IMSA WeatherTech Championship

Bourdais Bumps Way to Track Record in Sebring DPi Qualifying

Keating Rolls to LMP2 Pole; Robinson Edges Andretti in LMP3 Battle

March 18, 2022
By Jeff Olson & Mark Robinson
IMSA Wire Service

Qualifying Results (prior to post-qualifying tech inspection)

SEBRING, Fla. – It was a rattling ride, to be certain, but it also was smooth enough to set a track record and win a landmark pole position.

Sebastien Bourdais managed the notorious bumps of Sebring International Raceway’s 17-turn, 3.74-mile circuit Friday to claim the pole position for the 70th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.

Bourdais’ lap of 1 minute, 45.166 seconds (128.025 mph) put the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R he co-drives with Renger van der Zande and Ryan Hunter-Reay at the front of the 53-car field for Saturday’s start in the second race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

Minimizing Sebring’s characteristic bumps – especially in Turns 1 and 17 – was the key to Bourdais’ successful run.

“It ain’t going to get any better, eh?” Bourdais joked afterward. “They’re not doing anything about it. It’s the motto of this place: Leave it rough, leave it natural, don’t touch it. It is very difficult, but overall, it’s the same. It’s a challenge for everyone.”

He was just 0.026 seconds faster than Pipo Derani, who recovered from an encounter with the bumps in Turn 17 on his first qualifying lap to secure a front-row spot for the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R he co-drives with Tristan Nunez and Mike Conway.

Bourdais’ lap broke Derani’s record of 1:45.354 set last year. Impressive, especially considering the increasingly uneven pavement that has become Sebring’s primary feature.

“There are a couple of places that you know if you get there, because of traffic or whatever, you’d better straighten out the wheel,” Bourdais said. “Otherwise, it’s going to be a ride.”

Following Bourdais and Derani in qualifying for the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class were Ricky Taylor in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05, Alex Lynn in the No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac and Mike Rockenfeller in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac, the sister car to the No. 31 in the Action Express Racing stable.

Bourdais has won the Twelve Hours of Sebring overall twice, including a rousing final stint to win last year’s race in the No. 5 JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac. He’s ready for another intense effort Saturday.

“There’s a reason why they say if you manage to complete 12 hours at Sebring mechanically, your car is good for 24 hours anywhere else,” Bourdais said. “It’s just such a beating.”

The green flag is scheduled to fly Saturday at 10:10 a.m. ET. Live flag-to-flag coverage is available on Peacock, with USA joining the broadcast on TV from 3:30 p.m. to 10:30. Live coverage also is available on IMSA Radio via IMSA.com and SiriusXM Radio.

Keating Dominates LMP2 Qualifying Session

Ben Keating left little doubt as to who would collect the Motul Pole Award in Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) qualifying on Friday. He led the eight-car field throughout the 15-minute session, clinching the pole position with a lap of 1:49.954 (122.450 mph) in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07. Keating, Scott Huffaker and Mikkel Jensen will chase their second straight Sebring Twelve Hours victory – and the third in a row for PR1 Mathiasen – on Saturday.

“Is this fun or what?” Keating said afterward in his typical ebullient style. “I think it’s a little bit of home track advantage. … It was a goal of mine to get below 1:50, so mission accomplished. You really have to push to get there. I took quite a bit of risk to get there, but because I am on new tires with low fuel, you can get away with a little bit more. The team gave me just an incredible car.”

Keating and Jensen won the WeatherTech Championship’s LMP2 title last year. Along with Huffaker, they’re slated to compete in only the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup events, where they also won the LMP2 crown in 2021.

Henrik Hedman qualified second in LMP2 in the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA ORECA with a lap of 1:50.592 (121.744 mph). Hedman will share the car with the father-son duo of Juan Pablo and 16-year-old Sebastian Montoya in the race.

Steven Thomas, in the No. 11 PR1 Mathiasen entry, was third fastest in qualifying but the car’s splitter belly height was found to be out of compliance in post-qualifying technical inspection. The No. 11 will be moved to the rear of the class on the starting grid, lifting Dwight Merriman and the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA to third on the LMP2 grid.

Fewer Bumps Equals More Speed for Robinson in LMP3 Pole Effort

There is no such thing as a smooth lap around Sebring International Raceway, but Gar Robinson found the path of least resistance in capturing the Motul Pole Award for the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class. Robinson’s final lap of the session, clocked at 1:57.048 (115.029 mph) in the No. 74 Riley Motorsport Ligier JS P320, earned the Texan his fourth career WeatherTech Championship pole position and first at Sebring.

“I just tried to get it as clean as possible,” Robinson said. “But I think I actually found a line that has the fewest bumps possible, which is going to be really nice for my stints tomorrow. My back and myself are going to be ready for (the race).”

Robinson’s primary competition for the LMP3 pole came from Jarett Andretti in the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier. Andretti’s best lap fell a scant 0.035 seconds shy of Robinson’s pole-winning effort.

“I’ve always known Jarett to be really great competition (from) back when we were racing in GT4 and stuff like that,” said Robinson, the 2021 LMP3 season champion who’ll team with Kay van Berlo and Felipe Fraga in Saturday’s race. Along with Michael Cooper, they won the Rolex 24 At Daytona to open the season, but Sebring marks the first points-paying race on the schedule.

“It just goes to show all the hard work the guys at Riley Motorsports did to put this car together, and just the whole team coming together to make the pole position happen,” Robinson added. “I think it’s a great way to start out the official IMSA points season and we’re looking forward to the race. I know it doesn’t win us the race, but it definitely gets us into a much better spot than we had in Daytona (where they started eighth), so I’m excited.”

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