(Credit: Phil Allaway)

Michael Shank Racing on Sebring Overall Pole

Through the four practice sessions prior to qualifying, there was only one team on top of the time sheets.  That team was Action Express Racing.  The No. 31 Whelen-sponsored Chevrolet Corvette DP Evo with Dane Cameron at the wheel was fastest in three of the four sessions, while Christian Fittipaldi turned in the fastest time during Practice No. 2 in the heat of the day on Thursday.  However, when qualifying came around, it was a much different story.

As we noted in our practice recap earlier, John Pew crashed the Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian No. 60 Tire Kingdom-sponsored Ligier JS P2-HPD in turn 7 during nighttime practice Thursday, requiring significant repairs.  The team worked until 3 a.m. to get the car fixed.  The car may not have looked all that pretty as a result (the No. 60 had a flat black nose that doesn’t match the rest of the car), but it was very well.

Olivier Pla took the repaired No. 60 out and put it on the pole for the second year in a row with a time of 1:51.217 (121.061 mph).  The improvement in form was quite dramatic.  Pla’s pole lap was 1.85 seconds faster than the team’s best lap in Friday morning’s practice session (in cooler conditions) and nearly three seconds faster than anything the team managed on Thursday.

Afterwards, Pla was very thankful for the crew’s efforts both in repairing the car on Thursday night, and in getting the car to work better.

“[Getting the pole] was tough [in] many ways,” Pla said after qualifying.  “First because yesterday, the crew had to repair the car overnight.  Things were a little bit crazy there.  We changed the setup because we were struggling and today, it paid off.”

Pla was closely followed by Tequila Patron ESM‘s Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani, who was less than two-tenths of a second off of Pla’s pace in second, making for an all-Ligier front row.  Cameron was the fastest of the Daytona Prototypes in third, seven-tenths off pole.  Christian Fittipaldi was fourth fastest, but spun out late in the session, preventing him from bettering his time.  Tristan Nunez was fifth in the No. 55 Mazda.

In Prototype Challenge, the CORE Autosport dominance continued.  Colin Braun had topped all four practice sessions entering qualifying and qualifying ended up being more of the same.

Braun turned in a lap at 1:54.910 (117.170 mph), more than good enough to win the pole.  His margin was .933 of a second over PR1/Mathiasen MotorsportsTom Kimber-SmithBAR1 MotorsportsJohnny Mowlem was 1.75 seconds off pole in third.

In GT-Le Mans, BMW Team RLL showed that their form in practice was no fluke as Bill Auberlen turned in the fastest GT lap of the weekend to take the class pole.  The 47-year old Californian turned in a lap of the 3.74-mile road course in a time of 1:58.402 (113.714 mph).  John Edwards gave BMW Team RLL a sweep of the GT-LeMans front row.  Daniel Serra put Scuderia Corsa‘s Ferrari 488 GTE third in class, while Richard Westbrook put the No. 67 Ford GT fourth in class.  All ten cars in the class were within eight-tenths of a second of each other.

In GT-Daytona, Scuderia Corsa is racing their new Ferrari 488 GT3 for the first very first time.  They couldn’t have started off any better.  Jeff Segal turned in an official track record for the GT-Daytona class, a lap of 2:02.350 (110.045 mph) to claim the class pole for Saturday’s race.  Segal beat the prior track record holder, Riley MotorsportsJeroen Bleekemolen, by just .036 of a second.  Jens Klinsmann was third quickest in the somewhat snake bit (at Daytona) No. 96 BMW M6 GT3 for Turner Motorsport.  The two Alex Job Racing-prepared entries of Mario Farnbacher and Leh Keen were fourth and fifth.

The Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring is scheduled to take the green flag at 10:40 a.m. Saturday.  Race coverage will begin on FOX Sports 1, then move to FOX Sports 2 at Noon.  There is a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, which could shake things up.

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Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as Tony Stewart's Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions.

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