Marcel Fassler beat Allan McNish in the expected inter-Audi battle for pole position for the 12 Hours of Sebring.
The pair swapped the top spot in the session, the Swiss driver initially fastest before McNish took the provisional pole half way through the session with a lap of 1:44.685 around the 3.74 Sebring International Raceway.
However, by the end of the session the positions were reversed again, McNish pushed back into second as Fassler took the pole for the #1 car of he, Benoit Treluyer and Oliver Jarvis. McNish too improved in the second half of the session, ending just nine thousandths slower than his teammate but 2.5 seconds faster than Nick Heidfeld third fastest in the best of the Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyotas.
The former F1 driver set a best lap of 1:46.456 to lead the P1 privateers, Klaus Graf in Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s #6 HPD came between the two Rebellion entries in a space of just three tenths of a second wide.
Concurrently with the P1 session Indycar Ryans Briscoe and Hunter–Reay locked out the front row in P2 for Level 5 Motorsports. The pair moved ahead of early polesitter Tom Kimber–Smith in the second half of the session, reigning open-wheel champion Hunter-Reay initially the better of the two black HPD but Briscoe took the lead of the session with two minutes of the session remaining taking the class benchmark to 1:51.159 with his final lap, Hunter-Reay and Kimber Smith remaining on the times they’d set by half way.
Gianmaria Bruni added another Sebring accolade to his and Risi Competizione’s achievements at Sebring with pole position in GT (1:58.815) on the team’s return to racing. Oliver Gavin was second fastest for Corvette Racing with the two Aston Martin Racing entries – Stefan Mucke in the new-for 2013 car, Pedro Lamy a resolute fourth in the older can he will share with Americans Paul Dalla Lana and Billy Johnson. Antonio Garcia was fifth fastest in the second Corvette, third until the pair of Vantages moved forward. Jonathan Bomarito rounded out the top half dozen after falling from briefly holding pole position in the SRT Vipers’ Sebring debut.
In total the top eight GT cars were covered by less than a second, Marco Holzer and ALMS debutant Maxime Martin promising a competitive battle in class between all the brands in the class.
The two challenge classes were both led by drivers breaking the qualifying lap record for their class.
Andy Lally began the qualifying afternoon taking GTC pole for Dempsey/Del Piero Racing in the Porsche he will share with the team’s actor figurehead and Joe Foster. Lally – a Porsche regular in the US, formerly with TRG – waited until late in the session to steal class pole from Alex Job Racing and Jeroen Bleekemolen.
The Dutchman led the class from the beginning, leading a list of international Porsche drivers including Sean Edwards, Damien Faulkner and Kuba Giermaziak. However, while they (and Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Spencer Pumpelly) rearranged themselves in the top half dozen Bleekemolen remained clear at the top albeit my an ever shrinking margin.
The last of Bleekemolen’s lead was erased as the the checkered flag appeared to bring the session to an end, Edwards matching the then pole time to the thousandth before Lally went three tenths faster for pole position and the class record at 2.05.446
It was a late lap that helped Colin Braun to PC pole and record double for CORE Autosport. The session for the class was a three way fight for pole between Braun, RSR Racing’s Bruno Junqueira and Pierre Kaffer for DragonSports Mishumotors. All three held pole at some point during the session, Kaffer leading into the second half of the session. Junqueira then took pole, before spinning and recovering at turn five.
He was not the only one to spin in search of the top time. Kaffer failed to improve on his first half time of 1:53.838 after spinning a turn 13 on his final lap while Junqueira and Braun both improved to make certain of the front row spots, Braun – who will share with Jon Bennett and Mark Wilkins in the #05 in the race – leading the class.
The class leading trio were half a second clear of fourth fastest qualifier David Ostella, Olivier Pla splitting the class in the DeltaWing, 15th fastest overall in the car racing for points in the P1 category.
The 61st 12 Hours of Sebring is scheduled to begin at 10:45am local time (2:45pm UK). theCheckeredFlag will have full coverage of the race, including hour-by-hour updates throughout.