If the lap times set in qualifying are any indication, we could see one of the fastest 12 Hours of Sebring races in years. Lap records were broken in all four classes, thanks largely in part to new cars and newer, grippier tires that were rolled out for this year. Lap times were ridiculously close between the cars, too. This is going to rule.
Overall pole—and a new record for the post-merger top class in the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship—was set by Neel Jani in the No. 13 Rebellion Racing car in the Prototype class, who cranked out a 1:48.178—far ahead of the old record of 1:51.217 set in a last-generation LMP2 car. Less than 1 second separates the top five qualifiers in WTSC’s top class.
Some previous records were totally obliterated, as both the GT Daytona and GT Le Mans lap records were broken by over 2.5 seconds over the previous ones.
Ryan Briscoe won the GT Le Mans pole position with an insanely quick lap of 1:55.939 in the No. 67 Ford GT, only two tenths ahead of Dirk Müller in the No. 66 Ford GT. Less than a tenth separated Müller’s qualifying time from that of the No. 4 Chevrolet C7.R.
Tristan Vautier won the GT Daytona pole position in the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG GT3 with a 1:59.738 lap time. He was the only one to break the sub-two-minute mark, but only a little over 1.2 seconds separate the top three in that class as well.
Gustavo Yacaman’s qualifying record in Prototype Challenge will stand for the rest of time, as the PC class goes away after this year. Only two cars of the four-car, gentleman-heavy PC field were faster than GTLM cars, however, Yacaman’s time of 1:53.506 in the No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports car was only 0.069 ahead of James French’s No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports car. Niiiiiiice. Yacaman smashed that class’s old record by 2.3 seconds.
Of course, these new records were set in the LMP1-less WeatherTech Sports Car Challenge era of Sebring, where the fastest endurance prototypes in the world aren’t competing this weekend. Still, with the current Prototype class only five seconds off the LMP1 qualifying record of 1:44.9 with considerably smaller engines, you know they’re moving. Advances in technology, folks: aren’t they great?