Krohn Racing, Bar1 Motorsports, Porsche North America and TI Automotive/Riley Technologies took the four class poles in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at Sebring as competition heated up under increasing warm Floridian skies.
With track temperatures seeming more like the dead of summer than mid-March, it took the ice cool calm of Olivier Pla in the Krohn Ligier-Judd to cut through the chasing pack and set a TUDOR Championship lap record after recording a lap of 1:51.152.
That was the fifth time this Sebring week a Ligier chassis led a session and Pla’s storming lap put him more than three-tenths ahead of Ryan Dalziel in the venerable Extreme Speed Motorsports run HPD ARX-03b who himself was five-tenths faster than Joao Barbosa in the Action Express Racing Corvette DP.
In fourth place, and lucky to be there considering every member of the team – including team boss Michael Shank – was working on the car, was Michael Shank Racing‘s Ligier-Honda. Needing a full engine change that was completed just before qualifying started, Ozz Negri showed the team how grateful he was for their efforts by clocking a 1:52.170, putting him in front of a trio of Corvette DPs led by Dane Cameron in the #31 Whelen backed Action Express Racing machine.
Prototype Challenge saw a good tussle for the class victory with the top four entries in the spec category separated by half a second in what should prove to be a battle continuing into the race itself.
Martin Plowman set the early pace and didn’t look troubled in the Bar1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09 as he set an early pole lap that he eventually bettered late on, a 1:55.257.
That shut out PC stalwart and defending Sebring champion Colin Braun in the CORE Autosport entry who clocked a 1:55.327 also ensuring Tom Kimber-Smith had to settle for third in the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports car.
In fourth place, and the outer boundary in the half a second bracket was PC first timer Conor Daly in the FLM09 brought to Florida by the Performance Tech team.
Moving from the prototype cars to the Grand Touring categories, and it is Porsche that will start with the upper-hand as Fred Makowiecki in the #912 led home Patrick Pilet in the sister Porsche 911 RSR with a record breaking lap in the GTLM class.
Although, it wasn’t until the final minute that the two Porsches climbed up the time sheets and give the TUDOR Championship the 13th different pole sitter in as many races.
A rapid climb isn’t without its victims and that was unfortunately Pierre Kaffer in the Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 who fell from first to fifth as the improvements made by the Porsches, Antonio Garcia in the Corvette Racing C7R and Dirk Werner in the Team RLL BMW, couldn’t be bettered by the single Ferrari in the GTLM field.
The second of the GT classes, GT Daytona, saw flying Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen take the Riley Technologies Dodge Viper GT3-R to the top of the category and break the streak of pole positions held by TRG-AMR’s James Davison. He would eventually finish fifth.
Second place, and only five-hundredths of a second behind, was the #23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche of Mario Farnbacher. He would finish ahead of another Porsche entry, the Park Place Motorsports car driven by Spencer Pumpelley.
Porsche certainly have strength in numbers in the GTD class as the fourth place car was Leh Keen in the second Alex Job Racing entry.