Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

Penske Secures Sebring Pole, Porsche and Acura Shine in GT Classes

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

SEBRING, Fla. — Records were sure to fall in qualifying for the 67th Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring and fall they did. Breaking the old IMSA pole record by over one and a half seconds, Dane Cameron wheeled his Acura ARX-05 DPi around the 17-turn, 3.74 mile circuit with a pole lap of 1 minute, 45.865 seconds to average 125.837 mph to put Cameron and co-drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud up front.

The old pole record for the race was a 1 minute, 47.432 second lap by Tristan Vautier in 2018.

Starting alongside Cameron is the No. 77 Mazda RT24-P DPi of Tristan Nunez, Oliver Jarvis and Timo Bernhard. Mazda are looking to rebound after the disappointment of Daytona. Cameron was elated to get pole position, his first that he earned on track since joining Team Penske after Montoya qualified the car on pole at Long Beach and Colin Braun earned pole at Mosport but CORE Autosport dropped to the back of the Prototype field last year.

“It feels really good for me,” said Cameron. “I’m really happy about it to get that first box ticked for Roger (Penske) and obviously he’s here today, I haven’t seen him just yet but I’m looking forward to that handshake for sure and so yeah, really special to get that one done for him after getting really really close a couple of times last year. Track records are fun as well and I just love this place. It seems to suit me, I’m always excited to come to Sebring.”

Matt McMurry snatched pole from Kyle Masson in the last lap of qualifying in LMP2, giving PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports a clean sweep of every session so far in LMP2.

Porsche had a clean sweep of the front row in GT Le Mans (GTLM) qualifying with Patrick Pilet putting the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR on pole ahead of Laurens Vanthoor’s No. 912 with a fastest lap of 1 minute, 55.899 seconds.

“As you could see on Turn 1 it was quite  on the edge,” said Pilet. “We noticed in the beginning of the weekend with this temperature we have only one lap to be really efficient so I just prepared my lap quite well. Turn 1 I was not pushing enough on entry so I tried to get a good exit, picked up a bit of understeer and went a bit wide but it was okay. I didn’t lose so much time and all the rest of the lap was pretty good, made no mistakes, no locking up, pretty good balance for the car. The tires came together which was the key for a good lap.”

Pilet is the defending GTLM class winner at Sebring with current co-drivers Nick Tandy and Fred Makowiecki.

In GT Daytona (GTD), Meyer-Shank Racing continued a good weekend with the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 securing pole position with Trent Hindman turning a fastest lap of 1 minute, 59.917 seconds for the only GTD lap turned under two minutes for the weekend so far.

Hindman’s car has been in the top five in Thursday’s three practice sessions and in Friday’s morning practice session and the No. 57 teammate car will roll off sixth. Second place in GTD went to Robby Foley in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3.

The 2014 Michelin Pilot Challenge GS Class Champion was a team player in crediting his mechanics for building a great car with which he used to win the pole for co-drivers Mario Farnbacher and Justin Marks.

“It’s not so much the result, it shows all the effort that’s put in back in Ohio back in the Meyer Shank Racing shop, all the effort that’s put into this by every individual on the team and that’s the result we get,” said Hindman. “These guys, they drill hard when it come to pit stops, they make sure everything is perfect when it comes to setting up the car so it’s just attention to detail, the communication between everybody’s on the team is phenomenal, it’s really just team dynamic that’s working out so well and it’s reflecting on the car.

“Fortunately and unfortunately, the drivers are the ones who are the face of it but those are the guys who really deserve all the praise for a result like this. I’m just the lucky one able to hop in there and put the foot to the floor and make something happen but it’s not on me by any means.”

Further down in qualifying, the No. 47 Precision Performance Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3 was fifth fastest in qualifying which was a massive confidence boost for the team following the massive incident they had yesterday. The car’s bodywork had to be rebuilt overnight with very little able to be reused.

Practice Four Overview

Cameron was fastest with his ARX-05 for Acura Team Penske ahead of the sister No. 7 entry with Helio Castroneves behind the wheel. The No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi was third ahead of the Nos. 77 and 55 Mazda DPi machines. In GTLM, the No. 911 Porsche was fastest in class over the Nos. 67 and 66 Ford GTs who still have yet to lead a session this weekend.

In GTD, the No. 57 MSR Acura NSX GT3 was fastest over the No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3. The Grasser team had an off track excursion resulting in damaged right rear suspension and damage to the rear bodywork. The No. 86 MSR Acura NSX was third fastest.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.