Vautier Grabs Sebring Pole as Lap Records Tumble in all Three Classes

by Paul Hensby
Tristan Vautier took pole position at Sebring for Spirit of Daytona Racing

Tristan Vautier gave Spirit of Daytona Racing pole position for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, while BMW Team RLL and Spirit of Race took top spot in the GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes respectively.

All three classes saw their respective lap records around the Sebring International Circuit broken, but it was Vautier’s best of 1:47.432s that stole the show, with the #90 machine he shares with Matt McMurry and Eddie Cheever III 0.160 seconds clear of the #2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi of Olivier Pla.

Despite topping three of the four practice sessions, the #7 Acura Team Penske of Ricky Taylor could only manage third on the grid, although the American racer survived an early spin to get ahead of the second ESM Nissan of Luis Felipe Derani.

The #31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac of Felipe Nasr was fifth fastest ahead of the second Penske of Juan Pablo Montoya, with the leading Mazda Team Joest entry of Rene Rast, fastest in Thursday’s night practice, ending seventh ahead of the #5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac of Felipe Albuquerque.

The #55 Mazda of Jonathan Bomarito and the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac of Renger van der Zande completed the top ten, but post session, both Mazda’s found themselves relegated to the back of the grid after tape was illegally found covering bodywork seams on both RT24-P’s, meaning they will start fifteenth and sixteenth respectively, just behind the two Ligier LMP2s from AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsport and United Autosports.

Connor de Phillippi took pole position for BMW

The #25 BMW M8 GTLM took pole position in GT Le Mans – Credit: Jake Galstad / LAT Images, Courtesy of IMSA

Connor de Phillippi gave BMW Team RLL and their new-for-2018 M8 GTLM a timely boost by taking the cars first pole position in the GT Le Mans class, with a new class lap record of 1:55.839s, which was just 0.058 seconds clear of James Calado in the Risi Competizione Ferrari.

Jesse Krohn made it a good day for BMW by putting the second M8 GTLM into third place, while the two Ford Chip Ganassi Racing machines of Richard Westbrook and Joey Hand placed fourth and fifth respectively, ahead of the leading Porsche 911 RSR of Laurens Vanthoor.

Corvette Racing will see its two cars starting seventh and ninth respectively, the #3 ahead of the #4, either side of the second Porsche of Nick Tandy.

The Spirit of Race Ferrari of Daniel Serra led the way in GT Daytona, with his quickest lap of 1:58.710s more than a second faster than the previous class lap record at Sebring, and more than half a second clear of the Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi of Christopher Mies in second place.

The two 3GT Racing Lexus RC Fs of Jack Hawksworth and Dominik Baumann will start third and fourth respectively, with the Lamborghini Huracan from Paul Miller Racing completing the top five ahead of the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari.

Daniel Serra took the #51 to pole position in GTD

Spirit of Race took pole position in GT Daytona – Credit: Jake Galstad / LAT Images, Courtesy of IMSA

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