Though few at Sebring International Raceway for the 60th running the 12 Hours of Sebring would have been surprised by Audi dominating the times – only incident or accident was likely to stop that – that Andre Lotterer led the team in 1-2-3 formation would likely have attracted more attention.
With only fifteen minutes afforded for LMP1 qualifying the task of settling the internecine battle at Audi was given to Lotterer, Tom Kristensen and Romain Dumas. All three held provisional pole during the session, Lotterer setting the benchmark time (1:45.820) which neither of his domestic rivals could match, falling into number order behind Lotterer's no.1 machine.
Lotterer's best time was over a second faster than the best time from any of the four practice sessions spread over the two days before – that of Kristensen in Thursday night's running in darkness.
The familiar diesel domination survived, Muscle Milk Racing and Klaus Graf taking the unofficial honour of best petrol and the official honour of best American Le Mans Series(ALMS), 1.7 seconds away from overall pole. The team – which is running a HPD chassis for the first time after racing a Lola-Aston Martin last year – was easily clear of their ALMS class rivals Dyson Racing, who struggled and could only managed a time good enough for 23rd overall in the 64 car field.
Behind Graf the rest of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) LMP1 field lined up, Guillaume Moreau for OAK Racing, David Brabham for JRM and Danny Watts of Strakka Racing all – slightly surprisingly – beating the two new Lola-Toyotas of Rebellion Racing, the Swiss entered team having set the benchmark for petrol runners in the Intercontinental Le Mans Challenge in 2011.
Each of the four WEC classes was given its own qualifying session, though shared with the ALMS counterparts. Despite practice sessions blighted by accidents and red flags – the night practice session was stopped a total of four times – only the LMP2 qualifying had to be brought to a stop when ALMS competitor Christophe Bouchut crashed his Level 5 Motorsport entered HPD heavily at turn one, destroying the car against the outside wall after first clipping the concrete wall that forms the apex to the fast left hander.
The accident wiped out the climactic moments of qualifying for the class, handing Olivier Pla and OAK Racing pole position ahead of Stephane Sarrazin in the American Starworks Motorsport entry.
Greaves Motorsport, starting their WEC campaign as LMP2 Le Mans Series champions, were third fastest with Elton Julian at the when of the Nissan engine Zytek, ahead Signatech Nissan – Jordan Tresson one of very few drivers who failed to improve on their practice pace. Bouchut's pre-crash pace was enough to top the ALMS teams.
The top 12 cars in the GTE Pro ranks were covered by two seconds in a rapid qualifying that ended with 14 cars under the pole position time for last year's event. Gimmi Bruni lead a 1-2 for Ferrari teams putting his AF Corse car on pole after Jaime Melo was unable to eclipse at his time of 1:58.427 for Luxury Racing.
The Ferrari teams doubled-up by also leaving with GTE Am pole, Dominic Farnbacher fastest for Luxury Racing, with Nic Jonsson second fastest in another Ferrari 458. Pedro Lamy was third fastest in a Corvette for French team Larbre Competition.
The Corvette works team was the best of the ALMS GT runners, young driver Jordan Taylor beating Oliver Gavin's sister Corvette into third place among behind Bruni and Melo. Taylor is starting his first year with Corvette Racing, signed as a third driver to join the team for longer events including Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Joey Hand was sixth fastest for ALMS outfit BMW Team RLL – defending class winners at Sebring – behind the third WEC Ferrari. In a disappointing session for Porsche Jorg Bergmeister and Flying Lizard Motorsport were the best of the latest breed of 911 GTE racer – the marque's sole WEC representative – Team Felbermayr–Proton – were the slowest of the five WEC team and only tenth fastest in class when taking ALMS teams into consideration.
The 60th 12 Hours of Sebring begins at 2:30pm (UK time) tomorrow – Saturday March 17.