Despite looking down on pace compared to their rivals through the four practice sessions Sebastien Bourdais put a Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype on pole position for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
Ford EcoBoost powered DPs had led each of the four practice sessions the Corvette teams – including Daytona winners Bourdais, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi – appeared to have been replaced at the lead of the field after sweeping balance of performance changes made between the first and second rounds of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Qualifying, however, saw the Corvette DPs return to the top of the times. Jon Fogarty, joining Action Express Racing’s #9 team for the race after the withdrawal of Bob Stallings Racing from the race, took provisional pole early on with the Ford engined Michael Shank Racing Riley of Ozz Negri falling into second.
Bourdais, in Acton Express’ #5 DP, then bettered Fogarty by over seven tenths to take the pole benchmark down to 1:52.851 before lopping a similar amount of his own time, setting the fastest lap of the weekend in the process, surpassing Scott Dixon’s first practice line in the sand.
A further two tenths of improvements slipped Bourdais into the 1:51s, specifically onto 1:51.917. At the time it gave him a huge margin over Olivier Pla, qualifying OAK Racing’s Morgan-Nissan. Pla restored some honour to the rest of the field, trimming Bourdais’ advantage at the top to just 0.169 seconds. A gap of near half a second remained to the Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP team that had chased Bourdais and co. to the flag at Daytona, Ricky Taylor given the responsibility for the session.
Ryan Dalziel was fourth fastest in the #1 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD, Klaus Graf fifth in Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s ORECA. Scott Dixon was sixth fastest in the Chip Ganassi Racing #02 that had been the car to beat until the session, Scott Pruett ninth in the sister car. Fogarty, unable to improve upon the 1:53.590 from early in the session was tenth fastest.
Just one row back will start Bruno Junqueira, his demolition of the LMPC class leaving him with a time faster than six Prototypes.
Driving the #09 RSR Racing car to be co-driven by Duncan Ende and David Heinemeier Hansson the Brazilian set a best lap of 1:54.839 that was 0.760 seconds faster than that of Tom Kimber–Smith, qualifying 8Star Motorsports’ entry into the spec class. Raphael Matos – who held class pole early in the session – was just four thousandths slower to qualifying third ahead of Daytona winners CORE Autosport, Colin Braun driving in the session.
GT Le Mans honours swung from Porsche to Corvette to BMW then – finally – back to Porsche in the space of the short session, but rather than Richard Lietz (who was represented by the first ‘Porsche’ in that run down) it was the marque’s new recruit Michael Christensen in the #912 that claimed the pole position.
The Dane was part of the battle for the pole position throughout the session, twice taking provisional pole including the setting of the 1:58.933 that won him the top spot. He will share the car with Patrick Long and Joerg Bergmeister.
Having held first and second in the middle of the session the pair of BMW Team RLL Z4 GTE will start second and third Dirk Mueller in the #56 out qualifying Bill Auberlen in the #55.
Oliver Gavin – the Corvette Racing driver to hold the best time – ensured the #4 will line up – fittingly – fourth in class, one place ahead of the #3 entry.
BMW would not be beaten in the GT Daytona class. Dane Cameron took pole position for the Turner Motorsports. He held on, despite a late lap from Leh Keen that moved the Alex Job Racing Porsche to just a hundredth of a second off him 2:04.258.
The top five in the class included five different manufacturers, Jeroen Bleekemolen third in the Riley Motorsports Viper, James Davison fourth for TRG–AMR and Alessandro Balzan fifth – just two tenths slower than Cameron – in the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari.
The one manufacturer missing, struggling in qualifying in contrast to their Daytona fortunes, was Audi, the best of the quartet of R8 LMS only 18th fastest in class for Paul Miller Racing.
The 2014 Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring gets underway at 10:15am local time (2:15pm UK). www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will have hour-by-hour coverage of the race.