Spaniard Looking for Fifth Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Victory
By John Oreovicz
SEBRING, Fla. – Grand Touring class qualifying for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring ended Friday morning with pole position and a GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) track record for four-time Sebring winner Antonio Garcia and a career-first pole in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition for GT Daytona (GTD) fast qualifier Kyle Marcelli.
Just after the guaranteed 10 minutes of green-flag track time were satisfied for the 15-minute session, Klaus Bachler spun the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R (992) into heavy contact with a tire barrier at the exit of Turn 1, putting an end to the action. Immediately prior to the red flag, Garcia nailed down his third Sebring pole in the past four years with a lap timed at 1 minute, 59.315 seconds (112.843 mph) in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R GTD that he shares with Jordan Taylor and Tommy Milner.
Garcia clipped Daniel Serra’s GTD PRO lap record from last year by 0.999 seconds, though Serra still holds the GT track standard of 1:58.710 set five years ago in the GTD class.
“Yesterday, the car felt very good, I must say,” said Garcia, who has been fastest qualifier 14 times in his IMSA career. “We have a good package, for sure, and I had in the back of my mind that the car was good and we had a chance to go for the pole.
“The Corvette really suits this racetrack, and I love racing here, so let’s get another win,” he added. “It’s a long wait until we start; I wouldn’t mind to race in an hour so we can get it done sooner!”
Garcia’s first Sebring win with Corvette Racing came in 2009, and he added victories in 2015, ’17, and ’22. But he and his teammates have never actually won the Twelve Hours in a year they started from pole position.
“There always has to be a first!” Garcia quipped. “I think we just need to do what we always do here. The pace is there, so we don’t need to go crazy on setup or something. We just need to react to how the track is developing and see how everything goes. We are in a very good starting position.”
Marcelli Scores First WeatherTech Championship Pole in No. 93 Acura
Marcelli, a 33-year-old Canadian, owns seven top-level American sports car race wins and five previous pole positions in the American Le Mans Series, but he had never notched a WeatherTech Championship pole position until this morning.
Like Garcia, Marcelli clocked his best effort just before the red flag flew. His 1:59.714 lap (112.467 mph) in the No. 93 Racers Edge Motorsports with WTR Acura NSX GT3 Evo edged Philip Ellis the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 by 0.12 seconds for GTD honors and was fourth overall among GT qualifiers.
“This is a first, and I’m kind of emotional,” Marcelli said immediately after climbing out of his car. “I don’t know whether it’s the heat or the early morning or what; I’m just super thankful to everyone. This has been a long time coming. The new rules in the series allow any driver to qualify, and that’s kind of been fun and a perk.
“Daytona was close to a podium for us, and I think everybody rallied for this weekend,” he added. “What a fantastic start!”
Two GT cars were penalized for ride-height infringements discovered in post-qualifying technical inspection. The No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, which had qualified third among GT cars, and the No. 57 Winward Mercedes, which qualified fifth (and second in GTD), moved to the rear of the 28-car GT starting grid.
The 71st Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is slated to start at 10:10 a.m. ET Saturday. Peacock and IMSA Radio offer live flag-to-flag coverage. USA Network’s live telecast begins at 4:30 p.m. and runs through the race conclusion.
Post-Qualifying Technical Infractions:
- No. 79, GTD PRO: Car failed to meet minimum ride height. Penalty: Car will be moved to the back of the GTD PRO/GTD category.
- No. 57, GTD: Car failed to meet minimum ride height. Penalty: Car will be moved to the back of the GTD PRO/GTD category.