By IMSA Wire Service
SEBRING, Fla. – Connor De Phillippi delivered BMW Team RLL its first pole position of the season and the first pole in history for the new BMW M8 GTLM race car, bettering the No. 62 Ferrari driven by James Calado by only .058-seconds to earn the top starting spot for the GTLM class for Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.
Fellow BMW Team RLL driver Jesse Krohn will start third. The Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs driven by Richard Westbrook and Joey Hand round out the top-five on the class grid.
The 25-year old De Phillippi said he wasn’t even aware how close the session was nor that his pace in the No. 25 BMW M8 GTLM was a track record time of 1.55.839.
“Not at all, to be honest,’’ De Phillippi said. “They said just go out there and drive as fast as you can and you see where we ended up. That’s kind of our motto throughout the year, not think too much about the others and just do the best we possibly can every session, every day.
“And obviously the outcome of hard work is a pole position.”
“We knew we’d be competitive this weekend based on where we’ve kind of fallen throughout the pack based on the practice sessions. I wouldn’t say we expected to be on pole, but I knew if we got all the pieces of the puzzle put together properly and I got a clean lap, we had a shot to be at least among the top cars and all that shook out the right way.”
It’s the first pole position for BMW since 2016 in the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix of Long Beach. In his first year as a BMW factory driver, De Phillippi was part of a ninth-place finishing effort for Rahal in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.
He finished fourth in the GT3 class last year at Sebring driving an Audi. De Phillippi conceded the changing weather conditions should make his BMW debut at the historic 3.7-mile, 17-turn Sebring International Raceway interesting. The car is fast, he can be certain.
Temperatures are expected to be close to 80 degrees on Saturday after being nearly 20 degrees cooler all week.
“It seems to be getting warmer through the weekend,’’ De Phillippi said. “I think that will definitely change things up. Nobody really knows what his car will do when it gets really hot.
“All the testing days have been cooler and now it’s gradually increased here. I think it will be a curve ball for the first half of the race for everybody. But obviously, it ends in the night and the car was really good in the night yesterday.
“The important thing is we’ll be in good position at night. It’s just about running the clean laps in the beginning, keeping all four wheels on the car and be ready to battle at the end.’’