SEBRING, Fla. – Rebellion Racing and driver Neel Jani stunned the field for the 65th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring by earning the pole for the endurance event on Friday at Sebring Int’l Raceway.
Jani clocked the fastest lap in the headline Prototype class in the No. 13 Rebellion Racing Gibson-powered ORECA P2, setting a Prototype track record with a time of 1:48.178.
The Rebellion team came to Sebring hoping to erase the memory of Daytona, which was “a disaster,” according to Jani. The team started third but ended up eighth in class and 50 laps off the lead after suffering from a variety of problems.
After qualifying, Jani seemed surprise by winning the pole.
“We didn’t expect it, to be honest,” he said, due to some issues they’ve had with the car. Jani said Sebring’s 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. It’s too bumpy.”
Jani’s lap at Sebring was just slightly ahead of the fastest Cadillac, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. Driver Christian Fittipaldi’s 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 Rolex 24 winning No. 10 Konica Minolta DPi, qualified sixth.
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 Motorsports’ 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 year’s 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.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, which won the Rolex 24 in the GT Le Mans class in January, kept its hot streak alive by winning the pole in their respective class. The No. 67 Ford GT driven by Ryan Briscoe was fastest with a lap of 1:55.939.
Both GT Le Mans and GT Daytona set records for qualifying times at Sebring.
Briscoe was just a little quicker than his Ford Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Mueller in the No. 66. Mueller’s best lap was 1:56.175. The third Ford GT, the No. 68, qualified by Stefan Mucke, was less than a half-second off Briscoe’s pace, but that put him in fifth.