Under perfect Florida weather conditions of sunshine and 80-degrees, the Cadillac four-some took to the 3.74-mile, 17-turn historic race track for the 15-minute qualifying session this afternoon.
Tristan Vautier on pole in No. 90 Cadillac.
Tristan Vautier, No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac DPi.VR, put in a time of 1:47.432 on his fourth flying lap. The Spirit of Daytona Cadillac team is new to the brand for 2018. They acquired their car late in December and had an unfortunate start to the season at the Rolex 24 hours, ending their race just before midnight. Vautier and teammates Matt McMurry and Eddie Cheever III are hungry for a good showing this weekend at Sebring.
"With the new tire spec and the heat, the tires came in very quick," Vautier said. "No one expected that lap time. The lap really didn't feel that good. I saw a 47 on the dash and I didn't expect it to be that quick. That was the first time we were on new tires and low fuel, so the pole is good. The guys have been working hard these last two days. This is two in a row for me. I was on pole in GT last year. This is a high commitment track, especially in Turn 1 and Turn 17. I am always driving 101 percent.
"We just got the car in early December. We were in the top five in Daytona and even led the race. There are some big name drivers behind us in qualifying. The guys were on the pit lane lined-up to celebrate. We are focused on the race tomorrow, since Daytona was a disappointment. We will push through the day and stay in contention and look to the last two hours to really race."
The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R was driven by Felipe Nasr in qualifying. Nasr posted a time of 1:47.853, that will have him starting fifth for tomorrow's 10:40 a.m. ET start. Nasr is joined by Eric Curran and Mike Conway.
"It was a clean qualifying session from our side," Nasr said. "We struggled with the balance of the car a little bit, I had some understeer. I was able to get a clean lap, I gave the tires lots of laps to get up to temperature. It is pretty close, a couple of tenths to the front. We are starting P5. Not where we want to be, but plenty of race to make it up. We are thinking of the big race tomorrow. The track here is very challenging for driver and car. With the bumps you get cars going off and bringing dirt onto the track. At night it gets pretty chaotic and drivers make mistakes. We need to let them make mistakes and we need to run a clean race. We have a nice package in our hands to fight for the win."
Filipe Albuquerque had the controls of the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R and drove to a time of 1:48.256 that will have him coming to the green flag from eighth on the grid. Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi are the Rolex 24-hour winners and are looking to win the 36 hours of Florida with a victory here tomorrow.
"I think we didn't start well this morning," Albuquerque said. "We had a small issue with the car that we had to fix. In qualifying, the car felt good on the first lap, then went away. Our Cadillac is a little out of balance at the moment. We have a smart team and we will make some adjustments for the 12-hour race and be ready to go."
The No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R wheeled by Renger Van Der Zande in qualifying will start 10th tomorrow based upon their fast lap of 1:48.370. Van Der Zande and teammates Jordan Taylor and Ryan Hunter-Reay are poised to get a strong finish this weekend as their Daytona 24 race ended early as well.
"It is not what we came for to qualify tenth," Van Der Zande said. "We are trying to find a good handling car. We have seen some speed, but not exactly what we want. We are still working on the Cadillac and we will need it to be just right for the end of the race tomorrow. The Konica Minolta team is strong and we will make some adjustments for the warm-up tomorrow."
The green flag will drop on the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway on Saturday, March 17 at 10:40 a.m. The race start will be televised live on FS1 starting at 10:30 a.m. The action will switch to FS2 at 12:30 p.m. and go to 3:40 p.m. and will continue on FS2 at 6 p.m. for the finish.