The 58th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring will begin at 10:30pm local time tomorrow with a front row annexed by the Peugeots after the diesel 908 coupes dominated Friday's qualifying session.
In a depleted LMP1 class it was no surprise that is was the French squad who took the pole position. However, once more it was the marginally less fancied no.07 car that topped the timesheets as former F1 driver Marc Gene lapped the 3.7mile Sebring International Raceway in 1:45.214.
“This is my first visit to Sebring,” says the Spaniard, putting into context his achievement. “Nicolas Minassian talked me through the track, down to its slightest bump, and there are quite a few dangerous corners. If the Formula 1 drivers came here, they would be in for a big surprise! We have covered some excellent groundwork since the beginning of the week, but now it’s time to turn our attention to the race which promises to be very difficult.”
While it was Gene who took the responsibility of qualifying the car it will be Austrian Alex Wurz who will have the honour of leading the field to the green flag, ahead of Sebastien Bourdais, who will be behind the wheel of the no.08 car, which fellow Frenchman Nicolas Minassian qualified some six-tenths behind Gene's time. Third place was taken by the Lola-Aston Martin, which Gene believes could be a “real threat” for the victory tomorrow, fourth was the Drayson Racing Lola-Judd, recovering from having to rebuild the back of the car after an accident in the morning.
There was, perhaps, an equally predictable outcome in the GT Challenge class where Alex Job Racing dominated the class, their three entries lining up first, second and third with Grand-Am GT driver Leh Keen taking the pole position in the car he will share with Butch Leitzinger and Juan Gonzalez.
There was further drama in the remaining classes, with reigning champions Patron Highcroft Racing, albeit with new recruit Marino Franchitti taking pole position in LMP2 by little over 0.05 seconds from the Cytosport Porsche, despite Franchitti spinning the HPD ARX-01 in turn 15 of the 17 turn track. The only other entry in the class, the Mazda powered Lola coupe of Dyson Racing less than two tenths adrift of the Scotsman's marker of 1:47.684, previewing what promises to be fantastic class battle.
The new LMPC class was just as close, and even more dramatic. In the closing seconds of the sessions it seemed like Indycar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, in one of two Level 5 Motorsports entries, had clinched class pole over Gunnar Jeannette in the bright green no.99 car entered by the eponymous Green Earth Team Gunnar.
However, after every other car had returned to the pits Jeannette was determined to retake the top spot, dragging his bright green ORECA FLM09 back ahead of Hunter-Reay.
And while Jeannette may have left it late, the deciding moment of the race for pole in GT2 happened after the checkered flag had fallen on their session. The conventional end to the session saw a surprise pole for Dirk Muller in the no.90 BMW, a comparatively whopping four-tenths ahead of the Flying Lizard Porsche, being qualified by reigning class champion Jorg Bergmeister.
However the leading BMW failed the stall test in scrutineering, an issue that put moved the car from the front to back of the thirteen car class, along with the Jaguar XKRS of JaguarRSR whose drivers failed to complete the required number of night laps during yesterday's night practice session.
Therefore Bergmeister will lead an all Porsche front row in GT2, with the returning Team Falken Tire car promoted to second in class ahead of defending race winners Risi Competizione and the two Corvettes who delayed their first laps in the session until ten minutes in to the 25 minutes session.