Tristan Vautier admitted he was not expecting to set such a dominant lap time during Qualifying for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Friday, but when he saw the time, he knew it would tough to beat for all of his rivals.
The Frenchman gave the Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac DPi he shares with Matt McMurry and Eddie Cheever III top spot with a superb, lap record-breaking time of 1:47.432s, leaving them 0.160 seconds clear of the second placed Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi of Olivier Pla.
Vautier also took pole position in 2017 at Sebring, albeit in the GT Daytona class, but he was delighted to come back this season for the repeat in the Prototype class around a circuit that he feels suits his driving style.
“This is my second pole in a row, so I seem to like this place!” said Vautier. “The whole track is very technical and very high-commitment, and that suits me.
“And obviously you must have a good set-up as well, and both times I’ve been on pole I’ve had a very good engineer. But I was going for it.
“With the new Continental Tire spec and the heat, the tyres came in very quick. No one expected that lap time. I saw a 47 on the dash and I didn’t expect it to be that quick. My second flyer didn’t feel like my best lap so I thought that it was going to be tough for anyone else to beat that time.”
Vautier hopes the effort the team has put in since taking receipt of the Cadillac DPi pays off on race day after they saw a promising start to the season at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January end in disappointment due to a technical failure.
“This means a lot to the team,” added the Frenchman. “To think that the guys got the car in December and powered through the Christmas break to get it ready, then with the issues we had yesterday – to be in the top-five at Daytona and on pole here is big. When you see the names of the teams and drivers that we’ve put behind us in qualifying, it means a lot.
“The race is going to be tough, you have to push 101 percent. I don’t think there’s going to be much race management or saving anything for the end: the level of competition is just too high, people will be pushing the whole time. We’ll work to stay in contention the whole race and be there for the final push.”