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Sebring 12: Rebellion Racing ORECA LM P2 Posts Record Time in Twelve Hours of Sebring Qualifying
Posted by: ASkyler on Mar 17, 2017 - 06:12 PM
Feature Articles
Sebring 12: Rebellion Racing ORECA LM P2 Posts Record Time in Twelve Hours of Sebring Qualifying

Steven Cole Smith, IMSA Wire Service

SEBRING, Fla. - So far in this young IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, itís been all Cadillac. The three new Cadillac DPi cars have dominated the Prototype class, first winning the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona after qualifying on the pole.

When the Prototype cars arrived in Sebring, it appeared Cadillac would dominate again after posting the fastest lap in three of the four pre-qualifying practice sessions.

However, Cadillac didnít capture the pole for tomorrowís 65th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida. The qualifying session on Friday afternoon saw record-breaking speeds in three of the four WeatherTech Championship classes, including Prototype, with the fastest lap of 1 minute, 48.178 seconds, set by Neel Jani, driving the No. 13 Rebellion Racing Gibson-powered ORECA P2.

The Rebellion team comes to Sebring hoping to erase the memory of Daytona, which was "a disaster," Jani said. The team started third but ended up eighth in class and 50 laps off the lead after suffering from a variety of problems.

Janiís lap at Sebring was just slightly ahead of the fastest Cadillac, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. Driver Christian Fittipaldiís best lap was 1:48.273, and he was followed by teammate Eric Curran in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi, with a lap of 1:48.314.

The third Cadillac, the No. 10 Konica Minolta DPi, qualified sixth. Thatís the car that won at Daytona, with driver Ricky Taylor squeezing past Filipe Albuquerque in the closing stages, making a full-contact pass that caused the No. 5 to spin out in Turn 1. It will be interesting to watch when Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor are on the track at the same time on Saturday.

Qualifying in fourth was Jose Gutierrez in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Ligier P2 car, and fifth was Brendon Hartley aboard the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi. The two Mazda DPi cars, after some promising results in pre-qualifying practice sessions, ended up eighth and 10th in the 11-car Prototype field. JDC-Miller Motorsportsí ORECA, the only non-Cadillac to finish atop a practice leaderboard this week, qualified seventh with Stephen Simpson at the wheel.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM DPi - with a driver lineup that includes Pipo Derani, the hero of last yearís Rolex 24 and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, as he drove that car to a win in both races last year - encountered issues in qualifying and subsequently lost all times after the team worked on the car in the pits after the qualifying session had begun, which is against IMSA rules.

After qualifying, Rebellion driver Jani seemed surprise by winning the pole.

"We didnít expect it, to be honest," he said, due to some issues theyíve had with the car. Jani said Sebringís unique character - mostly defined by the bumpiest, most abrasive surface on the WeatherTech Championship schedule - means that a driver has to "improvise every lap. There is no ideal lap at Sebring. Itís too bumpy."

Clearly, Jani improvised Rebellionís way onto the pole, but there may be no track where qualifying is less important than at the historic, 3.74-mile, 17-turn track. All that matters is the last lap.

And thatís clearly at the top of the mind of Gustavo Yacaman, who was the fastest qualifier in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class, which is running its last race at Sebring as the class is being retired at the end of the season. That has resulted in a smaller field, but there are four PC cars at Sebring that qualified closely and should put on their own show.

Yacaman, driving the No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports Chevrolet-powered ORECA, had a best lap of 1:53.506, edging out the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports car qualified by James French, whose best lap was 1:53.575. The No. 38 car won the Rolex 24 by 22 laps, and Yacaman and the BAR1 team know they have their work cut out for them.

"Weíre just going to try to stay out of trouble," he said. Sebring is "one of the toughest races, especially at night. Itís pitch black out there." This race, he said. "is a lot harder to win than Daytona."

The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida starts at 10:40 a.m. ET Saturday. FS1 coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, while FOX Sports GO will stream the race flag to flag beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET when authenticated with FS1. IMSA Radio also will have live coverage throughout the race on IMSA.com.

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