASCAR selected the teams. Herschel McGriff and his son, Doug, drove a Wedge-powered, Olympia Beer-sponsored Dodge Charger, and Junie Donlavey piloted a Ford Torino shared by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson.

Neither car came close to finishing the race. McGriff, now 95 and inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in January, is in Le Mans as France’s guest, clad head-to-toe in the noticeable Garage 56 uniforms.

“I threw a lot of hints that I would like to come. And I’ve been treated as royalty,” McGriff said. “This is unbelievable to me. I recognize nothing but I’m anxious to see everything. I’ve been watching and seeing pictures and I can certainly see the fans love their NASCAR.”

The goal is to finish the full race Sunday and, just maybe, beat cars from other classes. Should they pull off the feat, the driver trio wants its own podium celebration.

“I think people will talk about this car for a long, long time,” said Rockenfeller, who along with sports car driver Jordan Taylor did much of the development alongside crew chief Chad Knaus and Greg Ives, a former crew chief who stepped into a projects role at Hendrick this year.

“When we started with the Cup car, we felt already there was so much potential,” Rockenfeller said. “And then we tweaked it. And we go faster, and faster, at Le Mans on the SIM. But you never know until you hit the real track, and to be actually faster than the SIM. Everybody in the paddock, all the drivers, they come up and they are, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ and they were impressed by the pit stops. We’ve overachieved, almost, and now of course the goal is to run for 24 hours.”

The car completed a full 24-hour test at Sebring, Florida, earlier this year, Knaus said, and is capable of finishing the race. Button believes NASCAR will leave a lasting impression no matter what happens.

“If you haven’t seen this car live yet, it’s an absolute beast,” Button said. “When you see and hear it go by, it just puts a massive smile on your face.”

For Hendrick, the effort is the first in his newfound embrace of racing outside NASCAR, the stock car series founded long ago in the American South. Aside from the Le Mans project, he will own the Indy car that Kyle Larson drives for Arrow McLaren in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and it will be sponsored by his automotive company.

“If you’d have told me I’d be racing at Le Mans and Indianapolis within the same year, I’d never have believed you,” Hendrick told AP. “But we’re doing both and we’re going to do it right.”

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Fans gather around the NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that is the Garage 56 entry for the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

General Motors is celebrating the achievement with a 2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Garage 56 Edition and only 56 will be available to collectors later this year.

“Even though Chevrolet has been racing since its inception in 1911, we’ve never done anything quite like Garage 56,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “A NASCAR stock car running at Le Mans is something fans doubted they would see again.”

The race hasn’t even started yet, but Hendrick has enjoyed it so much that he doesn’t want the project to end.

“It’s like a shame to go through all this and do all this, and then Sunday it’s done,” Hendrick said. “It’s just really special to be here.”