Olivier Pla has scored the pole for the 63rd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring following a scintillating qualifying performance Friday at the 3.7-mile Sebring International Raceway.
Pla led the second and third practice sessions on Thursday in the No. 57 Krohn Racing Ligier JS P2 Judd, and backed it up in the heat of TUDOR United SportsCar Championship qualifying on Friday evening to secure the top spot.
He originally set a 1:51.511 to set the pace, and then lowered the mark to 1:51.381 and the eventual pole time of 1:51.152 by the end of the session. That beat the past pole time of 1:51.917 set last year by Sebastien Bourdais.
The Frenchman also won the LMP2 class pole for the first ever FIA World Endurance Championship race at Sebring in 2012, in an OAK Racing Morgan Judd. It’s also the second straight pole for the Ligier JS P2 chassis to start 2015, after Ozz Negri took the pole at Daytona.
Pla will share the pole-sitting entry with team owner Tracy Krohn and Krohn’s longtime co-driver Nic Jonsson.
Ryan Dalziel edged into second in the No. 1 Tequila Patron ESM HPD ARX-03b, at 1:51.455 right at the end of the session.
The pair of Action Express Racing Corvette DPs were third and fifth, with the No. 5 car ahead of the No. 31 car.
Despite an engine change that rushed the team up until the final half hour before qualifying, the Michael Shank Racing crew got its No. 60 Ligier JS P2 Honda out and running for qualifying.
Negri qualified fourth at a 1:52.170. He had a moment during the session when he ran off and on at Turn 12.
A late flyer by Fred Makowiecki saw the Frenchman’s No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR jump to the top of the timesheets with less than one minute remaining, bumping the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia of Pierre Kaffer from provisional pole.
Makowiecki’s 1:58.587 lap time outpaced teammate Patrick Pilet, who made a late improvement to second with a time that was 0.219 seconds slower than his countryman.
It marked the 13th different pole-sitter in GTLM in as many races in the TUDOR Championship to date.
Makowiecki will share driving duties of the No. 912 Porsche with Joerg Bergmeister and Earl Bamber on Saturday.
Antonio Garcia qualified the Rolex 24 at Daytona class-winning and championship-leading No. 3 Corvette C7.R in third, followed by Dirk Werner in the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE in fourth.
Kaffer was demoted from first to fifth at the end, following a number of a late improvements from competitors.
Jeroen Bleekemolen scored top pole honors in GT Daytona, with the Dutchman taking his TI Automotive/Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R to a new qualifying record of 2:03.485.
It marked Bleekemolen’s first pole since Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and also broke TRG-AMR’s James Davison’s five-race pole-win streak in the highly competitive class.
Bleekemolen will share driving duties of the No. 33 Viper with brother Sebastiaan and Ben Keating, who is coming off class victory in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona in the team’s sister Viper.
The No. 23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America of Mario Farnbacher qualified second, just 0.053 seconds slower than Bleekemolen’s pole time, with Spencer Pumpelly third in the Park Place Motorsports Porsche.
Leh Keen made it three Porsches in the top-four, with Davison only able to muster fifth in class in his TRG Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3.
Of note, the No. 81 GB Autosport Porsche of Damien Faulkner qualified sixth, less than two hours after its spare engine arrived at the circuit, which had put the Tully’s-sponsored entry on the sidelines for the majority of the weekend.
The Twelve Hours of Sebring gets underway Saturday at 10:40 a.m. ET, with live coverage on FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2 and FOX Sports GO.